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Guerrero outlasts Aydin, captures welterweight title!

Ringside by David Robinett
Photos by Stephanie Trapp

Moving up two weight classes and fighting for the first time in 15 months, former three-division titlist Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero, (30-1-1, 18 KOs), gutted out a hard-fought unanimous decision victory over twelve rounds against tough Selcuk "Mini-Tyson" Aydin, (23-1, 17 KOs), in the main event on Showtime Championship Boxing at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California, on Saturday night. One judge scored the welterweight bout 117-111 with the other two scoring it a very fair 116-112. In the process Guerrero captured the vacant WBC interim welterweight title, earning a championship belt (two of them interim titles) in his fourth different weight class.

Despite a career that has never seemed to sustain its momentum due to injuries, promotional disputes, and his wife's well-documented battle with cancer, Guerrero and his team have been calling out Floyd Mayweather Jr. for over a year Regardless of the likelihood of a future matchup with Clark County Detention Center's most famous current resident, the jump to welterweight was seen by many as a calculated move by Team Guerrero to improve their bargaining position.

To that end, Guerrero acknowledged the need to look good against the undefeated Turkish contender.

"I'm making my way back into the ring so this fight is very important for my career," admitted Guerrero before the fight. "I'm 100 percent focused and I know what I need to do. If they think we're looking past him, they're wrong."

It's a good thing Guerrero was not looking past his foe, because the determined Aydin gave the Ghost everything he could handle over twelve grueling rounds. The first two rounds may have been the easiest of the night for the southpaw Guerrero, who started off smartly, firing right jabs and quick-burst combinations against his bigger, slower opponent. Aydin menacingly stalked Guerrero from the opening bell, but couldn't get off as Guerrero disrupted his rhythm with double and triple jabs while mixing in both left and right hand uppercuts.

However, Mini-Tyson kept coming and in round three landed heavy right hooks to Guerrero's head and body that had some of the ringside press commenting on the apparent difference in punching power.

Guerrero remained undeterred though, sticking and moving but on a few occasions even bravely (or foolishly) exchanging with Aydin, including one sequence in the fourth round where Guerrero rocked Aydin with a right hook only to be met by a stiff beltline shot by Aydin that foreshadowed Aydin's comeback in the second half of the fight.

Guerrero looked like a star in the middle portion of the fight, comfortably circling Aydin and stopping just long enough to unload five and six-punch combinations on the plodding brawler before darting out of harm's way. But it also appeared that some of Guerrero's combinations, which probably would have dropped smaller men, were merely disruptive and not actually hurting his sturdy 147-pound opponent.

Aydin, who was competitive but only landing sporadically through most of the fight, finally had his breakthrough in the tenth round. Aydin countered a Guerrero combination with a right hook to Guerrero's body that almost put the Ghost on the canvas. Guerrero stumbled backwards but somehow kept his balance and his gloves off the mat. But Aydin smelled blood and continued to dig to the body from that point forward, causing Guerrero to visibly wince on one occasion and reflexively lift his foot off the ground after taking another right hook to the body right before the bell.

From the point forward it was a battle of attrition, with Aydin trying to put Guerrero on the canvas and Guerrero trying to make it to the final bell. The tension in HP Pavilion was palpable as the partisan crowd of 6,267 (mixed in with a few pockets of Turkish fans holding up flags and banners) roared when Guerrero fired off jab, left-hand combinations to disrupt Aydin and held their breath every time Aydin loaded up on another shot to the body as Guerrero used a variety of strategies to make it to the finish. To his great credit though, the one thing Guerrero did not do is run, choosing instead to stick and move, punch and clinch, and otherwise fight his way to the end rather than get on his bicycle.

In the end, Guerrero had just enough left in the tank to keep Aydin at bay and keep alive his dream of a matchup with Floyd Mayweather Jr., although based on how physically spent Guerrero looked after twelve tough rounds at 147 lbs. he might be better served looking for big fights at 140 lbs. against the likes of Amir Khan and Juan Manuel Marquez. But those considerations were set aside in the immediate aftermath of the fight, as Guerrero basked in the adulation of his hometown fans.

"I am so happy right now," said Guerrero. "This belt is for my little boy Robert Jr. He always asked me when I am going to get the green [WBC] belt. It felt great having the support of my local fans and family. I had a little bit of ring rust but worked through it."

But in case anyone forgot, Guerrero left one final message before heading back to the dressing room: "Floyd, if you want your belt, here it is. Come and get it."

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Porter Closes the Door on the Contender Era!

Welterweight prospect Shawn Porter, (20-0, 14 KOs), may have helped write the final chapter of the "Contender" era, earning a hard-fought but clear unanimous decision victory over one-time reality television star and title challenger Alfonso Gomez, (23-6-2, 12 K)s), in the ten-round co-main event on Showtime Championship Boxing. Scores for the bout were 98-92, 97-93, and a too close 96-94.

At his best, Gomez was a top-five welterweight with a large fan following owing to his stint on NBC's first season of the "Contender" and a fan-friendly style. Gomez sent Arturo Gatti into retirement and parlayed his success into a title shot against Miguel Cotto. Although he never again challenged for a welterweight title after losing to Cotto, Gomez was coming off a competitive loss at 154 lbs. against Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, and hoped to reestablish himself as a welterweight contender against the talented but untested Porter.

