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Guerrero gets redemption

22
Aug

Robert Guerrero (right) meant business in his title fight against Malcolm Klassen on Saturday in Houston. Photo / Naoki Fukuda

Two fights ago, Robert Guerrero was dismissed by many as a quitter. On Saturday night, he was on top of the world after a dominating performance. I guess, as they say, you’re only as good as your last fight.

Guerrero was extremely good in his last fight, surviving another cut and an injured hand to outclass junior lightweight titleholder Malcolm Klassen and win his third major title on the undercard of Juan Diaz-Paulie Malignaggi at Toyota Center in Houston on HBO.

From the beginning, Guerrero beat Klassen to the punch, threw many more punches and avoided significant punishment by circling out of harm’s way. It probably was the best performance in the career of the 26-year-old from Gilroy, Calif.



And if winning a major title isn’t gratifying enough, the fact it comes on the heels of the “quitter” fight makes it even sweeter.

Guerrero (25-1-1, 17 knockouts) was cut over the right eye by an accidental head butt against Daud Yordan in March. He was asked whether he could see and responded no, which prompted the referee to stop the fight. Afterward, some labeled him a coward.

“The last time I fought on HBO, a cut stopped it,” Guerrero said immediately after the fight. “(HBO analyst) Max Kellerman said a few things in the ring and it snowballed from there. (Saturday) I got cut and also busted up my left hand I think in the fifth round. I wasn’t able to throw a hard left, just enough to keep him at bay.

“It shows what kind of warrior I am. As Max said (after the fight), it was redemption for me.”

Klassen (24-5-2, 15 knockouts) had fought all but one of his fights in his native South Africa, which means none of us knew exactly what to expect of him. Obviously, he didn’t know what to expect from Guerrero (25-1-1, 17 KOs) because he was befuddled.

And that was Guerrero’s plan, to keep Klassen at range with his jab and pepper him with punches as he circled around him. The strategy was simple but effective. The aggressive Klassen landed some meaningful punches, particularly in the middle rounds, but they were the exception.

Guerrero said he either sprained or broke his hand “in the thumb area” in the fifth round. Then, two rounds later, he was cut by an accidental head butt over his right eye and fought through it. It seemed nothing was going to stop him Saturday night, certainly not Klassen.

He threw a remarkable 1,200 punches, according to punch statistics. The HBO commentators said that's the second-most ever by a 130-pounder. Klassen threw 518 punches.

The judges scored it 117-111, 116-113 and 116-112.

Guerrero came into the fight particularly confident because he had put two years of difficulties behind him, including a contract dispute that kept him out of action and his wife’s battle with cancer, and had a good training camp in Big Bear, Calif.

That included invaluable sparring sessions with Shane Mosley and plenty of time to study Klassen on video.

“I was able to do what I was doing when I first started as a pro,” Guerrero said. “I needed to go off to training camp, to get back to the basics. I was focused on boxing 100 percent for the first time in a long time.

“And I was able to get the job done like a real pro. Everything just fell into place. It feels good. It was a great night.”

Now, Guerrero, rated No. 8 by THE RING, is thinking big: He wants to unify the 130-pound titles. That means his wish list includes No. 1-rated Humberto Soto, No. 4 Roman Martinez and No. 6 Jorge Linares, who hold the other three belts.

Guerrero has come a long way in a short time from Yordan.

“Now, I’ll relax for a bit, let myself, my hand and my eye heal up,” he said, “and then it’s back on the ball, to start trucking at 130.”

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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