Even as recently as three years ago, it seemed inconceivable that Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero (31-1-1) would participate in the biggest pay per view event of the year. The public first became acquainted with Guerrero as a Mexican-American southpaw featherweight prospect with a good amateur background from Northern California. To say the least, it is a long shot for a 126 pound prospect to rise to the top of the food chain in boxing or even challenge for the welterweight championship. Indeed, at the beginning of his career, boxing experts were questioning whether Guerrero was even the best Mexican-American, west-coast based, featherweight prospect. Some would have said years ago that they expected bigger and better things from Houston’s Rocky Juarez or Southern California’s Steven Lueveno. Lueveno won a featherweight title but retired after dropping it to Juan Manuel Lopez and Juarez challenged unsuccessfully 5 times for various 126 and 130 pound belts before being relegated to opponent status. While his former rivals are basically out of boxing, Guerrero will be on top of the bill in a mega event this Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada as he challenges Floyd “Money” Mayweather (43-0) for the welterweight championship.
So the question is: how did Guerrero separate himself and get to this point? Here are the highlights and the two interesting no decisions of Guerrero’s interesting career:
Higlight #1: vs. Gamaliel Diaz I and II, December 2, 2005, June 25, 2006
In 2005, Guerrero was an undefeated prospect on his way to a title shot. Gamaliel Diaz, a supposed journeyman with 5 losses at the time, had different ideas. Diaz though, lost those five fights in his first 8 bouts and rebounded to win fights not only in Mexico but also in Japan. He also used a pressure fighting style and during the first bout, it seemed as if Guerrero was not ready to deal with it. The fight went 12 rounds and Diaz was awarded a split-decision victory.
Boxing history is filled with prospects who never reach the heights expected to be reached after suffering their first defeat. Guerrero quickly rebounded from his first defeat to knock out a journeyman and then accepted a rematch with Diaz. This time, Guerrero was prepared and dominated Diaz. He scored a knockdown in the 1st round and stopped Diaz in the 5th round. It was an impressive way to avenge a defeat and set a signal that Guerrero was not a prospect to give up on.
No Decision #1: vs. Orlando Salido, November 4, 2006
Following the Diaz knock out, Guerrero won a featherweight belt from Erik Aiken and then agreed to a defense two months later against another Mexican pressure fighter. This time, however, he would fight Orlando Salido who would go onto later fame as a featherweight titlist with knock out victories over Lopez. In this fight, Guerrero would once again show an inability to deal with a pressure fighter as Salido would dominate the fight and win a unanimous decision. After the fight, it was revealed that Salido tested positive for steroids and the result was changed to a no contest. Given the steroid situation and Salido’s later highlights, this fight can actually be looked at as a positive for Guerrero.
Highlight #2: vs. Martin Honorio, November 3, 2007
This fight is significant not so much for the actual fight, which was a first round knock out victory for Guerrero, but for the circumstances surrounding it. Indeed, Guerrero got on a roll after the Salido debacle and even reclaimed his featherweight belt by traveling to Denmark and knocking out the hometown fighter. Immediately prior to the Honorio fight, though, Guerrero received news that would change not only his career but his life. He learned that his wife Casey was diagnosed with cancer. One would imagine that such news would throw a fighter’s focus completely off and indeed, no one would have complained had Guerrero pulled out of the fight. Instead, Guerrero got a quick knock out and immediately returned home to tend to his wife. His ability to box while dealing with such a situation showed that Guerrero has mental abilities that at least match his physical ones.
No Decision #2: vs. Daud Yordan, March 7, 2009
Following a knockout of Jason Litzau, Guerrero endured an almost year long layoff caused by his successful attempt to extricate himself from his promotional agreement with Dan Goosen. It took legal proceedings but Guerrero became a free agent and then signed an exclusive promotion agreement with Golden Boy Promotions. It was a move, in hindsight, that was a spectacular success as all Mayweather opponents since 2006 have been Golden Boy fighters.
