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Guerrero returns to the ring a stronger man

Fighters Network
05
Mar

Robert Guerrero has never been more motivated to succeed after returning from a long hiatus. Photo / Alexis Cuarezma-fightwireimages.com

When Robert Guerrero smashed a left uppercut into the ribcage of Edel Ruiz on the undercard of the Antonio Margarito-Shane Mosley fight the former featherweight titleholder’s punch carried 10 months of pent up aggression on it.

Ruiz crumpled to the canvas on impact and didn’t get up. The fight was over 43 seconds after the opening bell.

The fact that Guerrero won was no news flash. Ruiz is a journeyman fighter who entered the bout with a 30-21-4 record. It wasn’t a huge surprise that Guerrero knocked out his opponent, either. Guerrero is a tall, skillful southpaw gifted with speed and power.



However, few knowledgeable observers expected that Ruiz, a durable veteran who went seven rounds with 122-pound KO artist Juan Manuel Lopez and the 10-round distance with featherweight prospect Jason Litzau, would get blasted out with a single punch.

But when Guerrero is focused, he’s one of the most formidable young fighters in the world – he proved this by blitzing rugged contender Martin Honorio in one round in November of 2007 and then dominating Litzau to a brutal eighth-round knockout last February. After spending most of 2008 in arbitration over a contractual dispute with his former promoter Goossen Tutor the 25-year-old junior lightweight is eager to pick up where he left off.

“It was frustrating,” Guerrero said of the 10 months he spent out of the ring after his February 29 IBF featherweight title defense against Litzau, “especially after the Honorio fight and the Litzau fight, two good performances, back to back. I was going crazy because I wanted to capitalize on two great fights that everyone was talking about.”

Some of that frustration was taken out on poor Ruiz, but he probably saved some for his next opponent Daud Yordan, an undefeated prospect from Indonesia that Guerrero will face in the opening bout of Saturday’s ‘Boxing After Dark’ triple header from the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.

Guerrero, who signed with Golden Boy Promotions after winning his arbitration hearing in mid-December, says that he’s entering Saturday’s fight a stronger fighter and man than existed before his hiatus from the ring.

One reason for this is his rise in weight to the junior lightweight division. Making the featherweight limit of 126 pounds was beginning to take its toll on the 5-foot-9 fighter towards the end of 2007. Guerrero and his team believe the added four pounds have significantly boosted his physical strength, speed and punching power. Ruiz certainly wouldn’t argue with them.

However, the main reason Guerrero says he entered the New Year with renewed fortitude was the time he spent with his wife Casey, who has been fighting Leukemia since it was diagnosed one week before he fought Honorio.

“The one positive thing about my time away from boxing was that I got to spend time with my wife and go with her to her treatments,” said Guerrero (23-1-1, 16 knockouts). “I wouldn’t have been able to do that as much had been able to fight as much as I wanted to last year.

“And let me tell you, being with her and watching what she goes through, it made me stronger. The whole time I was away from the sport, I was staying in shape, but I was also building mental and spiritual strength by supporting my wife and spending time with our two kids.

“The one thing about me is that I have a lot of faith, and I do a lot of praying. That’s what kept me strong through everything I went through last year, dealing with my wife’s health, the arbitration, and switching promoters.”

His prayers seem to be working. After being in remission for more than a year, Casey experienced a recurrence in early January but the week of the Margarito-Mosley fight an examination revealed that it was in remission again.

Guerrero, who reminded the boxing media of his considerable talent with his quickie KO of Ruiz, is now determined to make a statement to a national television audience against a young, hungry fighter with a 23-0 (17) record.

“I’ve seen one fight of his, the only fight he had in the States,” Guerrero said of Yordan. “He’s an Olympic-style boxer. He carries good power; he has quick hands and quick movement. He can fight, but we’re going to be ready for him.

“My Dad (and trainer Ruben) and I watched his U.S. fight together and we broke down his style. We’ve put together a plan for him and we think it’s going to work.”

