A wrestling match broke out briefly during the second round of Robert Guerrero’s brutal unanimous-decision victory Saturday over Andre Berto, who in the first four minutes of the fight had sustained two knockdowns and a battered right eye.
Berto initiated the wrestling exchange, but Guerrero, a product of prep wrestling powerhouse Gilroy High School, scored a resounding reversal, picking Berto up and propelling him toward the ropes.
“This isn’t a wrestling match,” admonished referee Lou Moret. Ah, but it was, and that worked fully to Guerrero’s advantage as he retained the WBC interim welterweight title in Ontario, Calif., and on HBO.
After two rounds, Guerrero (31-1-1) had convinced Berto and everyone watching the fight that he not only was strong enough to hang in with an elite welterweight, but also was easily the stronger of the two. Guerrero went on to win a unanimous decision, 116-110 on all three scorecards, an upset that constituted the biggest victory of his career by any measure.
“I did tell Andre I was going to beat him down, so I had to be a man of my word,” Guerrero said.
What this does for word-of-mouth about Guerrero, who reportedly made $1 million for the first time, is to change the previously disappointing trajectory of his career. Skeptics saw him as a boring technician, and that was holding him back.
Now they’ve seen he’s one tough hombre, no pretty boy, who is simultaneously a technically beautiful left-handed boxer. Much of the tough-hombre part was a revelation to those who for years had overlooked the blue-collar properties endemic to the former featherweight-turned-welterweight.
Guerrero gained mass appeal Saturday, and surely Floyd Mayweather Jr. can’t pretend Guerrero doesn’t exist anymore.
Berto, whose 22 knockouts in 28 previous bouts were no fluke, fought back gamely and gave Guerrero all the more credibility by tagging him with numerous right uppercuts and proving that Guerrero can take it even better than he dishes it out. Guerrero continued to pummel Berto to the body and carry the fight to him, and by the end of the bout neither could see clearly.
Frankly, that was the element that has brought nominations for “fight of the year” to the Guerrero-Berto brawl. I’m a hit-and-don’t-get-hit-back man myself, but many fight fans lap up Rocky-style rock-’em, sock-’em mayhem. This bout, with lots of holding-and-hitting from both parties, was a connoisseur’s version of an inside fight.
Guerrero explained why the inside fight worked to his advantage. “I had to get on the inside with him and work his body. If you keep him on the outside, he has quick hands and he catches you.”
There’s no denying Guerrero had nothing to gain in an outside fight. Even if he could have outpointed Berto by sticking and moving, he wouldn’t have won as many admirers as he won Saturday. It was a huge, huge boost.