During the layoff, Guerrero announced he was moving up to the junior lightweight division. After getting Guerrero a quick knockout victory on the untelevised undercard of Shane Mosley’s destruction of Antonio Margarito, Golden Boy set up an HBO televised fight for Guerrero in his home region of Northern California against undefeated Indonesian Daud Yordan. It was thought that this would be an easy win for Guerrero as Yordan was largely untested featherweight and had never fought outside of Asia. “The best laid plans” and all that, Yordan showed during the first round that he would not be a pushover and gave Guerrero a whole lot of problems. Early in the second round, an accidental headbutt caused a cut over Guerrero’s eye. The referee and doctor took a look and appeared willing to let the fight continue. When they asked Guerrero about his condition, he gave answers that appeared to many observers that he did not want to continue. The fight was then stopped and a no decision was declared. Despite the mental toughness Guerrero showed before and after this fight, some will always point to this bout and say Guerrero quit.
Highlight #3: vs. Michael Katsidis, April 9, 2011
Guerrero would go on to win a 130 pound title and then move up to the lightweight division. His time at 135 pounds included victories over Vincente Escobedo and Joel Casamayor and continued television exposure. It all led to co-feature bout against Michael Katsidis for two interim titles on the Erik Morales – Marcos Maidana pay per view card. Katsidis was known as a “blood and guts” warrior who also possessed good punching power. He was also coming off an unsuccessful challenge of Juan Manuel Marquez where he dropped the Mexican legend early in the fight and he gave Marquez a very tough fight. Against Guerrero, Katsidis could not use his power effectively. Rather, it was Guerrero that used his power and boxing skills to soundly defeat the Australian warrior. At the time, things were looking very good for Guerrero’s career and a move to the junior welterweight division was set with a bout against Marcos Maidana. A torn rotator cuff and a subsequent surgery would cancel that bout and keep Guerrero out of the ring for 15 months.
Highlight #4: vs. Selcuk Aydin, July 28, 2012
During the 15 months out of the ring, Guerrero’s public relations team began an all-out assault on the media in the hopes of getting a fight against Floyd Mayweather. The boxing media largely greeted Guerrero’s challenge to the pound for pound elite and welterweight champion with laughter. Indeed, such a response made sense. Although he won titles in two weight classes and interim titles in a third weight class, Guerrero had never fought above 138 pounds. Moreover, despite the victories noted above, Guerrero had yet to obtain a signature victory over an elite opponent.
In order to silence the critics on the issue of not fighting at Mayweather’s weight, Guerrero agreed to move to welterweight division and signed to face Selcuk Aydin. Although not well known in the US, Aydin was the WBC’s number one welterweight contender and was undefeated. It was thought to be a tough fight for Guerrero given the 15 month layoff and the jump up two weight classes.
Indeed, it was a rough fight in spurts. Even though Guerrero’s boxing skills and volume punching were winning him rounds, it did not seem that he was able to hurt Aydin. In the middle and late rounds, Aydin opened up a little more and was able to land some power punches. To his credit, Guerrero took them very well. In the end, Guerrero won a unanimous decision and proved he was a real welterweight. Now he just needed a significant victory.
Highlight #5: vs. Andre Berto, November 24, 2012
To obtain that signature victory, Guerrero agreed to face Andre Berto for the interim WBC welterweight title. Berto was known as a fighter with good boxing skills, decent power and excellent speed. He was a foremer WBC welterweight titlist with only one loss which was a close decision loss to Victor Ortiz in a fight of the year candidate (and which coincidentally led to Ortiz fighting Mayweather). Berto followed up that fight by winning another welterweight title against Jan Zavek but then having a remtach with Ortiz cancelled because he tested positive for a performance enhancing drug. Both Ortiz and Berto needed an impressive performance and, as such, their bout was one that boxing fans looked forward to.
Perhaps because the stakes were so high, both fighters turned in huge efforts in a rough and tumble fight. But it was the former featherweight, Guerrero, who started fast and was able to drop Berto in both the first and second rounds. Even more surprising, it was the former featherweight who exhibited greater strength while the two fighters engaged in a lot of rough in-fighting throughout the fight. Although Berto fought well after the knockdowns, Guerrero’s stregnth and boxing ability led him to a unanimous decision victory.
Guerrero now has proved he is a true welterweight with not only a signature victory but also a number of quality victories. Now the question is has this career prepared him to face the best pound for pound fighter in the world. On Saturday night from Las Vegas, we will find out.