- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Although Robert Guerrero has already accomplished a lot in his boxing career as a two-time featherweight titleholder, junior lightweight titlist and interim lightweight titleholder, he has yet to have a big fight -- a really big one. That's what he wants someday: a fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr., for instance.
But he's unlikely to get a fight like that without proving a couple of things when he takes on Selcuk Aydin (23-0, 17 KOs) of Turkey for a vacant interim welterweight belt Saturday night (Showtime, 10 ET/PT) at HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif., where Guerrero, from nearby Gilroy, will be the big crowd favorite.
First, Guerrero (29-1-1, 18 KOs), who hasn't fought in 15 months, must show that his left shoulder is healthy after having surgery on his torn left rotator cuff last August.
He must also show that he can handle the jump to the 147-pound weight class against a formidable contender like Aydin, a 2004 Olympian.
In 2010, Guerrero's career was beginning to heat up. He was going to move up to lightweight to face Michael Katsidis but withdrew seven weeks before the fight to care for his critically ill wife, Casey, who was battling cancer. After some scary moments and a life-saving bone marrow transplant, she is healthy now, but Guerrero was idle for eight months. After an easy comeback win, he got things going with three notable wins in a row.
Facing former lightweight champion Joel Casamayor, Guerrero weighed a career-high 138 pounds -- a concession to Casamayor -- and won a lopsided decision. Then Guerrero easily outpointed Vicente Escobedo and, in April 2011, finally met Katsidis and outpointed him to win two interim lightweight belts.
But then came another long layoff because of the shoulder injury he suffered while training for a junior welterweight fight against Marcos Maidana last August. Guerrero tore his rotator cuff in his final sparring session a week before the fight. Surgery followed, as did months of rehabilitation.
"I did 3½ months of physical therapy," Guerrero said. "The arm feels good. I'm doing things with it that I've never done before. So I just can't wait to get out there. I already put that injury behind me and moved on and I'm in great shape."
Guerrero, 29, said that once he got the OK to use his left hand again, he was able to immediately move ahead with no restrictions.
"As soon as I was able to start working bags and everything, I went full force," he said. "The one thing with the physical therapist we worked on was letting go, not compensating, not letting your subconscious take over and start compensating for other muscles. When I was able to get back into the gym and start throwing the left hand, I was throwing it full force and all the way through."
While Guerrero, a 126-pound featherweight for most of his career, was getting his shoulder in shape, he was also preparing his body to make the jump from lightweight to welterweight.
That's an unusual move in this era. The most notable recent fighter to do it was the recently retired Shane Mosley, who vacated his lightweight title and jumped to welterweight, where he fought twice before his career-defining first win against Oscar De La Hoya to win the welterweight title in 2000.
Guerrero, who trained for Aydin for two months at altitude in Lake Tahoe, Calif., is moving from lightweight straight into a welterweight title bout, albeit one of the lesser interim variety. (Mayweather holds the alphabet organization's full title.)
Guerrero took inspiration from Mosley, his friend, when he contemplated the move.
"Being a good friend of Shane's and seeing what he's done in boxing, it's inspiring," Guerrero said. "Seeing what Manny Pacquiao has done [by winning titles in a record eight weight classes], it's inspiring. What Floyd Mayweather has done, moving through all the weight classes, it sets the bar high, where if you want to be one of the best and top fighters in the history of boxing, these are the kind of things you're going to do -- move through weight classes, win titles in multiple weight classes and do things that are rarely done, like moving two weight classes.
"I want to leave this sport knowing that I fought the best and I've done the best I can do and I've done things that haven't really been done in boxing, that it's a rarity."
Guerrero also decided to put on the weight because he has yearned for a Mayweather-caliber fight. He previously had called out the pound-for-pound king but was met with laughter from many fans and media for his audacity, because he was so unproven above lightweight.
"The thought process going through my head is positioning myself for that megafight with either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather," Guerrero said. "So those are the two biggest fights out there and I'm about taking on the biggest challenges that are out there, and at 147 right now, the biggest challenge is Selcuk Aydin. He's undefeated. He's the No. 1 contender in the WBC, so I'm going to take on the best and the biggest challenge to position myself where I need to position myself.
