By Jake Donovan
Andre Berto sat ringside for Robert Guerrero’s welterweight debut this past summer, though there was no ulterior motive behind his being in attendance. The former welterweight titlist was in town to clear his name with the California State Athletic Commission after a positive drug test killed plans for his twice-canceled rematch with Victor Ortiz and resulted in a suspended license.
The trip proved worthwhile; Berto was reinstated by the commission and ultimately wound up with a future opponent after Guerrero edged out Selcuk Aydin in a hard-fought battle. Berto returns to the ring for the first time in 14 months, as he will face Guerrero on November 24 at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California.
HBO will televise the bout, a relationship that seems like old times for Berto, whose career rise has been covered in large part by the cable giant. Such news didn’t seem possible a few months ago while his eligibility status as a prizefighter still hung in the balance.
“I didn’t think about it at the time,” Berto (28-1, 21KO) said of any lingering plans to face Guerrero. “I was just worried about my situation getting cleared up. It was a tough situation. Fortunately, me and my team didn’t worry too much about it because we didn’t do anything wrong.
“We found out exactly what it was - a contamination and a very, very small trace. We presented all of the results to the commission and were able to move forward.”
Berto was the second of several high profile fighters to test positive for a banned substance this year, and also the second straight to get busted during random drug testing by the newly formed Voluntary Anti-Doping Agency (VADA). Lamont Peterson was popped six weeks prior for synthetic testosterone, causing an 11th hour cancellation of his rematch with Amir Khan, whom he defeated last December.
Golden Boy Promotions was the promoter of record for both canceled shows and have returned to United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) as its random drug testing company of choice. USADA’s services have been utilized for this fight. It’s all the same to Berto, who would have been just as fine with VADA, even past history considered.
“It’s the same, I think. VADA realistically, they came five or six times to test me already – urine testing, blood testing. VADA came by every other couple of days. USADA was very relentless as well. Sometimes they came back-to-back (days). USADA testing was very more or less the same way. They’re great testing companies. I don’t have anything bad to say about either one. They both take blood and urine. There’s not too much of a difference. Both of the companies are very effective.”
Though his name is cleared, Berto still enters the ring under the watch of several skeptical observers. The Floridian will be pleased to know, though, that there exists at least one satisfied customer.”
“Everybody's guilty until proven innocent, and Andre did that,” states Guerrero (30-1-1, 18KO), who endured a year-plus long layoff of his own before returning to beat Aydin in July. “He took the proper steps and did the right thing to get licensed and back in the ring. I've been in the ring with someone on steroids before, so I know what it's like.”
The fighter to whom Guerrero refers is Orlando Salido, who dominated the Californian in a featherweight bout six years ago. The shocking upset didn’t hold, as Salido tested positive for nadrolone, changing the official result to a no-decision in the process.
Guerrero instinctively weary against every opponent, though hopeful that greater awareness and stricter testing regiments (relatively speaking) provide a level playing field.
“We take real caution against that. Every time we step in that ring we’re putting our lives on the line. When somebody enhances, they’re playing with somebody’s life.”
So does Guerrero believe his opponent was truthful in the events that took place earlier this year?
“Who knows?” Guerrero responds in laissez faire fashion. “Only he knows and God knows. That’s the least of my concern. My job is to go in there and be prepared for this fight.”
For seven years, that was also Berto’s job as a professional fighter as well. Injuries, test results and commission hearing served as considerable roadblocks, all of which he’s anxious to put that much further in the rearview mirror.
“It was sad that we had to go through all that we went through,” Berto states. “But now we’re here and in it to win it.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox