It wasn't all that long ago that former welterweight champion Andre Berto was considered one of the top young fighters in all of boxing.
Hailing from Miami, but with his roots in Haiti where he is deeply involved in charity work, Berto represented the island nation in the 2004 Summer Olympics before turning pro.
He won his first 27 professional fights, including a run as WBC welterweight champion, a title he successfully defended five times.
In 2011 he engaged in what would eventually be named The Ring Magazine fight of the year, dropping a decision and his world title to Victor Ortiz in a brutal war that saw both men taste the canvas multiple times.
From that point, Berto's professional life and personal life began spiraling out of control. After losing to Ortiz he returned in September of 2011 and defeated welterweight contender Jan Zavec.
It would be Berto's last fight, until he steps in Nov. 24 against interim WBC welterweight champion Robert Guerrero, a layoff of over 14 months.
A rematch with Ortiz twice fell through, once due to a severe arm injury, and the second time due to a failed drug test that revealed a banned substance. Berto vehemently denied that he was doping and instead blamed the test on contamination.
Both he and his legal team appealed to the California State Athletic Commission and obtained a license to fight. The fight will take place at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California.
Berto is not concerned about the layoff or any possible ring rust, and is just looking forward to getting back in the ring and reestablishing his career.
“We’ve been having tremendous work here, working with tremendous southpaws,” Berto said.
“I’m in great shape. If there is some rust it should shake off quickly because I’ve been working my ass off."
The possibility of ring rust is troubling, especially given his opponent, Robert Guerrero, is a slick southpaw boxer who can give a lot of top fighters fits on their best night.
It's also worth noting that Berto's lone career defeat came against Victor Ortiz, who is also a southpaw. But Berto doesn't feel the comparison between the fighters is correct.
“Ortiz is more of a pressure fighter, he tries to get you to the ropes and bang it out. Guerrero is more of a boxer who likes to measure his opponents, use his range and time and turn you when he can."
The loss to Ortiz is something that still gnaws at the former champion, who feels that he wasn't in the best place in his career at the time and this negatively impacted his performance.
“A lot of people don’t know what went on behind the scenes,” he said.
“I wasn’t where I needed to be at all for that fight. I’m not going to speak too much on it, but I was trying new things in training that backfired on me. It affected my body terribly. I had to go to the hospital after that fight. I wasn’t 100 percent but we still put on a great fight for the fans.”
One advantage that Andre Berto will carry into the ring is his weight. He has fought the majority of his career at 147 pounds, while Guerrero will me making only his second appearance at the weight.
The "Ghost" moved up from lightweight earlier this year and captured the interim WBC welterweight title from previously undefeated Selcuk Aydin. And while a win is a win, Berto was impressed by Guerrero but not his opponent.
“Me and Aydin are two completely different fighters,” Berto said. “Aydin just kept his hands in tight and walked forward like a punching bag all night. Robert did what he had to do and he looked good.”
“He did that against Aydin but again, I don’t fight like Aydin. He’s flat footed. He puts his block up and he’s a wall, he’s a strong wall, as Guerrero said. But it’s easy to time and turn a guy who is in a shell.”
Berto promises to not be such an easy target and feels that he will have several advantages that will help him win the fight.
“My speed, definitely, my power, and explosiveness."
A win for either guy would certainly do wonders for their careers. This is a very risky fight, with both considered among boxing's most avoided opponents, and someone will rise and someone will fall.
It's a fight that Golden Boy Promotions head Oscar De La Hoya says should excite fans, as stylistically it's a very intriguing matchup.
“Putting this fight together was a no-brainer,” De La Hoya said.
"This fight really has fireworks written all over it.”
Kevin McRae is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted all quotes were obtained personally.
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