"So the whole thought process of going up to '47 is looking for those big fights. I have trouble getting fights at 140 pounds, 135, so I'm bypassing and doing the crazy thing that not very many fighters are willing to do and moving up two weight classes. So that's what I'm about -- not talking the talk, but walking the walk."
Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer said that by beating Aydin, Guerrero would position himself for a possible Mayweather fight.
"It's going to be up to Robert to show what he is all about, and I have the utmost confidence in that," Schaefer said. "Of course, everyone in those weight classes wants to fight either Mayweather or Pacquiao. These are the two big names. These are the two best fighters, pound for pound, and I think the list is long for those guys. But do I think that Robert, assuming everything goes well and he looks great, do I think he deserves an opportunity to fight a Floyd Mayweather? Absolutely.
Guerrero admitted to having some concern about handling the power of the bigger Aydin.
"There's always concern, all the time," he said. "When you move up a weight class, the guys punch harder. The guys are bigger, especially a full-fledged welterweight being there most of his career and the majority of knockouts he has. You know he's a hard puncher. He's a tough guy. He puts pressure and he breaks guys down."
Said Aydin, "The first time I hit him, he will regret moving up in weight and accepting to fight me."
If Guerrero's desire to fight an elite opponent after Aydin isn't motivating enough, the boasts from Aydin that he would break Guerrero's jaw are.
Although Aydin declined to participate in a media teleconference to discuss the fight -- his handlers said he felt disrespected by the lack of attention in the promotion -- he did come to the phone briefly to smack talk about Guerrero, who was on the line.
Through a translator, he said to Guerrero, "Don't talk too much. You need to spend more time training and strengthening your jaw, because [I'm] going to break it."
Aydin also said he believed Guerrero was looking past him to a bigger fight.
"Well, there ain't no looking past anybody," Guerrero snapped. "If that's what he thinks, he's making the mistake. I just came from a training camp, isolated, no TV, in the middle of nowhere, focusing on this fight. So if anybody thinks that I'm taking this fight light, that I'm thinking past it, you've got it wrong. I just know what's on the horizon."
One of those really big fights, Guerrero hopes.
Porter-Gomez on undercard
In the scheduled 10-round co-feature, Akron, Ohio, welterweight prospect Shawn Porter (19-0, 14 KOs) will square off with former welterweight and junior middleweight title challenger Alfonso Gomez (23-5-2, 12 KOs) of Mexico, who hasn't fought since being stopped by 154-pound titleholder Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in the sixth round in September.
The fight is a step up for Porter, who was a standout amateur.
"He is the most experienced fighter I've faced as a professional and he's been in there with some of the best, but I fought some tough guys in the amateurs and beat them," Porter said. "I need to use everything I have: speed, quickness, power, strength and endurance. It's going to take everything I have to beat him. I need to make adjustments and take it one round at a time."
Gomez has faced several quality opponents, including Alvarez, Miguel Cotto and the late Arturo Gatti, whom he sent into retirement.
"We prepared well for this camp for Porter," Gomez said. "We know he is capable. He reminds me of a young Shane Mosley, and I'm sure he'll have a great career like Mosley, but I have plans and he can't derail me. I'm the toughest guy he's ever faced. It's a tough test that I know he will fail. I feel confident, strong and ready."
In addition, Showtime Extreme (8 ET/PT) will air a pair of eight-round preliminary bouts: British super middleweight contender George Groves (14-0, 11 KOs) against Francisco Sierra (24-5-1, 22 KOs) of Mexico and junior middleweight prospect Hugo Centeno (14-0, 8 KO's) of Oxnard, Calif., against Ghana native Ayi Bruce (14-7, 8 KOs) of Albany, N.Y.
Robert Guerrero isn't just moving up in weight in Saturday's return from a 15-month layoff. He's leaping two weight classes and taking on a formidable contender in Selcuk Aydin, hoping that the payoff will be a Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight.