November 22, 2012

Berto & Guerrero Ready For Thanksgiving Weekend Face Off

Andre Berto and Robert Guerrero
By Gopal Rao - With a little more than 18 months having passed since his 2011 Fight Of The Year loss to Victor Ortiz, Andre Berto is ready to put the past behind him and get back on track towards what once seemed like a limitless future in boxing.

That loss, coupled with a positive drug test in the lead up to an aborted rematch with Ortiz, saw Berto’s stock fall precipitously in the past 12 months, despite a comeback win over Jan Zavek for an alphabet title.

“It was definitely a tough situation but my team really didn’t worry too much,” said Berto via media conference call, about the fallout from testing positive for a banned substance. “We know we didn’t do anything wrong. We hired top level scientists and attorneys to go check the sample and find out what it was. And they found out what it was. It was contamination of very very very small traces. The results were presented to the commission and it was cleared up, and we moved forward.”

Standing in Berto’s path toward redemption, however, is the erstwhile featherweight and reigning interim welterweight title-holder Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, whom Berto is scheduled to face for the WBC world welterweight title in Ontario, California on Saturday, November 24th - to be televised by HBO.

The Ghost passed a big 147 lb test against Aydin
Guerrero, who hails from Gilroy, California, recently won the WBC’s interim title with a unanimous decision over the previously unbeaten Selcuk Aydin in San Jose. It was a comeback for Guerrero as well, who had been sidelined for over a year with a rotator cuff injury that caused a hotly anticipated fight against Argentine slugger Marcos Maidana to be cancelled.

The fight answered questions about the soundness of the southpaw Guerrero’s surgically repaired left shoulder, but raised a few more concerning just how well Guerrero carried the weight at the 147 pound limit, two divisions up from his previous fight at lightweight.

For although Guerrero won the fight convincingly behind superior boxing technique and work rate, he never appeared to have Aydin in any serious trouble throughout those 12 rounds, despite Aydin’s defensively limited, aggressive style, which caused Berto, who witnessed the fight from ringside, to compare the German-based Turk to a punching bag. “Aydin did take some punches, but he wasn’t a punching bag as much as a punching wall. He’s a tough guy, coming in strong, and he was determined to win,” said Guerrero.

The fight with Aydin has reaffirmed Guerrero’s confidence in his ability to continue to climb in the welterweight rankings, and also possibly in weight in the future. “If I didn’t have confidence in myself I wouldn’t even move to 147 but it does reassure you though. You have a tough guy like Aydin, who’s a hard puncher with both hands. Wherever he hits you, it’s gonna hurt. One thing everybody knows now is that I can take a shot in that ring at 147 pounds.”

“My goal is just to push it as far as I can push it. Fight the best fighters that are out there. Challenge the best fighters if I can get them in the ring. My focus right now is Andre Berto. If you don’t take care of business with Andre Berto, that just puts a stop to your train. After that, there’s a lot of big fights there, even if I have to move to 154.”

Berto busted up Zaveck last time out
Although Berto gave Guerrero his due for being a crafty southpaw with a strong technical foundation, he seconded the notion that the Selcuk Aydin fight would not have any resemblance to their upcoming fight on Thanksgiving weekend. “I don’t fight like Aydin. Aydin is flat footed. Like Robert says, he’s like a strong wall that walks to you and tries to bang you out. Turning somebody like him is easy to do. It’s going to be a different situation”, said Berto, who hasn’t fought since stopping Zavek in September of 2011.

Addressing the elephant in the room, Berto revealed that drug testing for this fight is being carried out by the US Anti Doping Agency (USADA) this time, instead of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA) that produced his prior positive test. Berto said that drug testing has been ongoing since the fight was announced. “USADA came 5 or 6 times already. They’ve been very relentless. VADA testing was the same way.” But if questions linger about performance enhancing drugs, and their role in Berto’s preparations for the fight, Guerrero was reluctant to take up the thread. “That’s a waste of my concern. My concern is to be prepared for this fight and to go do my job.”

Ortiz dropped Berto in the 2011 Fight of the Year
Berto made allusions to difficulties that arose during training camp for the Victor Ortiz fight, in which he was knocked down several times en route to unanimous decision loss. “With the Ortiz fight, a lot of people don’t know what was going on behind the scenes getting ready for that fight. I wasn’t who I needed to be at all for that fight, but it is what it is. Trying new things in training that backfired, I’ll just say that. It affected my body terribly. I basically had to go to the hospital after the fight, because I had some severe problems that I had to get medical attention on.”

But Berto, who had previously come to be known for an explosive combination of speed and punching power that rivalled the elite fighters of the division, explained that those missteps are behind him now and that his best is yet to come. “I don’t think people have realistically seen the best Andre Berto at all. I’ve had exciting performances, and one punch knockouts and this and that. But I have so much more to my arsenal than that. We’ve been having tremendous work here. I’m in really great shape. If there is some rust, it should shake off pretty quickly. I’ve been working my ass off, and I don’t there will be too much rust.”

Guerrero intends to test that statement, however, insisting that he will push the pace from the opening bell. “I said it early on when the fight got made. We’re jumping on the Autobahn. We’re going pedal to the metal. Full gas. From start to finish, that’s the way I’m coming to fight. We’re going to go all the way hard.”

Berto remained confident that the crowd pleasing style that brought him to cusp of stardom will continue to carry him forward. “With my style of fighting, I don’t think it will take too much for people to be talking again. The point is to win. That’s it. If we get the win, everything else will fall into place.”