Like Manny Pacquiao before him, Robert Guerrero is in the midst of a possibly historic climb up the scales. The onetime IBF featherweight and super featherweight titlist is now campaigning as a full-fledged welterweight and in his last fight he seized the "interim" WBC belt from previously undefeated Selcuk Aydin in one of the year's better fights.
Meanwhile, Andre Berto is seeking to complete a comeback that was cut short first by injury, then by a positive test for the steroid nandrolone that scuttled his scheduled June 23 rematch against Victor Ortiz. (Note: Guerrero's November 2006 victory over Orlando Salido was converted to a no-contest after Guerrero's own positive steroid test). As a result, Berto's last fight was a fifth round corner retirement over Jan Zaveck to win Zaveck's IBF welterweight title -- in September 2011, or 14 months ago.
Will Guerrero take another big step toward a megafight with the likes of Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr. or will Berto spoil the party? Their recent CompuBox histories offer the following story lines:
A Step Too Far?: Guerrero's unanimous decision victory over Aydin was a mathematical tour-de-force but at times it was a difficult slog. Guerrero won on the judges' scorecards (116-112 twice, 117-111) mainly due to his supreme activity (81 punches per round to Aydin's 44) and wide gap in connects (254-189 total, 51-25 jabs, 203-164 power) but Guerrero absorbed punishment along the way. Aydin was the more accurate puncher as he landed 35.8% of his total punches to Guerrero's 26.1% and 42.5% of his power punches to Guerrero's 41.1%.
Guerrero's defensive numbers have been a mixed bag of late. At lightweight Michael Katsidis landed just 23.3% of his total punches, 14.5% of his jabs and 24.6% of his power shots while Vicente Escobedo landed 31.1% overall and 11.3% jabs but also 42.5% of his power shots. On offense Guerrero was magnificent at 135 as he landed 48.2% of his total punches and 63.7% of his power shots against Katsidis and 41.2% of his power punches against Escobedo.
Aydin, a physically strong welterweight, at times imposed his size on Guerrero but "The Ghost's fighting heart was enough to earn success. Does Guerrero have the right stuff at 147 to hold off a strong welterweight who also has a better skill set like Berto? We'll find that out on Saturday.
Berto Versus Southpaws: Guerrero is a left-hander, a fact which usually wreaks havoc with orthodox fighters. The good news for Berto is that, for the most part, he's handled left-handers pretty well.
In three consecutive fights against Luis Collazo, Juan Urango and Carlos Quintana, Berto landed 48.9%, 66.4% and 49.8% of his power punches while tasting 32.2%, 33.2% and 39.8% of theirs. He out-landed Collazo 266-222 overall and 203-194 in power shots while he did the same against Urango (243-180 and 174-171) and Quintana (172-146 and 113-103).
It was a far different story against Victor Ortiz, who out-landed Berto 281-147 overall and 266-115 in power shots and landed 40% of his overall punches as well as 46.7% of his power punches. Berto also suffered knockdowns in rounds one and six en route to a unanimous decision defeat, his only loss to date.
Last Time Out: Berto defeated Zaveck 14 months ago, but not on the stat sheets. Not only was Berto out-landed 109-89 overall and 92-59 in power punches, he was far less accurate as he trailed 40%-31% overall and 47%-46% in power punches. Berto also averaged 40 punches per round to Zaveck's 58 and 20.9 power punches to Zaveck's 47.5 per round. Zaveck's badly swollen right eye stopped the contest between rounds five and six and it would have been interesting to see how the fight would have unfolded if Zaveck had been unencumbered.
Prediction: This is a tough fight to pick because both men have their vulnerabilities. Both have leaky defenses. There's also questions about both: Berto's long layoff, his recent performance level and how he'll perform drug-free as well as Guerrero's ability to ward off a skilled and powerful welterweight.
The determining factor may well be volume, for over time Guerrero has proved he can sustain a higher work rate for a much longer time period. While it's true Berto averaged 71.6 punches per round against Zaveck, that is an atypical number. Berto usually is in the 40s and 50s in terms of per-round output. The guess here is that both men will get in their licks but Guerrero's activity will enable him to win enough of the close rounds to win by decision.