- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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NEWARK, N.J. -- Roberto Guerrero and Vicente Escobedo have been friendly for years, coming up together in the amateur ranks. They even were roommates at one point in their amateur days and fought three times with Guerrero winning two of those meetings.
The California lightweights came east on Saturday night to meet as professionals and it was Guerrero, clearly bigger and carrying a bigger punch, who did the most damage and was rewarded with a unanimous decision on the undercard of the Zab Judah-Lucas Matthysse fight at the Prudential Center.
Guerrero, a former junior lightweight titlist and two-time featherweight titleholder, scored two knockdowns and put himself in position for a lightweight title fight with the victory, which he won 100-88, 98-90 and 96-92 in a crowd-pleasing bout. ESPN.com also had it for Guerrero, 98-90.
"I feel bad for Vicente because we're friends, but business is business," Guerrero said. "He fought his heart out."
Although Escobedo, a 2004 U.S. Olympian, lost, he had a big smile on his bloody face, when moments after the decision was announced, he dropped to a knee and proposed to his girlfriend, Valerie Zarate, in the ring -- on his 29th birthday. She said yes.
"It's a loss but I held my head up and proposed to Valerie and it's my birthday, so I still have a reason to celebrate."
Guerrero, 27, was also smiling after a victory much more impressive than his uneven, albeit dominant, victory against former lightweight champ Joel Casamayor in July.
An accidental head butt in the first round left Escobedo with a cut on his scalp and blood streaming down the left side of his head.
It would only get worse for Escobedo, who ate a left-right combination in the third round and went down. But he was up at the count of seven and rallied to close the round strong.
But Guerrero (28-1-1, 18 KOs) was able to impose himself on Escobedo (22-3, 14 KOs) for most of the fight and was more fluid with his punches. He was all over Escobedo in the fifth round and knocked him down for the second time with a solid left uppercut midway through the sixth round.
Golden Boy promoter Oscar De La Hoya had said in the days leading up to the fight that he hoped to match the winner with the winner of the Nov. 27 fight between lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez and Michael Katsidis.
"I feel great. I'm the mandatory for Marquez-Katsidis [winner]," Guerrero said. "I want Marquez. He's the best in the division but if it's Katsidis, it doesn't matter. I'll fight anyone."
Escobedo, who lost a decision to Katsidis in September 2009, had fought only once since, a third-round knockout of Carlos Urias in March.
"The cuts and the head butts and the blood made me cautious," Escobedo said. "I started too late. I should have let [my hands] go earlier. I finally got my rhythm in the late rounds but it was too late."
Among other fights on the undercard:
• Brooklyn, N.Y., welterweight Sadam Ali (10-0, 6 KOs), the 2008 U.S. Olympic lightweight and the first Arab-American boxer to go to the Olympics, scored an overwhelming second-round knockout of New Orleans' Gary Bergeron (12-6, 7 KOs), who no answers for anything Ali threw at him.
Ali started fast, hammering a defensive Bergeron in the first round. He was landing solid uppercuts and left hands to the body before dropping him with a left hook to the chin. Bergeron survived, but Ali was crushing him with combinations as the round came to an end. Ali landed 37 of 92 punches in the opening round.
It was more of the same in the second round. While Ali was blasting him with left hook after left hook, Bergeron could little more than try to hold on, but he couldn't even do that effectively. Ali dropped him with an uppercut and was smashing him until a three-punch combination to the head badly staggered him again, forcing referee Lindsey Paige to stop the fight at 2 minutes, 18 seconds. Ali outlanded Bergeron 70-8 in the fight.
• Golden Boy lightweight prospect Adrien Broner (18-0, 15 KOs) blew away overmatched journeyman Ilido Julio (40-20-1, 35 KOs) of Miami in the first round.
Julio never appeared to lay a glove on Broner, who dropped him twice before the fight was called off at 1 minute, 34 seconds. Broner sent Julio reeling into the ropes with the first notable punch of the fight, but he managed to stay on his feet, just not for long. Moments later, Broner dropped him with a left-right combination and then overwhelmed him with a series of unanswered blows until referee Paige stopped the fight.
"You don't paid for overtime so I made it quick," said Broner, who returns to action Nov. 27 in his hometown of Cincinnati. "That was light work for me. I've been asking for harder fights. I'm ready for anyone. I want a world championship. I'm always in shape. I'll be back in the gym Monday and ready to go again."
• Newark lightweight Mike Perez (10-0-1, 5 KOs) blew away Miami's Hevinson Herrera (14-7-1, 12 KOs) in the first round. Perez went right at Hevinson, wobbled him almost immediately with a combination and knocked him down. Hevinson made it to his feet but was shaky and referee Randy Neumann called it off at 1 minute, 1 second.
• Welterweight prospect Mikael Zewski (5-0, 4 KOs), a recent Golden Boy signee from Canada, easily outboxed Philadelphia's Adrick Butler (5-3, 2 KOs) for a shutout decision. All four judges scored it 40-36. Zewski was in command all the way and hurt Butler in the fourth round, wobbling him with a combination.
• Middleweight prospect Bastie Samir (6-0, 6 KOs), a 2008 Olympian for Ghana who now lives in Las Vegas, opened the card by smashing Damion Reed of Reidsville, N.C. Samir dropped Reed (2-4, 1 KO) four times en route to the easy stoppage at 2 minutes, 47 seconds. Samir brutalized Reed with a body attack, scoring three of the knockdowns on digging left hands to his body.
Roberto Guerrero and Vicente Escobedo have been friendly for years, coming up together in the amateur ranks. They even were roommates at one point in their amateur days and fought three times with Guerrero winning two of those meetings.