This was a rough and dirty fight. Porter was uncharacteristically aggressive from the start, going right after Gomez with power punches from both hands, as Gomez tried to use his jab to keep Porter off of him and establish some distance. For his efforts, Porter suffered a cut over his right eye courtesy of an accidental headbutt. Nevertheless, Porter's aggression won him the round on two of the three judges' scorecards.

Porter slipped back into his customary boxer-puncher style in round two, allowing Gomez a little more breathing room which he took advantage of, landing several right hands, although Porter effectively countered with quick two-punch combinations. Round two was a microcosm of much of the fight, with Gomez enjoying most of his success landing the right hand to Porter's head, but Porter consistently landing two or three punches to every one of Gomez's. On several occasions the fighters would clinch and wrestle along the ropes, each seemingly trying to exert his will upon the other.

However, in the late rounds Porter's youth and athleticism slowly began to take over, with Porter continuing to circle and potshot Gomez with short, effective bursts and Gomez unable to mount any sustained counterattack or gain any advantage through infighting during clinches. From round seven on, Gomez looked exhausted and he lost his mouthpiece or hit the canvas after missing a punch several times. The two fighters also clashed heads several times in the final rounds, with Porter suffering an ugly laceration over his left eye in round nine that prompted the referee and doctor to take a close look both at the end of round nine and before the start of round ten. Fortunately for Porter, the cut did not have an impact on the outcome of the fight and with the win he looks to move up the ladder in the welterweight division while Gomez is at the proverbial crossroads and must decide whether he wants to work towards one more title shot or if he is going to finish out his career as a gatekeeper.

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Groves Blasts Sierra!

Rising British star George Groves fought on American soil for just the second time, coming across the pond to dispatch Mexican brawler Francisco Sierra by TKO at 2:15 of round six before heading back home to a possible rematch with British rival James DeGale. Both Groves, (15-0, 12 KOs), and Sierra, (24-6-1, 22 KOs), carried reputations as big punchers coming into the bout and the fighters afforded each other mutual respect, tactically measuring each other over the first two rounds while staying just beyond arm's length. Groves enjoyed the greater success in these rounds, effectively utilizing a crouching, feinting style to lure Sierra out of position for jabs and quick right hooks to the head and body before moving back out of punching range.

In the third round an accidental headbutt opened a large cut over the end of Groves' right eye, causing blood to stream down Groves' cheek. Groves appeared bothered by the cut for the remainder of round three, pawing at it on occasion, but Sierra was unable to take advantage. To the credit of Groves' corner, the cut was not a significant factor from the fourth round on, nor did Sierra land enough on the eye to make it a problem, reaching and missing on most of his punches and unable to cope with Groves' crafty defense and feints.

The end came quickly in round six, when an overhand right by Groves rattled Sierra and Groves quickly followed with a left hook, right hand, left hook combination that dropped Sierra to the canvas in a heap. Sierra beat the count on unsteady legs, but when action resumed Groves followed with three successive right hooks that sent Sierra reeling off balance into the ropes, where referee Ray Balewicz jumped in to protect Sierra from further damage.

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In Other Action

In a bout that resembled a sparring session, unbeaten junior middleweight Hugo "The Boss" Centeno (15-0, 8 KOs) got in eight rounds of work against Ayi Bruce (14-8, 8 KOs). Scores were 80-72, 80-72, 79-73. The first round was notable as Centeno appeared to practice every punch in the boxing textbook while Bruce simply covered up and backpedaled for large portions of the round. Bruce landed just two punches in round one, and did not appear to attempt more than five or six punches total in that round.

Disappointingly, once Centeno figured out that Bruce had no intention of trying to win and Bruce figured out that Centeno didn't have the power to hurt him, the two fighters just went through the motions for the remainder of the fight. After eight rounds, Centena outlanded Bruce 252-59, though none of Centena's 252 punches nor Bruce's 59 punches appeared to cause his opponent any concern, much less physical damage. Even the fans were too bored to boo, most of them taking the opportunity after the first round to use the restroom or hit the concession stands before the start of the televised main event and co-main event.

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Manuel Avila, (8-0, 2 KOs), kept his perfect record intact with a workmanlike unanimous decision over Raymond Chacon, (4-4, 0 KOs). Scores for the four-round junior featherweight bout were 40-36, 39-37, 39-37.

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Paul Mendez, (8-2-1, 2 KOs), scored a unanimous decision victory over Leshon Sims, (5-11, 3 KOs), in a six-round super middleweight contest. All three judges scored the bout 59-55 for Mendez. Mendez looked to be on his way to a dominant win or stoppage early but Sims, to his credit, stood his ground and fought on even terms with Mendez over the last two rounds.

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Debuting heavyweight Gerald Washington, (1-0, 1 KO), overwhelmed winless Blue DeLong, (0-4), knocking down DeLong several times (though only one official knockdown) en route to a first round TKO. Time was 2:36. Washington, who has the considerable clout of Al Haymon on his managerial team, is a former USC defensive end and Buffalo Bill who has been boxing since he was a young child.

In this bout Washington looked like an All-American, steamrolling over the overmatched DeLong. DeLong hit the canvas or slumped into the ropes seven different times, some after being hit, some after losing his balance, or in one instance simply in apparent submission to Washington's superiority. There was some confusion as to why referee Ray Baelwicz only ruled one official knockdown, though it was a moot point as Washington presumably accomplished his goal of getting his first bout out of the way so he can move on to bigger and better things.

A scheduled bout involving middleweights Lee Reyers and Miguel Ramirez fell through. The seven-bout card was presented by Golden Boy Promotions in association with Arena Box Promotions.

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