By Marc Livitz: The welterweight division has in recent years been one of the hottest and most talent-laden weight classes in the sport of boxing. In particular, the WBC title has carried with an aura of fascination, as it has changed hands (or waists) among such fighters as Pernell Whitaker, Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. On November 24, former two-time welterweight champion Andre Berto will clash with the interim world champion, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero in Oakland, California.
Time away from the ring has at times left the WBC welterweight crown up for grabs. Andre Berto (28(22)-1) of Winter Haven, Florida (by way of Haiti) claimed the title (vacated by Floyd Mayweather, Jr. following his December 2007 win over England’s Ricky Hatton) in June of 2008 with a seventh round TKO victory over Miguel Rodriguez. His lone defeat came in spectacular fashion in April 2011 with a unanimous decision loss to Victor Ortiz, who in turn held onto the title for five short months before he lost it to Mayweather, Jr., who then moved up to light middleweight to challenge Miguel Cotto. Andre Berto hasn’t been in the ring since Semptember 2011. After he defeated Jan Zaveck of Slovenia in five rounds, he wanted back at Ortiz. The chance never came, as Berto subsequently tested positive for a form of anabolic steroids in May 2012.
Finally, the interim title found a holder in Robert Guerrero (30(18)-1-1) of Gilroy, California when he outlasted the previously undefeated Selcuk Aydin over twelve grueling rounds in San Jose in July. Hopefully, the round robin style of fights is done. We’ll find out Thanksgiving weekend. Each fighter spoke to the media this afternoon.
Andre Berto was seemingly brimming with confidence when he spoke of his preparedness for the bout when he said, “I’ve been training very hard here in Florida. I am so excited. There will be fireworks on November 24th. I am ready to go.”
Robert Guerrero agreed as he added, “I am just so very excited for this fight. We just have one week left. I am just chomping at the bit and I can’t wait to just get out there.”
Berto acknowledged that his upcoming opponent did well in his previous fight but assured everyone that he is a different caliber of fighter. Robert Guerrero had previously fought only as high as a lightweight and made a huge two division jump to join the welterweight ranks.
“He (Guerrero) did what he had to do. He looked good at the weight and he kept turning him (Aydin) all night. I wasn’t thinking of fighting him at the time because I was too involved with my own situation. He put on a good show. I’m not that type of fighter. He’ll see that unlike Aydin, I’m no punching bag. He’s flat footed and can’t block up.”
Shortly after his victory over the Turkish fighter, Robert called out Andre Berto. He spoke of his need to step out of his otherwise timid public persona in order to get things moving in his favor. He also disagreed with Berto’s assessment of his previous opponent.
“Aydin took some punches, but he was not a punching bag. That guy was a punching wall. He was so tough. Hey, listen. Some people are befuddled because now I am stepping up, but in this business nothing gets done if you don’t open your mouth. I have won six world titles. I am not the type to call guys out, but sometimes you have to step out of your comfort zone. I want to push it as far as it can possibly go.”
The former welterweight champion listening on the other line was anxious to do whatever possible to clear his name in regard to his problems stemming from accusations of using performance enhancing drugs. He also stressed his willingness to cooperate with the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) as the fight draws closer.
“We (his team) really didn’t worry too much about it because we really didn’t do anything wrong. We hired top level scientists and attorneys. It turned out to be very small traces of contaminated material. I am just ready to get back in it. VADA has visited probably five times for the urine and blood tests. It’s comforting. I have nothing to hide. “
What did Guerrero have to say about Berto’s temporary fallout? He solemnly commented, “He was proven innocent and he got his license back. I have been in the ring with people on steroids. We put our lives on the line when we step into the ring. My concern is to be prepared. Only he knows whether or not he is guilty.”
Although Andre has scored knockout victories in two of his previous four contests, he still feels as though his best outing is yet to be seen. He furthermore endorsed Robert as a true and formidable welterweight. He commented, “He’s got a title at 147 (pounds) so he’s a legitimate welterweight. We’re just ready to box. The right punch at the right time can hurt any fighter. I personally don’t think he can hurt me, but I am coming to perform at the highest level.