Robert Guerrero, right, and Andre Berto exchange punches during their… (Jae C. Hong / Associated…)
Robert Guerrero's commitment to the toughest of challenges was well regarded outside the ring in how he helped his wife, Casey, recover from cancer.
Saturday night in Ontario, the Northern California boxer stuck his head into another brave battle for 12 rounds and beat Andre Berto in a gritty display that could land him his dream fight.
Guerrero (31-1-1) was awarded 116-110 scores by judges Julie Lederman, Alejandro Rochin and Max DeLuca after knocking down Berto in each of the first two rounds, then pounding the body, pressing Berto to the ropes and standing up to the heavier man's best power punches to seal the triumph.
The victory makes Guerrero, 29, a strong candidate to be Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s next opponent in the spring, while former welterweight world champion Berto (28-2) lost for the second time in three fights.
"Let's do this, Floyd," Guerrero said in the ring, where he threw 731 punches to Berto's 411. "I got a victory against a great champion."
The first-round knockdown came as Berto held the southpaw Guerrero's right arm, and Guerrero answered with four punches to the face before Berto fell.
Berto's right eye nearly closed from the second round on after the second knockdown from two left hands.
The fight was an inside, sometimes dirty against-the-ropes war of attrition.
Berto would occasionally violently snap Guerrero's head back with right uppercuts, notably in the fourth, seventh and ninth rounds.
With his back to the ropes figuratively and literally, Berto enjoyed some shining moments. He won the sixth, eighth and ninth rounds on all three scorecards.
Guerrero said he was sustained through the tough moments by the thought of "sending my kid to Stanford."
Berto's points deficit because of the early knockdowns, however, meant he needed a knockout to win after the seventh round on two judges' scorecards.
"The referee was warning me on a lot of things," Berto said. "So I was timid. He was coming in and grabbing me and holding me every time I got close."
The difference was Berto couldn't match Guerrero's more complete attack to the body and head.
Guerrero landed 258 punches to Berto's 182, and won the 11th and 12th rounds on Lederman and DeLuca's cards.
"I told Andre I was going to beat him down, I had to keep my word," Guerrero said. "I had to fight him on the inside and work the body. He's a strong guy and punched hard, but I have a great chin."
Promoter Richard Schaefer said Guerrero-Mayweather "would be a great fight. I don't know how Floyd can hurt him. It's up to me now to get it done."
Earlier, super-welterweight Keith Thurman (19-0, 18 knockouts) boosted his name recognition in his second HBO appearance of the year, relying on his trademark fierce punching to beat former welterweight world champion Carlos Quintana by fourth-round technical knockout.