LOS ANGELES – Robert Guerrero retained his World Boxing Council interim welterweight world title Saturday, emerging from a brutal battle with Andre Berto with a unanimous decision.
Guerrero knocked down Berto in the first and second rounds, but Berto recovered to take the slugfest to the end.
The two battled toe-to-toe in the 12th, the crowd noise so loud that the referee couldn’t hear the bell to end it.
All three judges scored the bout 116-110 in favor of Guerrero, who improved to 31-1-1 with 18 wins inside the distance.
Berto, fighting for the first time in 14 months and after a planned rematch with Victor Ortiz was scuppered by Berto’s positive test for the steroid nandrolone, fell to 28-2 with 22 knockouts.
Guerrero had said he believed a victory over Berto could finally put him “over the hump” in terms of attracting elite opponents.
He certainly showed himself a warrior against Berto in the fight in Ontario, California, 50 miles east of Los Angeles.
“I did tell Andre that I was going to beat him down, so I had to be a man of my word,” Guerrero said. “I had to get on the inside with him and work his body. I knew I had to turn it in with him because he’s got fast hands.”
But Berto said he was inhibited by repeated warnings from the referee – when Berto thought it was Guerrero who was holding.
“The referee kept calling me for a lot of different things and he just made me real timid to do a lot of things, throw punches I wanted to throw inside,” said Berto, who finished the fight with both eyes swollen nearly shut.
“I didn’t understand it,” Berto said. “He was coming in and holding me and the referee kept warning me.
“It is what it is. I came back after 14 months, and fought a good guy in Guerrero.”
Berto’s right eye began swelling early in the first, after Guerrero hit him with a straight left.
In the later rounds, Berto regrouped and caught Guerrero with some punishing uppercuts, but Guerrero seemed unfazed.
“He didn’t hurt me at all,” said Guerrero, who also had one eye swollen by the end of the bout. “I took some great shots from him. He’s a strong guy, punches hard, but I’ve got a good chin.”
The card was to have featured a lightweight bout between Sharif Bogere and Richard Abril, but Bogere injured his left Achilles tendon earlier this month and had to withdraw.