By Nick Bellafatto
Former featherweight and junior lightweight world champion Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero (30-1-1, 18 KO’s) of Gilroy, California will return to the ring this weekend at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, as he’s set to mix it up with Winter Haven, Florida’s Andre Berto (28-1, 22 KO’s) in defense of his WBC interim welterweight title, the full title of which once belonged to Berto.
And when the bell rings in this pivotal contest, each combatant, having gone through similar but not identical circumstances, will be at a crossroads of sorts, as Guerrero endeavors to make another splash at 147 pounds after defeating the WBC’s number one rated Selcuk Aydin, while a returning Berto is looking to reposition himself for yet another title after losing one and relinquishing another.
By now it’s well known the hardships endured by Robert Guerrero, a man unable to devote his full concentration to his chosen sport due to the prospect of losing the love of his life Casey Guerrero to cancer.
And on the heels of this near tragedy, “The Ghost” would succumb to a rotator cuff injury while preparing to fight hard hitting Marcos Maidana last year, further shelving the prizefighter for fifteen months as he recovered from what by all accounts appears to have been successful arthroscopic surgery.
This brings us to Andre Berto, the former WBC welterweight champion who upon losing that particular hardware would move on to capture the IBF title slightly more than a year ago from little known but sturdy looking Jan Zaveck out of Germany.
But rather than defend the IBF belt against mandatory challenger Randall Bailey, the former Haitian Olympic squad boxer would relinquish that status, opting instead for a more lucrative rematch with Victor Ortiz, the very man who in April of 2011 would knock Berto off his WBC perch in what was deemed the “2011 Fight of the Year.”
As fate would have it, Berto in training for his scheduled February rematch with Ortiz would rupture his left biceps, causing the bout to be rescheduled for June 23rd, of which subsequent date would fall through as well due to the Winter Haven resident testing positive for a banned substance. All in all Andre Berto has been out of the prize ring for 14 months, a similar stretch to that of Guerrero.
But with the passing of time Berto has been cleared to fight, at least in California, as the substances detected were found in such small amounts so that it was concluded that rather than for performance enhancement purposes, they must have been present due to some sort of food or supplement contamination.
Nevertheless Andre Berto is in the eyes of many still suspect, so that Robert Guerrero’s decision to face the Haitian descendent was based on each man mutually contracting to be tested by the United States Anti-Doping Agency [USADA], an organization itself mired in controversy. With the fight on, Andre is ready to get back to business and prove himself all over again at the expense of his upcoming opponent.
“This has been a long time coming. I’ve had a hell of a year going through a lot of trials and tribulations. I’ve learned a lot about myself and how strong I am to get through what I’ve been through.” And “the only thing that’s on my agenda right now is Robert Guerrero, that’s it. Everything else can plan out how it’s going to plan out. There are going to be some fireworks on Saturday night November the 24th.”
On the fireworks part the Mexican fighter is likely to concur, so that against Berto who is itching to return in a significant way, Robert Guerrero vows he will be up for the challenge in what is surely the biggest fight of his career to date.
“It’s going to be a great fight, a war,” commented Guerrero. “Berto says he’s hungry for this fight and I believe him. He wants to get back to that level he was at before the Ortiz loss and this testing issue,” but as well “I’m hungry for it all. I want to be known as one of the greats, so I’m hungry for that. Not just this fight, I’m hungry to be the best ever.”
With “The Ghost” being all about boxing as of late due to his wife Casey being diagnosed as cancer free, he’s also riding a wave of confidence in light of his well earned victory over the much avoided Selcuk Aydin, a formidable fighter Berto didn’t even want to face.
In going up against arguably the division’s hardest puncher in Turkish born Aydin, Robert’s repaired rotator cuff held up without a hitch so that he simply feels he’s ready to go all out. “I’ve tested it full throttle and with full power, so now I can really work on building it up and throwing it like a fastball man,” elaborated Robert.
After jumping up two weight divisions in search of the lucrative paydays that have avoided him thus far in his career, “The Ghost” would love nothing more than to register a definitive victory here to perhaps finally lure in those fighters who represent the big bucks.
Those would be the Mayweather’s, the Pacquiao’s, and the Bradley’s of the world, fighters who to this day have no interest in mixing it up with the seasoned southpaw. Perhaps that will change, with of course Berto having other plans for an adversary who hasn’t lost in nearly seven years.