In a bout that featured two young warriors still in their primes, a classic boxing war emerged, complete with knockdowns, swollen eyes, and thunderous punches. Because neither man would give an inch, the fighters took themselves to places many others in the sport would not dare to venture.
The 4,865 fans in attendance already were in a combative mood after HBO, in an effort to promote its latest rising star, allowed boxer Adrien Broner to perform a rap song in the ring prior to the start of its broadcast. The agitated fans' cascade of boos throughout the arena would set the feisty tone for the title bout later that evening.
From the outset, Guerrero wasted no time trying to dictate the terms of the fight.
In Round One, Berto calmly came out to the middle of the ring mimicking a Floyd Mayweather-style defensive posture, with his right glove held high and left shoulder protruding outward. But despite Berto's initial plans to jab and defend his way to a safe points decision, Guerrero quickly turned the bout into a streetfight.
Guerrero admitted being surprised at Berto's defensive stance, "until I cracked him on the chin."
After weathering a few crisp Berto jabs, Guerrero, a southpaw, caught his opponent with a solid left, stunning Berto. Guerrero then grabbed the back of Berto's head with his right glove, and repeatedly hit him with several lefts until Berto hit the canvas. The tactic was a blatant foul that veteran referee Lou Moret somehow missed.
Guerrero continued his onslaught in Round Two, knocking down Berto again with a left. With Berto in survival mode and looking to hold his opponent, it appeared that Guerrero would be on his way to a relatively easy signature win.
However, over the course of the next few rounds a subtle shift would occur in both the geography and tactics of the fight.
The fast-handed Berto, who often does his best work from distance, opted to put his back on the ropes and counter the forward-charging Guerrero in very close quarters.
What resulted from that strategy was some brutal infighting reminiscent of Castillo-Corrales I, as Guerrero would unleash relentless combinations, only to have Berto counter with explosive right uppercuts to Guerrero's head.
The momentum slowly began to creep into Berto's favor, as his counter potshots began to visibly swell Guerrero's right eye. Berto would indeed win Rounds 6, 8, and 9 on all three judges scorecards.
In Round Six, Berto landed a clean uppercut to Guerrero's head, then followed it up later in the round with two massive rights that snapped his opponent's head. Guerrero responded by pressing forward, displaying a tremendous chin.
"He didn't hurt me," said Guerrero. "He caught me with a few shots. He's a strong guy and punched hard, but I have a great chin."
Round Seven, a potential "Round of the Year" candidate, upped the ante even further, as both men staged their own rallies while throwing shots at an incredible pace.
That frenetic pace continued until the end of the bout, with Guerrero throwing 103 punches in Round 12 alone.
Berto, with both eyes nearly swelled shut, displayed great heart himself, letting his hands in the last round go with an occasional shoeshine and countering the Raging Bull-style attack.
The action was so intense that after a Guerrero left hand hurt Berto in the fight's final ten seconds, the referee could not hear the bell over the crowd noise. A ringside official had to jump in to stop the bout.
Both men entered the bout at a bit of a career crossroads because of some extended time away from the ring.
For Guerrero, shoulder surgery, his wife's cancer, and a move up to welterweight left him with many questions as to whether he could still compete at a high level.
Berto, meanwhile, had to deal with 14 months of ring rust following an arm injury and a positive drug test. His loss to Victor Ortiz and the passing several loved ones in the Haitian earthquake disaster did not help matters.
Although Guerrero got the star-making victory, both men won in a sense. Action fighters with heart always sell tickets, and Berto and Guerrero demonstrated the type of guts fight fans will want to see again.
One such potential bout could involve Guerrero versus Mayweather. Guerrero again proclaimed his eagerness to fight Mayweather, and this time he has the credentials -- a win over a legit welterweight in Berto -- to back up his case.
"Styles make fights, and I really feel that Mayweather, I'll take him out," Guerrero said.
He may first need to wait in line behind Manny Pacquiao, Sergio Martinez, and Canelo Alvarez.
What We Learned From This Fight
- Andre Berto, for all his athletic gifts and willpower, still lacks the ring generalship to beat the elite. Ultimately, Berto fought Guerrero's fight along the ropes, rather than dictating the action from distance with his jab. Perhaps it was out of necessity due to his reduced vision, but he has had similar episodes in the past.
- Guerrero may not have the fastest hands, but he is busy, heavy-handed, well-conditioned, and has a great chin. "A lot of people underestimate how much punching power I got," said Guerrero. "I don't have these flashy shots, but I got some power. I am heavy-handed."
- If there was one clear advantage the aggressive Guerrero held over Berto, it was his workrate. Guerrero threw 731 total punches compared to 411 for Berto. Although Berto was more accurate, connecting on 44 percent of his shots, Guerrero also landed a respectable 35 percent himself. Moreover, the bulk of Guerrero's shots were power punches, as he threw 611 bombs, but only 120 jabs.
- It was a subpar night for referee Lou Moret. He missed an obvious foul by Guerrero in Round One when he held the back of Berto's head. Then he failed to properly break the fighters apart in the early rounds when they were holding in the clinches. Fortunately, as they threw more interior shots and held less, it became a moot point. He also did not hear the final bell, allowing Guerrero to get in some additional punches at the end of the fight. Said Berto after the fight, "The ref was warning for a lot things, so I was timid."
By Mike Elliott
Staff Editor for The Daily Sports Herald