One of the things most cited when people are asked about modern boxing's problems is the title situation. Namely, that there are too many, and that to get a shot at one of the million, you need only connections, and not so much a résumé. The right promoter, the right manager, the eye of the right network executive, and you're set.
Robert Guerrero will be fighting for an interim welterweight title on Saturday against Selcuk Aydin. They both have rather "interesting" situations when it comes to whether or not they deserve the shot. Guerrero (29-1-1, 18 KO) has won titles in two prior weight divisions, featherweight and super featherweight, and a pair of interim belts at lightweight. He was set to move to junior welterweight last August to face Marcos Maidana, but had to pull out of that bout with a shoulder injury.
Now, he's decided to skip the 140-pound division, and move straight to welterweight. With Floyd Mayweather in the clink, this is a rare case where an interim title actually makes some sense. Guerrero is a fine fighter, talented and very easy to root for. But if you had to clarify to someone who follows sports but does not follow boxing why Robert Guerrero is getting a "world title shot" in the welterweight division, what would you say? Realistically, you'd have to embark on the usual convoluted explanation, which circles the drain and always shoots down the same way, and if you're really honest, you have to say, "Because it's boxing, and boxing doesn't work the way other sports do."
This is to take nothing away from Guerrero, nor is it meant to blame him for getting or taking the title shot. The 29-year-old native of Gilroy, California, hasn't exactly been babied or protected. He turned pro in 2001 at the age of 18, and in 2004 he won the minor NABF featherweight title. He also has never been an "invincible" fighter, suffering a split decision defeat to veteran Gamaliel Diaz in 2005, which he avenged via knockout the next year.
His first world title came in September 2006, when he stopped Eric Aiken after eight rounds of domination to lift the IBF belt. Looking like a good bet as a long-term investment, Guerrero promptly lost his next fight to Orlando Salido, somewhat overwhelmed by the veteran Mexican. That result was overturned when Salido failed a post-fight drug test, but that drug test itself was controversial.
With the same belt vacant, Guerrero defeated Spend Abazi to regain the strap, and rattled off a good run before a fight in March 2009, when he quit due to a cut in the second round against Daud Yordan. It was a decision that was met with skepticism because Guerrero didn't even give his team a chance to work on the cut, which to be fair, was pretty bad.
Later that year, though, Guerrero won the IBF super featherweight title with a solid, hard-fought win over Malcolm Klassen. In 2010, he went 3-0, beating Roberto David Arrieta, Joel Casamayor, and Vicente Escobedo, and in April 2011, he outclassed Michael Katsidis. He hasn't fought since then.
What has unfortunately dominated much of Guerrero's last five years has been his wife Casey's battle with cancer. Diagnosed with leukemia in 2007, the cancer eventually spread to her brain. A marrow donor recently saved her life, as documented in a brief Showtime video that I really recommend watching if you have not. Injuries have also been a problem for Guerrero, and it just seems like his career has never quite gotten on track the way it should have.
Now, with his lovely wife healthy and his injuries cleared up, Guerrero is taking his chance. There's a reason Guerrero campaigned for a fight with Floyd Mayweather earlier this year, which most of us did laugh off in a way. There's a reason he and his PR team have so aggressively pushed his name this year.
Robert Guerrero wants to be a great fighter. And while he's not old, and he's not taken a ton of in-ring punishment in his career, Guerrero knows as well as anyone in the sport that opportunities to get to that top level can be fleeting, and that life outside of the ring can intervene at any moment. Guerrero wants his shot at the big time. And he wants it now.
Selcuk Aydin (23-0, 17 KO) arguably shouldn't be here with a "title shot," either. Sure, he's technically unbeaten, but the 28-year-old native of Trabzon, Turkey, has two highly disputed wins over Jo Jo Dan, both of which took place in his home country. Many believe that Dan believed to win both of those bouts.
But aside from that, Aydin has a few solid wins, including victories over Said Ouali and Jackson Bonsu. Whatever you might doubt about Aydin's credentials as a true top welterweight, one cannot doubt two things: He's tough, and he packs a punch. Ask Dan -- Aydin broke his jaw last year in their rematch.
It's also been three years since Aydin won a WBC title eliminator over Bonsu, which was supposed to net him a shot at then-titleholder Andre Berto. It didn't, and since then, the WBC belt has passed from Berto to Victor Ortiz to Mayweather. Aydin picked up the WBC silver belt (which apparently is different from the interim title, if you've ever wondered) with the first win over Dan, but this is really the sort of opportunity he's been waiting for since 2009. And even still it's not quite what he had in mind.
But this is what he's going to have to live with. Like Ajose Olusegun, Aydin found out that WBC eliminators don't mean much of anything unless you're one of their favorite fighters.
