Robert Guerrero to face ‘unique’ challenge in Keith Thurman
NEW YORK – Former two-division titleholder Robert Guerrero was counting his blessings during a Wednesday press conference at the NBC studios, where it was announced that THE RING’s No. 8-rated welterweight would face No. 7-rated Keith Thurman on March 7 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Thurman-Guerrero is part of NBC’s new boxing series titled, “Premier Boxing Champions” (“PBC on NBC”) in accordance with a multi-year deal between the network and adviser Al Haymon, whose inaugural event will air at 9:00 p.m. ET on March 7 as a doubleheader, matching RING No. 6-rated junior welterweight Adrien Broner opposite John Molina.
A second show on April 11 will feature IBF junior welterweight titleholder Lamont Peterson opposite RING champion Danny Garcia in a 143-pound bout potentially at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
The 31-year-old Guerrero (32-2-1, 18 knockouts) appeared with Thurman (24-0, 21 KOs) and the other fighters on a stage alongside legendary Hall-of-Famers, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Roberto Duran.
“It’s amazing to see guys like Duran, Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard up there,” said Guerrero. “It’s amazing now, today, to be in the right thing and the right time. This is going to be great, not just for myself but for all of boxing.”
Guerrero was last in action for a hard-fought unanimous decision over Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai in June to rebound from a unanimous decision loss to RING 147-pound champion Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May 2013. Thurman, 26, is coming off last month’s shutout unanimous decision over previously undefeated Leonard Bundu.
“It’s a unique fight with Thurman but there is something unique about every fighter. With Thurman, you just have a guy who has been getting knockouts in some great fights,” said Guerrero. “He’s got great punching power and good foot movement and great hand speed. There is so much that he brings to the table that you’ve just got to be ready for him.”
Had it not been for a left shoulder injury suffered since his victory over Julio Diaz last April, Thurman said his plan was to have been more active than just the one fight in 2014.
Guerrero had turned down a previous offer to face Thurman, saying the younger man had not yet established himself as a big name.
“This was most definitely an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Thurman has been climbing the ladder and doing his thing, so it’s time for him to get that shot and I’m going to be right there to give it to him,” said Guerrero.
“Al [Haymon] came to me and proposed this fight to me and without thinking twice, I said, ‘Let’s do it.’ It’s a fight that everyone wants to see and he’s been out there saying that everyone is ducking him. So I know what that feels like, because early on in my career, everyone was ducking me, so it’s time to give him that shot and it’s well-deserved.”
A southpaw, Guerrero had won 15 straight fights, nine by knockout before losing to Mayweather.
“I’m very strong as a southpaw and I’ve been working on a lot of stuff, being able to change up some things in the ring. I’ve gone back and I’ve looked at the Mayweather fight and the fight with Kamegai,” said Guerrero.
“So we’re assessing the fights. The one thing that can happen is that getting caught into certain styles can become a habit, so I’ve been changing some things in the gym. I’m excited to get back into that ring.”
Guerrero will be in his fifth 147-pound fight against Thurman after making his division debut against Selcuk Aydin in July of 2012.
“A lot of people don’t realize that I came up from 135 pounds straight to 147, so it takes time for you to build into that after jumping to weight classes, especially after starting my pro career at 122 pounds. It’s a long road, climbing that ladder,” said Guerrero.
“So we’ll find out who will be the bigger guy, physically, when we get into the ring. In my past few fights, I think that I’ve been the bigger guy. I’m seriously climbing up in weight and now, I’m a full-fledged 147-pounder. Now it’s time to take care of business.”
In March of 2010, Guerrero chose to pull out of a scheduled clash with Michael Katsidis in order to be with his wife, Casey Guerrero, during her recovery from a bone-marrow transplant. At ringside for Guerrero’s unanimous decision over Selcuk Aydin in July 2012 were Casey and her donor, Katharina Zech, of Germany, whom the Guerrero’s met for the first time earlier that year.
Robert Guerrero’s devotion to his wife and family were recognized when he received the “Bill Crawford Award for Courage in the Face of Adversity” from the Boxing Writers Association of America in 2011.
“All of that hard work, all of that grind, all of that adversity gets you here,” said Guerrero, who followed up the win over Aydin with a unanimous decision over two-time titleholder Andre Berto in November 2012. “Like they say, when you’re patient, things come. Great things come.”