by Nick Tylwalk
Two hungry former world champions facing off sounds like the perfect recipe for a tasty finish to Thanksgiving weekend.
That’s exactly what’s on tap for November 24 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California, when two fighters boxing fans are anxious to see back in action face off in the main event of a holiday triple-header. Andre Berto and Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero are the headliners, each hoping for a big win to re-establish come career momentum.
Though neither man probably expected to be fighting the other for an interim welterweight title as recently as 20 months ago, they both seemed pleased at a Tuesday press conference at L.A. Live to officially announce the bout.
“I’m happy to be back and fighting someone as talented as Robert Guerrero,” Berto said.
“It’s a great challenge for me to face one of the best coming off my layoff. I know I have the ability to be one of the best in my division and in the sport, and proving that to everyone starts with this fight.”
It will be the first fight in over a year for Berto (28-1, 22 KOs), who actually held the regular version of the WBC 147-pound belt at the beginning of 2011. That was before he ran into Victor Ortiz, who did away with the zero in Berto’s loss column in dramatic fashion, outlasting him in a brutal 12-round decision that featured four total knockdowns.
Berto looked somewhat lackluster while bouncing back against Jan Zaveck five months later, and was primed for a July 2012 rematch against Ortiz. A positive test for a prohibited substance derailed those plans, and though Berto was eventually cleared to fight again by the California State Athletic Commission, Ortiz moved on in the interim.
If Berto is worried about finding his best form against a top notch opponent, there was no sign of it at the press conference.
“I want to make statements with my fights, not take tune-up fights,” Berto said.
“I know the level of fighter that I am, and that’s what I expect from my opponents too.
“I went through a hell of a year for me,” he added. “Now I’m back to the basics. This is what I needed.”
In Guerrero (30-1-1, 18 KOs), he’ll have a kindred spirit when it comes to long absences from a boxing ring. The former featherweight and super featherweight titleholder took a well-documented break to help his wife successfully ward off leukemia a few years ago, then found himself sidelined for shoulder surgery last August, missing out on a chance for a high profile fight with Marcos Maidana.
Frustrated by the setback just when his career seemed to be taking off, Guerrero announced he was moving up in weight and tried calling out everyone up to and including Floyd Mayweather. He ended up settling for undefeated but largely unknown Selcuk Aydin instead, winning his welterweight debut by unanimous decision in July.
Known for his positive attitude, Guerrero sounded just fine with the latest twist in his story on Tuesday.
“I am looking forward to this opportunity, and it will be a nice way to spend the holiday weekend doing what I love to do, which is fight,” Guerrero said.
“Berto has proven himself over the years as one of the best, but I am confident that I will come out on top and close out 2012 with a big win. I have a lot to be thankful for in my life, and a win over Berto over Thanksgiving weekend will be one more thing to add to that list.”
Guerrero has scored only one knockout in his last six wins and will be fighting for just the second time at 147 pounds, so common sense suggests that he’ll be at a power disadvantage against someone who traded 12 rounds of bombs with Ortiz. Yet “The Ghost” made it clear that he has no plans on disappearing once the punches start flying.
“I believe I can knock him out,” Guerrero said. “I want to send him home hurting and damaged.
“Thy don’t give me the credit I deserve, so I just have to keep winning. I wanted to find one of the strongest guys out there that no one else wanted to fight to prove I’m the best.”
Berto and Guerrero will close the show on an HBO World Championship Boxing broadcast that will also showcase two other intriguing fights. In one of them, Richard Abril will try to shake off one of the year’s most contentious decisions when he battles Sharif “The Lion” Bogere for a vacant WBA lightweight strap.
Many observers felt that Abril (17-3-1, 8 KOs) boxed well enough to defeat feared slugger Brandon Rios back in April. Two of the three judges disagreed, and now he’ll be right back in again with a heavy-handed foe. Ugandan-born Bogere (23-0, 15 KOs) has stopped his last three opponents in three rounds or less and won eight of his last ten fights by knockout.
The other televised fight looks like a classic case of a rising young talent stepping up his level of competition fighting an accomplished veteran who still looks like he has gas left in the tank. Keith “One Time” Thurman will fill the former role in this case, and former WBO welterweight titleholder Carlos Quintana fits the bill as the latter in a 10-round junior middleweight clash.
David Haye lookalike Thurman (18-0, 17 KOs) is used to putting in short nights, scoring 12 of his knockouts in the first or second round. He’ll likely need to be ready to go more rounds against Quintana (29-3, 23 KOs), who has looked reinvigorated with two wins at 154 pounds after his 2010 TKO loss to Berto ended his run at welterweight.
“The fights on November 24 are ‘pick ’em’ bouts where either fighter can win,” said Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. “This is a huge event… November 24 is a ‘thank you’ to fans on Thanksgiving weekend.”
Tickets for the card range from $25 to $200 and are on sale now. Fans can grab seats online at ww.cbbankarena.com or www.axs.com, by phone at (888) 9AXS TIX or buy them in person at the Citizens Business Bank Arena box office.