Some are expecting Guerrero to win this one handily. Maybe he will. But some of those folks might be making that call based on the fact that Guerrero is better-known to the U.S. audience and he's been featured on some notable shows, and he's the Golden Boy fighter. Fighting at home in San Jose, he'll have the home field. He should have a nice crowd behind him (at least in response, if not in numbers, though one really hopes Guerrero breaks the ugly California streak of non-existent fight crowds).
And yes, Guerrero is a good fighter. But let's be really clear here. He's never fought above 135 (well, 138) pounds. Physically, this is new territory for him. Aydin isn't a tall welterweight or anything, but he's a welterweight, and he can fight. He's not top ten in the division at the moment, but he's not way out there, either.
And Aydin wants this just as badly as Robert Guerrero does. Aydin might never get another chance to impress an American audience in a main event fight. He will not be coming to roll over, and if you've ever seen Aydin fight before, you know one thing for sure: He does not back down from a battle.
Guerrero may be able to outbox Aydin in the early rounds and build a nice lead, but he's been troubled in the past when the pressure was on. Salido beat him, Malcolm Klassen gave him some problems in the second half of their fight, and the Yordan non-fight still troubles some folks.
He did appear to get over some of his past issues with his win over Katsidis last year, but keep in mind that Katsidis was coming off of a knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez, and he's just not been the same fighter since then. But when you add int he fact that Guerrero hasn't fought in nearly 16 months and is coming off of a pretty serious shoulder injury, you might have some problems.
Guerrero has been a good fighter, but has never really reached that highest level. His best wins have been good, not great, and he hasn't been a consistent performer over the years. Some nights, he doesn't look like a special fighter. On a few, though, he has.
If Aydin can force Guerrero into a firefight, this could turn on a dime. I have absolutely no doubt that he's the bigger puncher of the two in this fight, and if they get into a trade, Guerrero could find himself on the canvas and in a bad way. And even if he does get a lead early, Guerrero has in the past shown a lack of killer instinct. Aydin will keep charging at him all night.
In short, I think Robert Guerrero is in for a fight on Saturday night. And given the recent upsets we've seen with Josesito Lopez breaking Victor Ortiz's jaw, and Danny Garcia stopping Amir Khan, would it really be that big a stunner if we saw our third upset in just about a month's time? It's already crazy that we're going into Golden Boy's third big card since June 23, and Guerrero has a chance to walk out the only favorite with a win.
I'm picking Guerrero to win this fight on points, but I'm telling you, I think there might be another upset in the air here. If I'm terribly wrong and Guerrero dominates the fight, then at least a good guy is coming out ahead. Guerrero by decision.
Guerrero and Aydin photos by Tom Hogan - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions.
In a step-up bout, junior middleweight prospect Shawn Porter will face veteran Alfonso Gomez in the Showtime co-feature. Porter (19-0, 14 KO) is one of the many Ohio prospects we've seen in recent years, and while he's no Adrien Broner, he thus far has not lost like Willie Nelson and Prenice Brewer have.
Like Aydin, Porter is seemingly small for his weight, but at 5'7", the Cleveland product has a massive frame, somewhat similar to Andre Berto in the upper body. Porter's huge arms and wide back saw him come into the pros weighing 165 pounds for his debut in 2008. In 2010-11, his team flirted with the idea of taking him down in weight, with three fights as a welterweight, and an intention to get him down to 140. It's not going to happen -- Porter, for better or worse, is a junior middleweight.
Gomez (23-5-2, 12 KO) is a well-known fighter and by far the toughest test that Porter has faced to date. The likeable Mexican battler, who last fought in September and lost to Canelo Alvarez in a valiant effort, retired Arturo Gatti back in 2007 and could easily have done the same with a dominant win over Jose Luis Castillo in 2010. He is a gutsy, tough fighter, and a solid boxer. If Porter has a chance at contending, he has to win this fight. If Gomez can expose him, it's possible that Porter just won't turn into a player. I'm not making a pick here, but if Porter's the favorite, this is another fight where an upset wouldn't be any real surprise.
George Groves (14-0, 11 KO) will be back in action, which he desperately needs. The British and Commonwealth super middleweight champion hasn't fought since a November win over Paul Smith, which followed his upset of James DeGale last April. He'll be in action on Showtime Extreme against Francisco Sierra (25-5-1, 22 KO), a powerful banger with limited skills. This could be a genuinely exciting fight, or it could be over quickly. Groves needed a fight date, and with pro boxing on hold due to the Olympics in the UK, Frank Warren made a wise decision to send him over to San Jose and get him back in the ring. BoxNation televises Golden Boy cards anyway, so they'll have him on TV there.
Also in action on SHO Extreme will be 21-year-old junior middleweight Hugo Centeno (14-0, 8 KO), another Oxnard fighter nicknamed "The Boss." He'll be facing Ghana's Ayi Bruce (22-7, 14 KO), who has lost to all of his more talented opponents.