Robert Guerrero silenced whatever critics remained Saturday night.
The boxer, who moved up two weight classes to welterweight in July, faced his greatest challenge against former two-time welterweight champion Andre Berto.
After 12 brutal rounds that left both fighters’ faces looking as if he could be the loser, it was Guerrero who escaped victorious with a hard-earned unanimous decision victory at Citizens Business Bank Arena in front of 4,865.
Guerrero (31-1-1) retained the WBC interim welterweight title and quickly turned his attention toward a potential date with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“I’m here Floyd, let’s do this,” Guerrero said. “I had a unanimous decision victory against a great champion like Berto … I feel like I’m the best.”
Guerrero came out smothering Berto (28-2), taking away the bigger man’s power. In turn, it was Guerrero who scored the first two knockdowns in the first and second rounds.
“I had to fight him on the inside and work the body,” Guerrero said. “He didn’t hurt me. He caught me with a few shots, he’s a strong guy and he punched hard, but I have a great chin.
“I told Andre that I was going to beat him and I had to keep my word.”
The question coming in was whether Guerrero, who started his career at featherweight, could take a punch from a natural welterweight such as Berto.
The answers were provided throughout the fight. Berto landed some thundering uppercuts, but Guerrero never went down, sometimes walking through the punches.
Guerrero inflicted his own level of damage. Berto’s right eye was swollen after the second round. His left eye was closing by the eighth round.
Throughout, Guerrero outworked Berto. According to the CompuBox stats, Guerrero threw 711 punches to 411 by Berto, who has now lost two of his past three fights.
“At the end of the day, we fought a great fight,” Berto said. “The ref was calling and warning me for a lot of things and I was timid. He (Guerrero) was grabbing and holding whenever we got close.”
Guerrero didn’t agree.
“I was pushing him into position to land my punches,” Guerrero said.
In his two fights at the welterweight class, Guerrero has victories over the previously undefeated Selcuk Aydin and now Berto. Despite all of the names at 147, he wants Mayweather, making Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer’s job easy or difficult.
“That’s the single most important job that I have,” Schaefer said, “to get a Floyd Mayweather fight for Robert.”
In the co-main event, Keith “One Time” Thurman took a major step in his young career with his brutal fourth-round knockout of former champion Carlos Quintana.
Thurman (19-0) dropped Quintana in the first round on a left hook to the body. In the fourth, Thurman caught Quintana with two uppercuts that backed him to the ropes. Thurman pounced, landing several vicious shots, leading referee Jack Ries to stop the fight at 2:19.
“I was breaking him down,” Thurman said. “He was slippery like a snake. He got me with one good shot. He was good at tying me up, but it wasn’t anything that I haven’t seen before.”
Thurman set himself up for a possible big 2013.
“I’m calling out the world of boxing,” he said. “Anybody in 147-154 … call (manager) Al Haymon. You know the number.”