By John J. Raspanti
Once upon a time, Robert Guerrero was a boxer-puncher. He’d use the ring, slip punches, and counter opponent’s silly, hence the nickname “The Ghost.” His talent was without question.
Guerrero captured the IBF featherweight title in 2006, and the super featherweight strap two years later.
In 2011, Guerrero hammered Michael Katsidis for 12 rounds to win the WBA lightweight title. As he moved up in weight, his style changed. He wasn’t moving so much as brawling whenever possible. The boxer had become the stalker. Guerrero went to war against Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto. The victory over Berto led to a fight against then pound-for-pound king, Floyd Mayweather, Las Vegas.
Guerrero won a few rounds, but couldn’t put a dent in Mayweather’s defense. He took some time off, reflected on his career, and returned to the ring to face Yoshihiro Kamegai. He landed punches at will, but also absorbed far too many. He was battered and floored by WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman, but somehow lasted the distance.
His fight against Aron Martinez was supposed to be a tune-up, but Guerrero had to get off the deck to win. He lost fights to former champion Danny Garcia, and part-time taxi driver David Peralta.
Many, including this writer, called for Guerrero to retire. What was left to prove?
Apparently, something. Guerrero will be back in the ring this Saturday to face former lightweight titleholder Omar Figueroa at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, New York.
Figueroa, 27, has been seen as one of boxing’s rising stars for several years. As an amateur, he defeated Errol Spence. As a pro, he tasted a title in 2014 by going 12 brutal rounds with Nihito Arakawa. He’s a brawler who’s never lost a professional fight. He’s also never been in a boring one. He throws punches in multiple bunches.
After winning a decision over Antonio DeMarco almost two years ago, Figueroa walked away from the sport. Brittle hands, elbow problems, and general burnout had him frustrated.
“Boxing is a very jealous sport,” said Figueroa in an article on www.boxingnews24.com.
“You do it one hundred percent or you don’t do it at all. After my last fight, I felt that I needed a break – time to be a father, a son, a brother and a friend. I needed the time to heal my body, mind and soul. So I took a year off to heal from the injuries, be with my family and friends, be a father and just be me.”
The rest has helped. Figueroa is thrilled to be back.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in the ring and showing fans what I’m known for - exciting fights,” said Figueroa. “I’ve been quietly training and preparing in Indo, California with Joel Diaz and now it’s time. I’m looking forward to a great fight with Robert Guerrero on July 15.”
Guerrero, 34, is acutely aware of how many boxing people perceive him. He wants to prove the naysayers wrong.
“It gives a lot of motivation, you want to be known as one of the top fighters in the division,” said Guerrero. ”To be categorized as a gatekeeper, or the stepping stone for this guy, if this guy if he can get past this test he’s on his way. It gets you excited, gets you out there to work hard and really look back at everything and think about what you’ve been doing in the ring and being smart about things.”
Boxers are loaded with pride. No more than Robert Guerrero. But the human body can stand only so much punishment. Guerrero has gone to war in his last five fights.
The deterioration is there. I expect a close fight for a few rounds with the younger and fresher Figueroa doing more down the stretch to win a decision.
It won’t be boring.