To say that Guerrero is excited about fighting on Saturday’s card, which also features two excellent matchups in James Kirkland-Joel Julio and Victor Ortiz-Michael Arnaoutis, is an understatement.

The Golden Boy Promotions card will be televised on HBO, which provides the kind of exposure and hype that all young U.S. fighters dream about, and it takes place near Guerrero’s hometown of Gilroy, California, which is so close to San Jose (a 10-minute drive) Guerrero says he could jog there from his house.

However, it’s fair to wonder if the pressure from the media and Guerrero’s hometown fans, who are almost as excited as he is, might get to him.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve fought at home, and this is the first time I’ve fought on HBO – in fact, I think it’s the first time a card in San Jose has ever been on HBO – but to be honest the only added pressure that I’ve felt is the demand by the media, you know, doing all the interviews and stuff,” Guerrero said. “But I’m not complaining. I welcome it, because that’s what gets you ready for the mega fights. This is what you have to do when you reach that level of fighting in mega fights; you have the multi-city media tour, the press conferences, and all that stuff.

“I’m glad I’m experiencing it now, just like I’m glad that I fought in January and got my feet wet in front of 20,000 fans. That got me ready for Saturday.”

Guerrero hopes that an impressive victory against Yordan will eventually lead to the mega fights he spoke of.

Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, doesn’t think it will take long for Guerrero to establish himself as one of the sport’s new attractions.

“Guerrero is a star-in-the-making,” Schaefer said Wednesday. “Tickets are selling very well at the HP Pavilion, which is configured to seat 8,000 and we already have 6,000 sold. Many of those tickets were bought by Guerrero’s fans from Gilroy, but we think Robert can also sell tickets in Southern California. He’s the kind of young talent that attracts fans from everywhere.”

He’s also the kind of young talent that isn’t afraid to test himself.

“Our first choice for his next opponent, if he’s successful on Saturday, would be (WBC 130-pound titleholder) Humberto Soto,” said Schaefer. “Soto is a very dangerous veteran but Guerrero believes in himself and so do his managers. They have all told me to pursue that fight.”

Schaefer said another possibility could be WBO titleholder Nicky Cook, provided the British fighter defends his belt against Rocky Martinez on the March 14 undercard of the Amir Khan-Marco Antonio Barrera lightweight fight.

“The winner of the Khan-Barrera fight will be the (WBO) mandatory for Juan Manuel Marquez,” said Schaefer. “If Khan wins that fight and Cook wins his fight, I can see putting on a card in the UK headlined by Marquez-Khan with Cook-Guerrero as the co-featured bout.

“There are a lot of options for Robert at junior lightweight, including (WBA titleholder) Jorge Linares. He won his first title on a Golden Boy Promotions card and he was impressive, but then he disappeared. If he can fight one or two fights in the States and build up interest that’s a fight we would do.”

Guerrero doesn’t care who he fights later in the year as long as that fighter brings a title into the ring with him so he can take it. Once he gets a belt, he says he’s aiming for the stars.

“My goal for this year is simple,” Guerrero said. “Any of the champs at 130 pounds and then I want to go for Marquez or Manny Pacquiao.

“I’m 5-foot-9 with a 71-inch reach and I carry tremendous power in both hands. I think I can carry 135 pounds, even 140 pounds, and hold my own against anybody.”

Is the young man getting ahead of himself?

Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s celebrated trainer who coached Guerrero for a year, doesn’t think so.

“Robert has great potential at lightweight,” Roach said. “He’s a tough kid, a good boxer with good height and a lot of pop (in his punches). I always thought he would be a dangerous fight for Manny Pacquiao. They sparred a few times when Robert was training here and it was even, back and forth, sparring.”

However far Guerrero goes in the sport, it will be hard not to root for him.

“I’m going to make up for lost time and it’s going to be exciting,” he said.

Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]

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