Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Opinions and Observations: Guerrero-Aydin

Robert Guerrero wasn't interested in merely securing a win against Turkish banger Selcuk Aydin on Saturday; he wanted to make a statement.  With his massive advantages in technical skills and reach, he could have stayed on the outside and boxed his way to a comfortable victory.  Instead, he planted himself in the pocket and mixed it up with Aydin on the inside.  Guerrero's strategy wasn't the most intelligent approach in terms of risk minimization, but he was after bigger game.  Guerrero was letting the boxing world know of his plans to become a player in the welterweight division. 

He answered major questions about his chin, taking several big rights from the heavy-handed Aydin.  Guerrero also showed that he was fully recovered from his shoulder injury, which had knocked him out of boxing for 15 months.   He threw his punches and combinations with ease and fluidity.  And while he never significantly hurt Aydin, his power and volume punching were enough to stifle Aydin's offensive output. 

Guerrero's performance was a solid foray into the 147-lb. division, but he still has several areas in which he can improve.  He didn't listen to his father's advice after the ninth round to box more (his father, Reuben, is his trainer). Although Guerrero should be commended for wanting to impress, his refusal to listen to his trainer could lead to issues in future fights.  In addition, Guerrero had superior foot speed, but he didn't use it; he got hit more than he should have.  His willingness to fight to his opponent's strengths is problematic.

All and all, Guerrero looked comfortable at the weight.  He took Aydin's shots fairly well and his punches had enough impact to keep his opponent honest.  Guerrero's combination punching was solid throughout the fight.  I especially liked his right uppercut-straight left hand combinations, which consistently scored. Guerrero displayed uppercuts with both hands, good right hooks, solid jabs and straight left hands.  He varied his punches very well, which kept Aydin guessing for large stretches of the fight. 

The official scores were all for Guerrero: 116-112 (x2) and 117-111.  I scored the fight 117-111.  But Aydin did have some moments.  I thought that Aydin won rounds 4, 7 and 10.  His punches were crude but they came from odd angles and were hard.  He scored with mostly looping right hands and right hooks from the outside and short right hooks on the inside.  He tried to land a knockout left hook a number of times throughout the fight but Guerrero slipped that punch with ease.

Guerrero showed his mettle by rebounding in the championship rounds to secure the fight.  He looked to be in a great condition; neither his legs nor his chin betrayed him.  After 15 months out of the ring, his performance was definitely something to build off of.  Guerrero's lack of true power and his questionable ring strategy will be real challenges for him to overcome. (He fought Michael Katsidis similarly to how he did Aydin, and got dropped; it was incorrectly ruled a slip.)  However, he's now a player in the division and with his large offensive arsenal and solid technique, he'll be a factor.

For Aydin, he just didn't let his hands go enough.  He had real successes during the fight, but it's tough to win rounds without throwing.  Even in the championship rounds, where he tried to walk Guerrero down, he more often followed him around than landed anything of substance.  Aydin didn't seize the moment. 

He'll still be a credible challenger for others in the division, but his low-output formula is not one to win decisions, especially from American judges who like aggressors.  In addition, Aydin must set up his punches a little better.  When top opponents only need to worry about the right hand, he becomes a much easier fighter to beat.  Finally, although Aydin has a relatively high knockout percentage, he landed several of his best punches on Guerrero (a fighter who had been knocked down at lightweight), and they weren't enough to change the fight.  Aydin may have fallen in love with his power against a more limited set of opponents.  He's needs to add new wrinkles to his game.  

On the undercard, Shawn Porter defeated veteran trial horse Alfonso Gomez, winning a tough, unanimous ten-round decision.  The official scores were 98-92, 97-93 and 96-94 (I scored it 98-92).  The relatively comfortable margins on the scorecards belie the bruising nature of the fight.  It was a bout full of head butts, low blows and other sorts of fouls, the type of fight that makes a young prospect grow up in a hurry.  Porter received a nasty cut in the eighth round but he fought threw it with aplomb.

Porter, like Guerrero, decided to use Showtime's premium cable platform as a way to further his stock in the sport.  Instead of boxing Gomez, he took the fight to the inside.  He scored throughout the match with straight right hands; his counter left hooks landed powerfully all night.  In previous fights, he had odd stretches of passivity.  Against Gomez, who was by far his most accomplished foe, he dismissed those concerns. 

In fact, by the seventh round, Porter was swinging wildly with left hooks, looking to land a knockout blow.  Gomez, who placed Arturo Gatti into retirement, defeated an old Jose Luis Castillo and gave Canelo Alvarez fits, didn't have enough power to make Porter pay for his defensive lapses.  Gomez scored at points in the fight with his short right hand and left hook, but his power wasn't enough to back up Porter. 

This was great matchmaking by Golden Boy Promotions.  Porter had an opportunity to look good in a war.  He also impressed a national boxing audience.  Porter isn't ready yet for the top of the welterweight division but he's on his way up.  I think he needs a more complete understanding of his strengths and weaknesses.  Also, he must remember to use his jab and keep his counter shots more compact.  Nevertheless, it was a very strong performance.

One note about Showtime: in the past, I have been very critical of the network's boxing anchor, Gus Johnson, who can be prone to histrionics.  Johnson has often displayed a lack of perspective in calling fights and a loose command of facts.  However, he was excellent on Saturday.  He called two very compelling matchups and didn't try to become the center of the story.  He let the action dictate the broadcast.  I thought it was his best performance on Showtime.   

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