By John J. Raspanti
Former two-division world champion Robert Guerrero is 32, considered young in just about every profession, except boxing.
Two years ago, he fought the then pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas, NV.
The judges had Guerrero losing nine out of twelve rounds. The roughly three million dollars Guerrero pocketed likely helped to heal his wounds.
Thirteen months later, Guerrero tangled with Yoshihiro Kamegai at the Stubhub Center in Carson, Calif. Guerrero was expected to easily defeat Kamegai, but instead found himself in a war of attrition.
He won the fight by a unanimous decision, but the victory wasn’t enough to stifle the surprise at how difficult it was.
Guerrero took eight months off—before meeting WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman last year. Thurman dominated, flooring him in Round nine, but Guerrero hung in like grim death.
Surprisingly, he returned to the ring three months later to face Aron Martinez. The fight was seen as a showcase match—positioning Guerrero for a big money bout later in the year. Instead he found himself on the canvas for the second straight match.
Behind on the judges’ scorecards, Guerrero dug deep and rallied to win.
No surprise, since Guerrero is a battler.
In 2010, he put his boxing career on the back burner to support his wife, Casey, as she battled leukemia. Since her recovery, Guerrero has confronted physical issues of his own, including a rotator cuff injury that forced him to the sidelines for 15 months.
Guerrero (33-3-1, 18 KOs) was hit by another emotional onslaught a week before the Martinez fight when his 29-year-old cousin Rachelle died.
“I know my last fight was a rough one, rougher than I made it to be,” Guerrero told LaTimes writer Lance Pugmire. “I wasn’t one hundred percent prepared, my mind wasn’t right.”
Soon, the whispers began.
Was he past his prime?
Guerrero wasn’t surprised.
“Just looking at my last fight, him catching me with a good shot and putting me down, people think, ‘He’s at the tail end, time for him to hang it up.”
Guerrero can prove the naysayers wrong if he defeats undefeated Danny Garcia January 23 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. A win would add the WBA welterweight belt to his resume.
Garcia (31-0, 18 KOs) is aware of Guerrero’s accomplishments. He’s done pretty well himself. Since 2012, the former WBC and WBA super welterweight champion has defeated Amir Khan, Lucas Matthysse, Erik Morales twice, Zab Judah, and Lamont Peterson, but still his skills remain questionable. It didn’t help when he was paired against the much-smaller Rod Salka and an over-the-hill Paulie Malignaggi.
Once considered one of the more talented young fighters in the game, Garcia has seen his reputation take some direct hits. Some felt his wins over Peterson, and especially Mauricio Herrera, were early Christmas gifts.
Garcia, from Philadelphia, refuses to look back.
“I’ve got to worry about the task ahead,” Garcia said during a media conference call a few days ago. “It’s going to be an exciting year for boxing and right now I’m satisfied with where I’m going. Garcia moved up to the welterweight division (146 pounds—up from 140) to fight Malignaggi.
“To be honest with you, I feel a lot better,” said Garcia. “I’m happier now. When I fought at one forty, I was always mean while trying to cut weight. I was never in a good mood. I think that’s why a lot of times I would go in there and just fight.”
The 27-year-old Garcia, is anxious to face Guerrero. “I’m looking forward to it - I know he’s going to come ready, but we’re ready,” said Garcia. “I’ve prepared myself for a challenge every day, day in and day out. So I expect nothing but a great fight and a great performance by me." He boldly predicted how he expects to win.
“I’d like to say Danny Garcia wins by TKO in Round five,” said Garcia, who has a habit of speaking of himself in the third person.
When told that Garcia had forecast a knockout victory, Guerrero retorted,
“All I’ve got to say if that’s his prediction, come to do it,” Guerrero said. “Because, I’m coming to fight. I’m always up for that challenge and I love it because I know he’s coming to fight, too. If he’s coming to KO me in the fifth round, that means he’s coming to fight."
Look for a good fight—with the younger Garcia winning by decision.