Gilroy’s Guerrero targets Berto for beatdown

Welterweight star and former two-time featherweight champion Robert Guerrero is aware of what’s at stake when he steps into the ring Saturday night against former two-time titleholder Andre Berto.

The most obvious is that the fight — which headlines HBO’s World Championship Boxing broadcast from Ontario, Calif. — is the biggest of Guerrero’s career so far. But the Gilroy, Calif., native says he is confident he will emerge the victor when all is said and done.

In fact, Guerrero (30-1-1, 18 KO) says that while he isn’t necessarily looking for a knockout, he’s coming to beat Berto down:

“The unfortunate thing [for Berto] is it has to be [him] so he has to take the wrath of Guerrero. I’m ready to go, I’m happy with the fight and we’re going to take care of business.”

Guerrero will also earn $1 million for the fight, marking the first seven-figure payday of his career.

Though he competed at featherweight for most of his career, Guerrero, who also won a junior lightweight title and two interim lightweight titles, recently made the jump to welterweight in July, defeating then-undefeated Selcuk Aydin to win the interim WBC welterweight championship.

Many fans and critics believed Guerrero bit off more than he could chew by agreeing to fight a devastating power-puncher like Aydin, who earned the nickname “Mini-Tyson” for his ability to serve up such devastating knockouts.

Guerrero built an early lead throughout the first half of the fight by successfully outboxing Aydin. But Aydin (23-1, 17 KO) staggered Guerrero with a series of right hands during the seventh round. Despite the punishment, Guerrero retaliated aggressively in the eighth round and fought hard en route to a unanimous decision.

When asked about his performance, Guerrero, who came off a 15-month layoff following surgery to repair a torn rotator cuff, said that while he could have done some things better, he earned the respect of the fans who now know he can hang with the who’s who of welterweight elite:

“People must understand that I fought a fully-fledged welterweight that no one wanted to fight after a big layoff … I’m still making the adjustment to welterweight but I feel great here and I’m planning on staying here for the big mega-fights.”

Such durability and a strong chin are what Guerrero will bring into the interim title clash against a power-puncher the caliber of Berto, who says he presents a completely different challenge for Guerrero:

“I bring a lot more to the table – speed, power, I can box and I can bang if I have to. I’m an all-around fighter.”

Berto (28-1, 22 KO) will be coming off his own long layoff (14 months to be exact) when he faces Guerrero. After knocking out Jan Zaveck to win the IBF welterweight title last September, Berto set his sights on a June rematch with Victor Ortiz, who broke Berto’s undefeated winning streak – and annexed him of his WBC title – last April in The Ring Magazine’s fight of the year.

The bout was cancelled, however, after Berto tested positive for the anabolic steroid norandrosterone following a random urine test administered in May. Berto claimed the positive test was the result of inadvertent contamination and he was tested again in August by the California State Athletic Commission. He came up clean and received a license.

Despite the controversy, Berto is ready to return to the ring and put the past behind him as he attempts to rebuild his status among the welterweight elite:

“I went through a lot in the last year but I had a lot of good people continue to support me and give me encouragement, and then it all got cleared up. It’s time to move forward and get back in the ring.”

Luis DeCubas Jr., Guerrero’s co-manager with Bob Santos, said that the bout may be for the full WBC belt, which Floyd Mayweather Jr. hasn’t defended since he won it by knocking out Ortiz two weeks after Berto defeated Zaveck.

Guerrero became Mayweather’s mandatory challenger by defeating Aydin. He hopes that defeating Berto will propel him towards bigger opportunities – including a megafight with Mayweather:

“One thing I do know is, if I get the Mayweather fight, I’m going to shock the world and give boxing’s pound-for-pound king his first loss.”

For now, Guerrero is focused on the task at hand as he continues his journey to ultimately solidify himself as not only a great fighter, but also one of boxing’s pound-for-pound best:

“I’ve won championships in four different weight classes … Now it’s time to set up that legacy … so when it’s all said and done, you can say you were the best you could be and you’ve fought the best in the ring.”