When it counted most, the Gilroy native made a big-time splash onto the welterweight scene in front 6,627 inside an electric HP Pavilion, defeating No. 1-contender and previously unbeaten Selcuk Aydin by unanimous decision 117-111, 116-112, 116-112, silencing doubters and blowing off any threat of a broken jaw.
“I’m so happy right now,” Guerrero said immediately after the fight. “This belt is for my little boy Robert Jr. He always asked when I’d get the green belt. Now I have it. I’m the welterweight champion of the world.”
The Ghost has called out just about every contender at 140 and 147 over the last year and backed up the talk to further make a case for the coveted marquee match against Floyd Mayweather Jr.
“Floyd, if you want your belt, come and get it,” Guerrero (30-1-1, 18 KOs) said when asked about what might be next.
Guerrero’s leap, especially after a 15-month layoff, from 135 pounds to 147 pounds had its dangers – a menacing Aydin one of them.
“Moving up to welterweight, I didn’t really test the waters, I jumped in head first,” he said.
But Guerrero, who has moved through six weight classes since the start of his career, has repeated his anxiousness to face the best and took the latest challenge head on, proving that he fit right in at 147 pounds by battling with a strong, skillful and heavy hitter in Aydin, who was as tough as advertised.
“I felt great at welterweight. I wanted to fight the best that’s why I fought Selcuk. No one in the division wanted to,” Guerrero said. I came in and took care of business. I believe in my talents. I boxed and used my skills tonight.”
The animosity between the two fighters grew tenfold Friday, when the two nearly came to blows at the pre-fight weight-in. Unlike that fiasco, there was nobody standing in between the two fighters’ way Saturday night.
The 12-round bout was as hard-hitting and action packed as both boxers promised it would be. Guerrero threw 972 punches, landing 254.
“The judges were not my problem. I couldn’t do what I wanted to do,” said Aydin, who suffered his first professional loss. “After the fourth round something happened. It’s like I was seeing double. But there is no excuse, I lost the fight.”
Aydin landed 189 of his 528 punches thrown.
The bout played out, at moments, much closer than the final score cards relay. Aydin (23-1) connected on a number of jolting uppercuts with the right hand. But Guerrero, the more well-rounded fighter, stood in with Aydin, fighting inside much more than previous fights.
“I wanted to stand there and exchange. I’m a fighter. I come to fight,” Guerrero said. “I’m going to rough it out and make it happen. I think it showed that I can take a shot at 147, too.”
After an active first round, Aydin went to give Guerrero a “good round fist bump,” which Guerrero completely ignored. The second round ended much the same way as the two glared and grinned at each other, and that seemed to signal a turning point in a match that never lacked in entertainment.
“We were always exchanging,” Guerrero said. “People got their money’s worth.”
The bout remained a slugfest throughout – a shot-for-shot affair to the final bell. Guerrero showed no signs that his reconstructed left shoulder was a weakness. He sent Aydin backward in the fourth round with a pinpoint straight left.
Aydin, trying to turn the tide in his favor, made a push in the middle rounds and again in the 10th round, landing a body shot that had Guerrero taking a few steps back.
“I hit him with some good shots and he kept coming,” Guerrero said. “He was really strong and he could take a punch.”
The emotional victory, of course, was shared with wife Casey. Guerrero has said he fights for his family. Casey, and the woman, Katharina Zech, whose bone marrow transplant saved Casey’s life two years ago, Guerrero set himself up for perhaps the biggest payday of his career. Zech, who is from Germany, has spent the last few weeks with the Guerrero family. The group first met earlier this year in Arizona.
“Casey made me want to fight harder and reach my goals,” Guerrero added.
At the post-fight news conference, Guerrero, who now has a total of six world titles over four different weight divisions, again made it clear that he wants the best out there at 147 and has no interest in moving back down. It remains to be seen if this performance attracts Mayweather. Either way, Guerrero will not have a problem finding his next opponent.
• The match referee was Dan Stell.
• Judge Mark Green scored the fight 116 -112 for Guerrero. (Rounds three, seven, nine and 12 to Aydin.) Judge Max Deluca had it 116-112 in favor of Guerrero. (Rounds five, six, seven and 10 for Aydin.) Judge Mike Tate scored the fight 117-111 for Guerrero. (Rounds five, seven and 10 for Aydin.)
• The Dispatch scorecard had it 116-112 for Guerrero.
• Co-Main event: Shawn Porter (20-0, 14 KOs) vs. Alfonso Gomez (23-6-2, 12 KOs) – 10 rounds for the vacant NABO welterweight title.
Shawn Porter suffered a cut around each eyebrow – including a nasty gash below his left courtesy of a headbutt – but came away with a unanimous victory – 96-94, 97-93, 98-92 – over Alfonso Gomez to earn the NABO Welterweight world title.
Porter (20-0, 14 KOs) also shook off a headbutt in the first round.
“I’m a very aggressive fighter and that’s one thing I might need to change. I kept coming forward and being aggressive,” Porter said. The cut, the swollen eye did not affect me. I will watch the tape and I will come back stronger and better. I’m always prepared for anything.”
Porter bloodied Gomez’ nose early in the fight and then opened a cut under the left eye of Gomez (23-6-2, 12 KOs) in the seventh.
“He is better than I expected him to be. I was battling some injuries – my shoulder, my neck, my hip. But I put all my heart into this fight,” Gomez said.
• Hugo Centeno (15-0 8 KOs) vs. Ayi Bruce (14-8 8 KOs) – eight round junior middleweight.
Hugo Centeno controlled the match from the opening bell. Centeno landed 252 punched to Bruce’s 59 in the one-side fight. Centeno earned the unanimous decision – 79-73, 78-72, 78-72.
• Manuel Avila (8-0, 2 KOs) vs. Raymond Chacon (4-4) – six rounds junior featherweight.
Manuel Avila wins by unanimous decision – 39-37, 39-37, 40-36.
George Groves (15-0, 12 KOs) vs. Francisco Sierra (24-6-1 (22 KOs) – eight rounds super middleweight.
One of the more entertaining encounters of the evening belonged to George Goves and Francisco Sierra. The two heavy hitters exchange head shot for head shot before Groves pieced together a whirlwind combo, using a right hook to stagger Sierra. He followed that up with a left, right left combo that leveled Sierra, who continued, but not for long. Groves unloaded on Sierra as the match resumed and Sierra’s corner threw in the towel.
• Paul Mendez (8-2-1 2 KOs) vs. Leshon Simms (5-11 3 KOs) – six rounds middleweight.
In a fight he dominated, Paul Mendez, who trains out of Salinas-based Garcia Boxing, withstood a firery sixth and final round against Leshon Simms and walked away with a unanimous decision 59-55
• Gerald Washington (pro debut) vs. Blue DeLong (0-4) – four rounds heavyweight.
San Jose native Gerald Washington made his professional debut in a four-round heavyweight bout versus Blue DeLong. Washington, using strong right-handed combinations to the head and body, needed only 2:36 into the first to dispose of DeLong, who looked like he wanted no part of Washington. The knockout victory is Washington’s first as a pro.