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Gavin analyses Berto vs. Guerrero bout

We should have a clearer indication as to whether interim World Boxing Council (WBC) welterweight king Robert Guerrero is a great fighter or simply very good, when he locks horns with ex WBC and IBF belt holder Andre Berto at the Citizen’s Business Bank Arena, Ontario, California this Saturday.

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Known as ‘The Ghost’, the 29 year old from nearby Gilroy collected International Boxing Federation (IBF) straps down at 126 and 130lbs. His standing as an ‘interim’ champion with the World Boxing Association (WBA) and World Boxing Organization (WBO) at 135lbs plus his present status permits him to make the tenuous claim of being a four division ‘world’ champion.

The 5ft 9in southpaw is certainly a quality human being. After his wife Casey, a childhood sweetheart, was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2007, Guerrero placed his world championship aspirations on the backburner to tend to her. After a January 2010 transplant, she now appears cancer free.

During an 11 year, 34 fight pro career, the Californian has been bettered just once – a 12 round split decision loss to Mexico’s Gamaliel Diaz seven years ago – and that was emphatically avenged by knockout just six months later.

Last time out, after a 15 month hiatus due to a rotary cuff problem, ‘The Ghost’ debuted at 147lbs by comprehensively schooling the previously unbeaten and bull strong Turkish hothead Selcuk Aydin over 12 rounds in San Jose. (A fight broadcast live on BoxNation).

A slick defensive wizard with a tight guard and nimble feet, Guerrero is unquestionably a top grade fighter but we’ll find out more about whether he’s a top grade welterweight on Saturday.

Challenger Berto, from Winter Haven in Florida, is a career welter who has also lost just once. In April 2011, he conceded a unanimous decision and his WBC belt to ‘Vicious’ Victor Ortiz following a proper 12 round war which featured multiple knockdowns. It was the sixth defence of a title he captured by bludgeoning Miguel Angel Rodriguez to stoppage defeat in June 2008.

A bronze medallist at the 2003 World amateur championships and 2004 Athens Olympian (in the singlet of Haiti), the 29 year old is quick and explosive with 22 stoppage victories on his 28-1 slate. Nevertheless, there is sizeable resistance to his right to contend this weekend after he tested positive for an anabolic steroid in May.

One man who shall certainly be tuning in is current British 147lb czar Frankie Gavin. It’s conceivable the former world amateur champion could feature against the victor sometime over the next 12-18 months. Here, the unbeaten Brummie provides his expert analysis and prediction of the ‘must see’ spat.

“It’s going to be really close and I certainly wouldn’t want to be putting any of my money on it. I’ve seen Guerrero’s last two fights and he’s quality. He absolutely took Michael Katsidis apart, was far too good, a different level, and he was way too slick for Selcuk Aydin last time. To step up through so many weights as he has shows he’s one of the best around. You can only get away with that if you’re really top drawer.

His biggest strength is his boxing skills. I love the way he picks his shots and forces his openings rather than just waits for them to happen. He can make you miss, then counter accurately, by darting in and out. He’s got fantastic uppercuts and I like the way he phases his attacks; throws a combo, then re-sets and goes again.

Power wise, he didn’t look too dangerous last time out against Aydin but Selcuk’s a really big puncher. I boxed Selcuk twice in the amateurs. Second time, he got disqualified for repeatedly kicking, butting, elbowing…. basically everything you ain’t supposed to do! Perhaps that’s why Guerrero was wary and didn’t take too many risks. Still, he had the strength to keep Aydin away so he’ll probably have the strength to fend off Berto, provided he keeps it cute. Don’t count on it.

For me, Guerrero’s downfall is that he voluntarily chooses to go to war, in fights where he’s the better technician and winning easily. He can get drawn in when he doesn’t need to and, other times, he chooses to row. It’s great to watch, I’m not complaining, but it might not win him this fight.

My advice to him would be to try to keep control from the centre of the ring, dictate the pace and keep off the ropes at all costs. Being shorter, Berto will come looking to ‘put it on him’ – he’s stronger and better on the inside – so Guerrero needs to constantly move and counter; give him angles. Berto’s a career long welterweight yet he’s never been stopped so, if Guerrero’s to pull this off, it’ll definitely be a points job.

I’ve not seen too much of Berto but what I have has been impressive. He’s a short, stocky type who reminds me a lot of an orthodox Timothy Bradley. He always turns up in terrific shape and, though he’s not the tallest, he seems really quick, raiding in and out. I think he’ll be the heavier puncher; not a real blowout merchant but hard enough to gain anyone’s respect.

He’s definitely the more natural welterweight and the more proven welterweight. He’s been fighting there at world title level for over four years now and only Victor Ortiz has beaten him in that great fight when they were both down twice. He’s rebounded since and picked up another world title (forcing IBF boss Jan Zaveck to retire on his stool after five rounds with an eye injury last November). He always seems to find away to win. You gotta respect that.

His downside is that he’s a bit short for the weight and, while he can be really explosive, at times he fades off and admires his work. Even now, he’d not get near Floyd Mayweather.

To win, he needs to set a hot pace that’ll disrupt Guerrero’s rhythm. He’s marginally younger, certainly fresher and naturally bigger.

It’s a really tricky one that’s basically there to be won by whoever delivers on the night. But, as you’re forcing me, I’ll go with Berto on a late stoppage. I think Guerrero is gonna stand and have a fight with him and that’ll be his downfall.”

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