NEW YORK – When speaking about his May 4 date with destiny, you won’t hear Robert Guerrero talk much about strategy or “Xs and Os.” Rather, you’ll hear him speak about faith, and how his belief in God has carried him through difficult times and will eventually carry him to victory at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 knockouts) of Gilroy, Calif., made a quick stop in New York City on Tuesday afternoon to promote his fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. (43-0, 26 KOs) on Showtime pay-per-view before heading back west to finish up training camp.
Guerrero, who turns 30 on Wednesday, didn’t sound like the massive underdog who many believe will be ‘number 44’ on Mayweather’s record as he stepped to the podium to address the small crowd, but rather someone compelled by a sense of purpose to do what few believe he can.
“I really believe The Lord puts you in a position for a reason,” said Guerrero, who was raised in a Catholic family but identifies himself simply as a Christian. “I feel he put me in this position to humble Floyd Mayweather.”
Guerrero, who has held world titles at featherweight and super featherweight and interim titles at lightweight and welterweight, says he has noticed a significant change in Mayweather’s demeanor since he first observed him as an amateur.
“Floyd was a very respectful, good person,” remembers Guerrero. “Then he got the fight with Oscar de la Hoya and he spun out of control. He talked to everybody the right way, he carried himself in a very great manner before. That went into ‘I’m the best ever, nobody could beat me.’ When you exalt yourself, The Lord will humble you. Everything that I’ve been through, I always had faith that no matter what it was, good or bad, it happened for a reason.”
Guerrero says that the first step was when he finally met Mayweather face-to-face earlier this month to begin promoting the fight.
“He tells me, ‘You fight for your legacy, you fight for principles. I fight for money. I come to get mine.’ And when I told him, ‘That’s your problem, you worship your money. Money is your God,’ he didn’t like that. He froze up when I told him that,” said Guerrero. “By him telling me all that stuff, I know he’s the type of guy that underestimates faith and underestimates prayer because prayer is powerful if you believe.”
Since rising to 147 following a brief stint at 135, Guerrero has defeated Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto in impressive fashion, showing no signs of being undersized as he fills out his 5-foot-8 frame. There are far fewer people who doubt whether Guerrero can match up physically with Mayweather than there were close to two years ago, when Guerrero and publicist Mario Serrano launched their public relations campaign to drum up support for a Mayweather clash. Still, Guerrero’s father and trainer says it will be his son’s mental preparation that wins out.
“The main thing is, Floyd’s going to be surprised how smart Robert is in the ring,” said Ruben Guerrero, wearing his trademark brim hat with a WBC pin attached to the side. A former amateur amateur boxer in his own right, Ruben had trained all six of his sons to box, and says that one of his older sons even faced Mayweather as an amateur.
“We’re coming with the smart plan and Robert’s coming in a good mentality. You have to be fresh and focused for Mayweather.”
Guerrero made the New York media rounds at Good Morning America and hip hop station Hot 97 before heading north to Bristol, Conn. to the ESPN studio, accompanied by his wife Casey, the woman he put his life and career on hold for as she bravely battled — and defeated — leukemia. Each stop gives Guerrero a chance to promote not only the fight, but also his faith and Be The Match, a non-profit organization which Guerrero has teamed up with to help others find bone marrow transplants like the one that save his wife’s life.
There’s also the in-house promotional footage with Showtime, who are working together with Floyd Mayweather for the first of a reported six-fight deal. Stephen Espinoza, who serves as the executive vice president of sports and event programming at Showtime, says he is pleased with what he has seen of the reality series All Access, which premieres April 10 and is billed as a behind-the-scenes look into the camps of both fighters as they prepare for the fight.
The premise is similar to HBO’s 24/7, although Espinoza is quick to point out key differences.
“We tend to be in our production, a little less scripted and more natural in terms of what we portray,” said Espinoza. “Our’s tends to be a little bit less structured and more authentic and free form. I think you’re going to see a more genuine portrait of who they are, more relaxed and more intimate, whether it’s Robert driving monster trucks or Floyd going back to Grand Rapids where he grew up and giving us a tour of the town. It’s very personal.”
What Espinoza says he is most excited for is 30 Days in May, a one-hour documentary produced by — of all people — former HBO Sports exec Ross Greenburg. 30 Days, which debuts on April 3, delves into Mayweather’s jail stint last year on a misdemeanor domestic battery charge.
“I think it’s going to be fascinating to people because Floyd, for someone who has been very well exposed, I think people get a sense that they know him and have seen him,” said Espinoza. “But in seeing this one-hour documentary, you see sides of Floyd that you haven’t seen before and you realize what you’ve been presented before has been pretty one-dimensional, and there’s a lot more that you didn’t know about Floyd. It’s a very intimate portrait of him in probably what was the most difficult time of his life.
“He’s not really going to speak about that period of time anywhere else, this documentary will speak for him. I’m very interested to see what the reactions are because there’s gonna be people who love it, and as with anything Floyd does, people who don’t love it.”
Lately, every day seems to be like a reality series for Guerrero. It’s one that he plans to win.
“I feel like I’ve already won by just being here to speak with [the media,]” said Guerrero of his platform to spread his message.
“Floyd knows this is a tough fight. Everybody knows that Floyd is looking for that fight that he knows he has the edge on. This is one of those fights where people are like ‘Why did you sign to fight Guerrero? That’s the worst possible style for him. What he does in the ring is the most difficult possible thing for Floyd and at this age and being a year off, why would he sign that type of fight?’ Now it’s time to stay focused and get the job done.”
Photos: Ryan Songalia
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to The Ring magazine and GMA News. He can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.