In another twist in an odd career, Robert Guerrero will leapfrog a division to face hard-hitting Selcuk Aydin for the interim WBC welterweight (?) title Saturday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California. It will be the first time Guerrero fought since April of last year.
Over the last decade, Guerrero, 29-1, with 18 KOs, has frequently alternated between hyper-talented to imminently beatable, awe-inspiring to uninspiring, knockout artist to cute southpaw. Seven of his first eight fights were decision victories, but Guerrero went on to rack up eight knockouts in the next three years. He lost a close decision to Gamaliel Diaz but avenged it by knocking Diaz out with a shot to the solar plexus. He got thrashed by Orlando Salido—a loss that was later deemed a No Decision when Salido tested positive for a steroid—only to steamroll hard-nosed Martin Honorio within a round a year later. And in his most passive performance to date, Guerrero survived a 10th-round knockdown against an ancient Joel Casamayor to win a dull decision, only to stand his ground and flagellate a pugnacious Michael Katsidis in his next fight.
What the Gilroy, California, native displays next is anyone’s guess after a 17-month layoff due to injury, particularly when he’s leaping from lightweight to welterweight. Guerrero began his career at featherweight, and after that initial string of decisions, he displayed considerable power and body punching prowess. Above featherweight, however, he’s generally gone the distance, outworking most of his opponents while using deft footwork to avoid the incoming.
It’s safe to assume that Selcuk Aydin is none too concerned with Guerrero’s pop. Come Saturday night, Guerrero will have left his knockout power four divisions south of where Aydin has spent his whole careeer, so we can expect his punches to resemble stones careening off a tank. Equipped with sturdy whiskers and a stout guard, Aydin, 23-0 with 17 KOs, is accustomed to walking down his opponents—most of them welterweights—while seeking out openings for his right hand.
Naturally, Aydin’s ammunition looks to produce far more damage. Guerrero showcased an exemplary level of toughness in the lower weight divisions, but Joel Casamayor putting him on his trunks indicated that his chin isn’t undentable, and he’s facing a man far bigger and stronger. The Turkish puncher (ambitiously nicknamed “Mini-Tyson”) has a respectable punch, the type of power that can leave Guerrero floored if he catches a well-timed overhand right or left hook.
Regardless, Aydin’s defensive preference is earmuffs over head movement, and catch-and-throw over slip-and-counter, leaving the 28-year-old handcuffed against active hands. The fight could quickly resemble Guerrero’s bout with Malcolm Klassen, in which Klassen’s aggression was subdued by combinations followed by quick lateral movement. Southpaw Ionut Dan Ion gave Aydin fits in both of his bouts with him simply by throwing as much as possible, and Guerrero has shown overbearing stamina in previous fights. If he can avoid a blow that leaves him compromised, there’s nothing in Aydin’s repertoire to suggest Guerrero can’t box his way to a hard-earned decision in front of his hometown crowd.
Now that his wife is recovering from Leukemia, perhaps Guerrero is refocused and emboldened to conquer any obstacle in his path. Still, hurdling a division to face a strong welterweight remains a head-scratching decision, and he’ll have to be at his best to avoid suffering the same fate as Golden Boy cohorts Victor Ortiz and Amir Khan. But given his bizarre route within this obscene sport, Guerrero wouldn’t have it any other way.