By David Robinett
Photos: Big Joe Miranda
This Saturday WBC interim welterweight champion Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero faces the toughest assignment of his career as he squares off against former welterweight titlist Andre Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. Guerrero (30-1-1, 18KOs) is fighting at welterweight for just the second time following his successful outing back in July against former WBC Silver welterweight champion Selcuk Aydin.
Guerrero continues to step up his level of competition in hopes of landing a career-defining fight against WBC champ Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“The reason for moving to 147 was to get the big fights,” Guerrero explained to FightNews. “Being the smaller guy we were hoping people would see that and want to take the fight. Besides, at 135 and 140 nobody wanted to fight so why waste my time?”
Guerrero also acknowledged that despite a successful career thus far, it would take more than championship belts in four different weight classes (two of them interim titles) to truly make his mark in the sport.
“Unfortunately you can win championship after championship but if you don’t have that marquee fight it doesn’t really mean anything,” observed Guerrero. “When we made the decision to go to 147 there was no questions asked and no second thoughts. We just said if we’re going to do it let’s do it and that’s it.”
In Berto, Guerrero is facing an opponent who has not fought in 14 months and only three times in the last two years. Guerrero, no stranger to long layoffs himself, thinks that may play to his advantage.
“It [Berto’s layoff] could give me an edge if he’s not as sharp,” explained Guerrero. “Berto’s hungry, he’s been training hard, but you never know if you’re ready until you get in the ring. You may be working in the gym but when the headgear comes off and those little gloves come on, things change, punches change, power changes and you have a guy in front of you that wants to win and is determined. That’s a big factor, being active and fighting, and when you’re coming off a layoff it affects you. Even if you think it doesn’t, it does.”
Guerrero acknowledged the effects of a long layoff in his fight against Aydin, in which he was fighting for the first time in 15 months, almost the same length of time Berto will have been out of the ring when they go toe-to-toe.
“That’s what I was thinking coming in with Aydin, like ‘Hey, its like riding a bike,'” Guerrero recalled. “Once I got into the ring though I could feel the ring rust. The last couple of rounds against Aydin were tough; that being said I threw close to a thousand punches in the fight. But I was having trouble relaxing in the ring the way I usually do and I was a bit tensed up, which comes with having that rust and being out for so long.”
Regarding the reason for Berto’s extended vacation, a positive test for a banned steroid that kept him on the shelf until he was effectively exonerated by the California State Athletic Commission when it re-licensed him in August, Guerrero took the high road.
“Who knows? Only God knows,” Guerrero said. “I just know he tested positive and that’s all I can say. But I’m glad we’re doing strict drug testing for this fight and I highly doubt that he would do anything again, it would tarnish his career for good.”
Berto’s defense to his positive drug test was that he did not knowingly take a banned substance, and Guerrero spoke to the issue of what he and his team do to avoid falling into a similar predicament.
“If somebody brings me something new, I don’t just go, ‘Oh, I’m going to try this out,’ without doing any research or anything” explained Guerrero. “We’re cautious about what we take and about what goes into my body. All it takes is something you don’t know about and then you test positive, or even get sick off something so we take extreme care about what we take. That’s what we’ve been doing since I turned professional.”
Layoffs and controversies aside, on November 24th Guerrero says he’ll be ready for Berto. “Everybody knows the bigger the guys get, the harder they hit and the stronger they are but being in this game you have to be ready for anything. I prepare all the time to be ready 100% for whatever happens.”
This Saturday’s HBO World Championship Boxing tripleheader – which is headlined by the Guerrero v. Berto contest – begins at 10:00pm ET/PT.