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Guerrero set for welterweight debut tonight

By Graham Houston

Boxer versus fighter traditionally makes for an outstanding contest, which is what I think we have in store in tonight’s welterweight title fight between Robert Guerrero and Selcuk Aydin that will be televised on Showtime from Guerrero’s home turf in San Jose, CA. Last seen in the ring as a 135-pounder, Guerrero, to me, looked bulky weighing in at 145.8 pounds, so different from the whipcord look of his body when he was boxing in lighter weight classes. Looking at him on the scales on Friday it was hard to imagine that he turned professional in the featherweight division 11 years ago.

I’m not sure I like Guerrero’s beefed-up look. Guerrero jumped two weight divisions to take this fight. He weighed 134 pounds for his last fight, the unanimous decision win over Michael Katsidis 15 months ago. We won’t know till the first bell rings, but I’m wondering if Guerrero will be quite as fast and quite as sharp as he was when he was winning world titles at 126, 130 and 135 pounds. Guerrero is an excellent fighter, but is the welterweight division a bridge too far for him?

Aydin, the underdog from Turkey, is a limited fighter technically but he is tough, tenacious and heavy-handed. There is nothing fancy about Aydin. He marches straight ahead, gloves up in front of his face, and unloads barrages of punches when he gets up close.

Guerrero is much the more accomplished boxer. He is taller and has a longer reach. One can expect Guerrero to be using the ring, jabbing, firing the straight left hand from his southpaw position and letting go with exciting combinations. It is quite possible that Guerrero will pile up points in the early rounds. Whether he can keep outboxing the strong, determined Aydin for the full 12 rounds is another matter.

Aydin has shown that he can win tough fights against southpaws. In a previous appearance in the U.S. Aydin banged out a very hard-fought 12-round decision over the southpaw Said Ouali three years ago at Primm, NV. Back in Turkey, Aydin twice slugged his way to victory on the scorecards over the busy-punching southpaw Jo Jo Dan. The decision in the first fight with Dan was controversial, but Aydin knocked down the Romanian boxer twice in the rematch, and Dan was very unsteady after the first knockdown, which occurred in the opening round. Dan seemed to enjoying an excellent round when he suffered the second knockdown of the bout, in the 11th round. The fight was very close. Aydin, who can be excessively rough, had a point docked for hitting Dan on the back of the head in the last round but deservedly got the decision on the strength of the two knockdowns.

Guerrero is, I feel, a better fighter than Ouali or Dan, but the move up in weight and the long layoff (caused by Guerrero suffering a torn rotator cuff in his left shoulder) are concerns. Guerrero has always shown a good chin — but he has never been hit by a welterweight before.

I am also a little worried by the way Guerrero is pushing for a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. When a fighter is looking ahead to something bigger it can sometimes mean that he isn’t quite as focused on the immediate task at hand as perhaps he should be. We saw this on Friday night when Hank Lundy, after throwing out a challenge to Adrien Broner, stumbled in a highly winnable fight against Ray Beltran.

The San Jose site very much favours Guerrero. The crowd will be cheering Guerrero and, no doubt, jeering Aydin. However, Aydin seems to be exceptionally strong-minded, and he boxed all over the world in a lengthy amateur career that saw him box in the Olympics and world championships and win a European championships silver medal.

Aydin showed an intense will to win in the fights with Jo Jo Dan and Said Ouali, and also when he knocked out the big-hitting Jackson Osei Bonsu. Aydin’s nose was bloody and he was bruised under the right eye in the fight with Bonsu but he outlasted the Ghanaian banger and overpowered him with two knockdowns in the ninth round. Aydin, then, is a difficult man to discourage. He will keep fighting and keep trying even if he is getting outboxed and outsmarted, sure in his ability to hurt the other man if only he can get hit the target with a big right hand or a left hook. A fighter such as Aydin can be considered dangerous as long as he is standing.

Guerrero is a classy sharpshooter but his last three bouts were all wins by decision — against a faded Joel Casamayor, Vicente Escobedo and Michael Katsidis. He certainly hits hard enough to give Aydin something to think about but I wonder if Guerrero will have the firepower as a welterweight to stop Aydin’s advance in its tracks. I can visualise the sort of fight in which Guerrero delivers points-scoring punches while Aydin lands the heavier hits.

Aydin has the confidence of an undefeated fighter — 23 wins in a row. He seems to be totally committed to winning the fight, almost as if his life depends on it. You get the impression that Aydin will be prepared to walk through any amount of punishment for the opportunity to land his heavy blows. I think that it is going to be very difficult for Guerrero to hold off Aydin for the full 12 rounds in this bout for the WBC interim welter title. At some point I think that Aydin will start catching up with Guerrero and landing the sort of punches that will slow down the superior technician. Guerrero might be able to grit out a win by dominating the early rounds and staving off a late-rounds onslaught, but it could be a close-run thing.

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