COMMENTARY | Most fans and members of the media expected something solid and compelling from Saturday's Robert Guerrero-Andre Berto clash at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. After all, two prime, Top 10-level 29-year-olds were bound to put on some sort of quality show.
However, few expected a Fight of the Year-calibre battle between these two members of the "not Mayweather or Pacquiao" underclass of 147 lb. contenders.
What fans got, though, was twelve rounds of back and forth brutal beauty between two fighters who rightfully assumed that a loss would serve as a major setback to their tentative grasp on top-level welterweight status.
But it sure did look like it was going to be a blow-out early on.
Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 KOs) would send the two-time former world champ, Berto (28-2, 22 KOs), to the canvas in each of the first two rounds, giving the Haitian-American former Olympian two hideously swollen eyes in the process. But Berto would beat each of the counts and eventually work himself back into the contest with a sharp uppercut and solid counter-punching off the ropes.
The former featherweight and super featherweight world champ and reigning WBC interim welterweight titlist, Guerrero, pushed hard and got the best of much of the action despite dealing with his own swollen eye and an increasingly effective Berto. While clearly in command for most of the contest, the native of Gilroy, California had to work the full three minutes of each round-- and he was definitely up to the task.
At the end of twelve rounds, all three judges would score the bout 116-110 for Guerrero in a thriller far more compelling than the scorecards would indicate.
Major credit has to go to referee, Lou Moret, who did miss Guerrero clearly holding and hitting to score his first knockdown of the evening, but officiated brilliantly the rest of the way, allowing both fighters to battle on the inside and fight with one hand free. A more active, interfering referee would've likely turned the contest into a stop-and-start, clinch-and-break snoozer.
After the victory, Guerrero did what most victorious welterweight do these days-- He called out Floyd Mayweather.
Earlier this year, when Guerrero was just making his tentative first steps up into the welterweight division, his management put on a full court press for a shot at a big money Mayweather fight. At the time, the push seemed ridiculous. But after seeing how big and strong Guerrero looks at the new weight, the idea of a Mayweather fight isn't such a laugher anymore. Still, Guerrero may be better suited for a run at one or two other top welters before pushing for the main stage. For instance, battles with Josesito Lopez and/or Marcos Maidana would serve as thrilling preludes to a step up in class and would definitely make HBO PPV and Team Mayweather take notice.
For Berto, the tough loss serves as a continuance of an unfortunate run of professional setbacks. The former champ is on a 19-month run which has now seen him lose two brutal unanimous decisions (to Guerrero and Victor Ortiz) and suffer through a performance enhancing drug scandal. From here, Berto will have no choice but to start near the bottom once again and fine tune some of the deficiencies that have had him coming up short in major bouts.
The real winners in Saturday's back and forth battle were the fans. Social media buzzed with excited boxing enthusiasts as well as casual fans talking about the heated action and insisting on Fight of the Year consideration.
Kudos to a job well done by all parties --- Guerrero, Berto, Moret, and HBO. When boxing clicks and all the pieces fall into place, no sport does a better job of thrilling its audience.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.