It’s hard to see any bad in Robert Guerrero moving up two divisions to welterweight to take on hard-punching Selcuk Aydin Saturday on Showtime — it’s a daring bit of matchmaking for Guerrero and his promoter, Golden Boy, to get him into the Floyd Mayweather sweepstakes, and stacks up as a pretty decent action fight with more than its share of “What the heck is gonna happen in this one?”
But it’s not a fight anyone has probably spent much time coveting, a problem with a lot of matchmaking last year and one that’s carried over into this year, alas. It’s been more of a problem for the new leadership at HBO than at Showtime, though, with a long list of “low ceiling/high floor” bouts like Guerrero-Aydin.
But let’s look at Guerrero-Aydin, separate from any context. It’s hard not to admire Guerrero’s ambition here — an excellent puncher at featherweight, solid puncher as a junior lightweight, a respectable one as a lightweight, is climbing up two whole divisions to take on a seriously tough sumbitch in Aydin who is a full-blown knockout puncher in his division. And he’s doing it because he knows he has to prove himself as a legit welterweight if he has any chance of winning a shot at the division’s money man, Mayweather. He’s got the story, the touching one we all know about his wife’s battle with leukemia and his other run-ins with hard luck. He’s got at least some kind of fan base in the northern California region. He’s got good boxing skills. He just has to show he has the size, and the ability to deal with the size of a real welter.
Typical of Guerrero, he’s on the cusp of something important and it’s a roll of the dice what happens next. There are times where Guerrero looks every bit the superstar-in-waiting. Then he’ll suffer a weird result — the upset at the hands of journeyman Gamaliel Diaz, the loss to Orlando Salido that became a no contest after Salido failed a drug test, the cut-shortened no contest against Daud Yordan where people thought he was quitting to avoid another loss, the knockdown by an ancient Joel Casamayor and most recently the shoulder injury that has kept him out of the ring for more than a year — and his status is suddenly far shakier.
The superstar-in-waiting material is pretty good, though. That rematch win where he avenged the Diaz loss was ferocious stuff. The Michael Katsidis beat down was a clinical dismantling. The one-round knockout of Martin Honorio while he was contending simultaneously with his wife’s illness was breathtaking and looks even better today, since Honorio later went on to do good things. The pound-for-pound talent is there, because he’s a sharp boxer with pretty good speed, a willingness to mix it up, two-handed power from a southpaw stance, versatility to lead or counter, and good legs to play defense when he cares to play the cutie. He’s also had good size at 5’8″, but that size advantage has become less pronounced as he has jumped weight classes — Aydin is just one inch shorter.
Aydin is a crude sort, prone to point deductions for low blows and head butts and all manner of rules violations for which he isn’t regularly punished. He’s not a pretty fighter, technically, all chopping hooks and uppercuts. But he has that Sakio Bika-esque crudeness, the kind of hard, mean-seeming strength that he tries to enforce on all of his opponents. In his Showtime debut, a close win over Said Ouali, he was all about volume. By the time he faced Jo Jo Dan in two close fights — the first of which he definitely deserved to lose — he had become a bit more selective, opting instead to fire his offense in bursts, spending the rest of the time in a Felix Sturm-like shell with his head low and his arms held up against his body on both sides. He’s not as good at it as Sturm, so he’s reasonably hittable.
And he doesn’t seem to mind getting hit, really, although Dan has had him wobbled here and there. Maybe his ability to take a punch is because he doesn’t have much experience against top-notch competition, and a better fighter than he’s faced would’ve dropped and stopped him by now. He struggled with Dan — a fringe contender — and Ouali, who was something of a semi-prospect at the time. His best win is over Jackson Bonsu, whom I always considered undeserving of the divisional top 10, and by the time Aydin beat him, Bonsu had already lost to Rafal Jackiewicz and nearly lost to a faded Carlos Baldomir. This isn’t me saying Aydin is no good — only that he’s never beat anyone all that world-class, and struggled against people below that level, even. Still, with his roughhousing and his power, he wouldn’t be the top-10 welter I’d pick to face if I was in the division.
Guerrero has the ability to pick Aydin apart if Aydin can be made to respect his power whatsoever, and even if he doesn’t Guerrero could win this one with some serious sticking and moving. The weight thing makes this one a total mystery. If Guerrero looks comfortable there — and Manny Paquiao once made this leap successfully, although Pacquiao was a mega-puncher at lightweight… point being, it’s possible to make this jump and look comfortable — then he should beat Aydin handily. Unless, of course, he’s rusty from the layoff. Another thing that makes this one a total mystery.
This prediction is going to seem wishy-washy, so let me preface this with the note that if I had to pick, I’d pick Guerrero by split decision, with Guerrero outworking Aydin, building up a lead and fading down the stretch but preserving a potentially controversial win on his home soil of northern California. But Guerrero has weird luck. The combination of Guerrero being a lefty, and his tendency toward head clashes, and Aydin’s reckless rushes, and the aforementioned weird luck has me sincerely predicting a no contest due to a foul and injury that forces an early end to matters.