SAN JOSE -- When the final bell rang, Robert Guerrero and Selcuk Aydin were still going toe-to-toe, exchanging exhausted punches. And then Guerrero raised both arms in victory.
But it wouldn't be official until a few minutes later when it was announced that the judges had awarded the Gilroy fighter known as "The Ghost" a unanimous decision that gave him the WBC interim welterweight title Saturday night. And the hometown crowd of 6,267 at HP Pavilion roared its approval.
"He was so strong," Guerrero said. "I hit him with some great shots, and he just kept coming. He can take a big punch, and he landed some bombs on me. But I just shrugged it off. This was a war for the whole 12 rounds."
Guerrero improved to 30-1-1 as he earned a title in his fourth different weight class. Meanwhile, this was the first loss for the Turkish fighter Aydin (23-1).
"The judges were not my problem," said Aydin through an interpreter. "I was the problem. I couldn't do what I wanted to do. After the fourth round, I don't know what happened. It was like I was seeing double. But there is no excuse. I lost the fight."
The two boxers battled every round in a tightly contested bout that was reflected in the judges' scoring. Two gave Guerrero the fight by the score of 116-112. The third judge scored it 117-111.
Guerrero, 29, has been one of the fight game's most heartwarming stories as he briefly left boxing to help care for his ailing wife, Casey, who
But this was a chance for him to prove that he's also an elite fighter. Guerrero hadn't fought in 15 months after undergoing shoulder surgery and was jumping up two weight classes to 147 pounds. He needed to show that he could handle a bigger, stronger level of opponent.
He passed that test against the hard-punching Aydin, who in the early rounds was a bull who stalked Guerrero around the ring.
But the southpaw Guerrero was able to use his longer reach to keep Aydin from doing too much damage. Meanwhile, Guerrero racked up a huge disparity in punches -- throwing 972 to Aydin's 528. The number, as well as his effective combinations, clearly swayed the judges.
"I wasn't boxing there for a while," said Guerrero, who wore sunglasses after the fight because his face was so bruised. "I was exchanging punches there because I wanted to show that I can handle myself at 147. But I know everybody was on their edge of their seats when he was connecting."
Aydin apologized for his actions in the run-up to the fight that included a promise to break Guerrero's jaw.
"After hearing about his family's amazing story, I feel like he's Rocky and I'm the bad guy," Aydin said. "It's like I came into Rocky's hometown."
Guerrero now holds a title that was vacated by Floyd Mayweather Jr., who currently is in jail on a domestic violence charge.
"People keep saying that Guerrero hasn't fought anybody," he said. "Well I can't fight somebody if nobody will get in the ring with me. There's no excuses now. Floyd, if you want your belt, come and get it."