By Jake Donovan
Once upon a time, Black Friday was accompanied by network blackouts when it came to showcasing any significant boxing action on Thanksgiving weekend.
The past several years have changed that pattern, to where a new tradition has been born.
HBO has aired a card on the Saturday following Thanksgiving in each of the past seven years. The common denominator in every card was the involvement of Golden Boy Promotions, beginning with Juan Manuel Marquez’ first fight under their banner back in November ’06.
That tradition continues this weekend, when Robert Guerrero faces Andre Berto in a major crossroads battle for both welterweight contenders.
Guerrero spent nearly a year calling out Floyd Mayweather, a publicity campaign convincing enough to lead many outlets to believe the fight was a done deal. Mayweather instead chose Miguel Cotto, while Guerrero – whose was ordered to first prove his worth at a new weight class. He did just that, outlasting Selcuk Aydin to take a hard-fought decision this past July.
The fight was Guerrero’s only bout in a span of 14 months and now comes back four months later.
Meanwhile, it’s Berto who enters a lengthy layoff – also, 14 months. The former welterweight titlist has spent much of 2012 rehabbing injuries and restoring his reputation, both of which played factors in twice-canceled plans for a rematch with lone conqueror Victor Ortiz.
An injury suffered during training camp ruined plans for what could have been the first major stateside fight of 2012. A CBS showcase was in store for Berto (and Ortiz), with the rematch to have taken place on its sister network Showtime. That opportunity went out the window, along with the rematch altogether when random drug testing popped Berto for a banned substance.
He has since cleared his name, gaining reinstatement with the California State Athletic Commission, which would have presided over the rescheduled June rematch with Ortiz and will oversee this weekend’s showdown with Guerrero.
Berto’s natural size advantage as a career welterweight is enough for oddsmakers to tab him as a considerable favorite. The viewing public disagrees with, seeing this fight as a true50-50 matchup.
Which way does the Boxingscene.com staff lean? Read on to find out…
PREDICTIONS - ROBERT GUERRERO VS. ANDRE BERTO
I like Berto by knockout, let’s say by the eighth round. He's the bigger guy and has so much to prove after getting in trouble. I think he will fight like a man possessed (with desire, not PEDs) and should come out the winner.
- Mitch Abramson (Berto)
Odds makers have made Andre Berto nearly a 3-1 favorite over WBC interim champion Robert Guerrero. I think this fight is much closer to 50-50. Berto has the advantage in size and experience in the division but may suffer from ring rust. I expect Berto to get off to a good start and perhaps win 3 of the first 4 rounds. From that point on I expect Guerrero and his superior stamina to take control and hold off a late Berto rally. Guerrero via UD or SD around a 115-113 score.
– Ryan Burton (Guerrero)
My only hesitance in picking Berto outright is the 14-month layoff preceding this fight. In a mythical matchup, I’d take Guerrero’s timing and stamina to edge out Berto’s power and speed advantages. In reality, I think Berto’s physical strengths trump Guerrero’s intangibles just enough to edge out a decision that is immediately met with protests and rematch demands from Guerrero and Golden Boy.
– Jake Donovan (Berto)
This is a good litmus test for Guerrero's status at 147. While admittedly rusty, Berto presents a young, strong and talented obstacle who's shown an ability to give and take with the best of the sub-elite tier of the division. If Robert can win here, I'll take his demands for big fights a lot more seriously. But I don't think he can. This guy's just too good. Berto UD 12, say 116-112
– Lyle Fitzsimmons (Berto)
This is going to be a fun fight IF their styles do not result in some less than savory tactics as both guys have been known to tie up, occasionally lead in with their heads, and halt the flow of a fight to their liking. That being said they also produce some entertaining stints of fighting and in the instance I am going with the naturally bigger, more experienced Berto to survive a late charge from Guerrero and win in 7-5 or 8-4 fashion
– Ernest Gabion (Berto)
Berto W12 – Guerrero looked good against Aydin, but Berto is a bigger, stronger 147-pounder. This will be the truest test of Guerrero’s ability to hang with the big boys at welterweight
- Thomas Gerbasi (Berto)
For a while I was leaning towards Berto but due to his long layoff I and the workrate of Guerrero I expect Guerrero to take it. Berto's best bet is to test that chin of Guerrero early but I do not see that happening.
- Tim Kudgis (Guerrero)
Robert Guerrero answered questions about his durability at welterweight by withstanding the advances of a granite-fisted Selcuk Aydin. I think the issue here is his ability to neutralize Andre Berto's superior speed with his timing. I see Guerrero doing just that, utilizing his ring IQ and keeping a dangerous Berto off-balance just enough to pull out a close decision.
- Ryan Maquiñana (Guerrero)
Guerrero will use ring generalship, general toughness, and increased strength in his new weight class to keep Berto off-balance and frustrated enough to win a close but clear decision. The scorecards may tell a more controversial story. If Guerrero drops Berto more than once, which he may by countering his straight right, the judges will be hard pressed to mark 10's for Berto
- Richard Najdowski (Guerrero)
Berto MD Guerrero: I think it should be competitive but I'm not sold on Guerrero at Welter yet. Assuming Berto has his form after getting popped for PEDs, and isn't flat, he's quicker and heavier handed if still with mediocre defense. Guerrero is a more consistent boxer and can make a lot happen off the jab. But he will have to fight with some caution and it could cost him rounds. Anyone's fight
– Cliff Rold (Berto)
This is an intriguing fight that could potentially be a great fight. Their styles complement one another very well. Guerrero looked pretty good in his first bout at welterweight, when he defeated Selcuk Aydin in his last fight. I'm not quite sold Guerrero will be successful at welterweight as he slowed down in the later rounds against Aydin. Berto will be the stronger fighter & more athletic of the two. Berto should attack the body, while Guerrero should take a page out of Victor Ortiz's fight with Berto and fight on the inside (Berto is not a good inside fighter). Berto will come out strong, maybe to make a statement from the fallout of him testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs. Plus, if Guerrero scores a knockdown, the question is if Berto will stray from his game plan as he did against Ortiz after he was dropped twice. I see Berto dropping Guerrero, but the popular Mexican-American will find ways to outbox Berto & win a close, maybe controversial, decision victory
- Francisco Salazar (Guerrero)
Berto UD - Pretty hard fight to pick which is what makes it good. Guerrero has shown he can take some punishment from a Welterweight with the Aydin fight. Don't think Berto will pressure him as hard but Berto's strength and speed will be the difference. Guerrero will definitely have his moments and maybe even manage to hurt Berto but in the end, Berto walks away with hard earned unanimous decision and regains his title (albeit interim)
- Luis Sandoval (Berto)
And a grueling fight it will be! Guerrero debuted as a welter frenetically - like he always was at 147 lbs, fighting the cream of the division. But Berto isn't just a good contender with skills. He is a physically gifted boxer-puncher, a former champion in his prime. Even without PED's he is still bigger, stronger and presumable faster than the Ghost. Guerrero was tested tough by Aydin but this test will be bigger in almost every possible department. In a smart brawl, Berto will land more and won't fade down the stretch, so the outcome will be opposite to the Aydin fight.
– Alexey Sukachev (Berto)
Total: Robert Guerrero 5, Andre Berto 8
The Guerrero-Berto welterweight fight headlines a televised doubleheader live on HBO from Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California (Saturday, 10PM ET/7PM PT). The evening also features a 10-round super welterweight crossroads bout between unbeaten Keith Thurman and former titlist Carlos Quintana.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox