By Robert Hough
Andre Berto’s trying to get back to where Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero wants to be: among the elite welterweights. The two fight Saturday at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Calif., for Guerrero’s interim WBC welterweight title and more importantly, serious standing at 147 pounds.
Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) was set for a 2010 fight with Shane Mosley when the latter still had something left in the tank, cancelled it after a hurricane hammered Haiti and killed several of his relatives, got beaten hard a year later by Victor Ortiz, postponed the rematch after tearing a bicep and tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug, which led to fight being cancelled.
“In boxing, every fight’s huge, but this is time for me to perform,” Berto, 29, said recently on a conference call to discuss the HBO-televised match. “Where things are now, it’s hard to imagine being more motivated for this.”
Guerrero (30-1-1, 18KOs) has battled his way up from fighting at 126 less than five years ago, clawed and clamored for a top fight, spent untold time and energy caring for his wife during her successful battle with leukemia and settled for steady progress in terms of opponents.
“A fight like this, it’s felt like it’s been a long time coming,” Guerrero, also 29, said recently on a conference call. “It is a big step, but I’ve been saying I’m ready for it for a long time and I am. I feel like I’m in my prime physically and mentally and I need to get things done. It’s as simple as that.”
Guerrero, a native and resident of Gilroy, Calif., about 75 miles southeast of San Francisco, debuted at welterweight in July and won a tough fight over Selcuk Aydin. The contest came after almost 17 months of inactivity due to a shoulder injury days before he was set to face Marcos Maidana.
He acknowledged after getting a decision over Aydin that there was some ring rust, less of his typical easy, fluid comfort in the ring.
Berto, whose challenges have kept him out of the ring for more than 14 months, recognized that he might feel the layoff as the fight on Saturday gets underway.
“If there is rust, I’ll shake it off pretty quickly,” said the Winter Haven, Fla., resident who last fought on Sept. 3, 2011, against Jan Zavek; he got the victory when the Solvenian boxer couldn’t continue after the fifth round.
Guerrero, also 29, said, he’ll get right after it and see if Berto’s ready to go.
“We’re jumping on the autobahn, pedal to the metal,” said the southpaw. “We’re going all the way hard.”
“The Ghost” will have a lot more to deal with than he did against Aydin, believes Berto, who called the Turkish fighter a punching bag and expressed confidence that he’s faster and stronger than Guerrero.
Berto, who’s fought at no less than 145 pounds in his eight-year career, also doubts Guerrero has the power to bother him, though he pointed out that he won’t be reckless.
“I don’t think he can hurt me, but anything can happen,” said Berto, who had more than his share of trouble with Ortiz, another southpaw. “I can’t let it all out and not be smart.”
Facing another lefty is no concern, Berto added.
“I’ve faced ‘em before and I know what to do,” he said. “I just need to fight strong and fight smart and I’ll be fine.”