NEW YORK – Robert Guerrero wore a smile as wide as a canyon.
He brimmed with confidence Wednesday at Gallagher’s Steakhouse, even after dropping four of his last six fights. His last defeat came against a cab driver. No, not a figurative cab driver — a derisive term used to describe low-level opponents.
An actual cab driver in David Peralta, a man who drives taxis in Argentina for a living.
Guerrero (33-5-1, 18 knockouts) isn’t deterred, though. His self-belief remains sky high, but he’s not delusional – he knows it’s either win Saturday against Omar Figueroa on Long Island (8 p.m. ET, Fox), or his days are finished as a main-event fighter.
“A lot of people say, ‘I don’t overlook anybody,’ but it happens,” Guerrero conceded during an interview with RingTV.com. “You tend to get a little lazy. … That’s when guys creep up on you.
“The last fight with Peralta kind of got me off my ass. I’m not getting any younger.”
Perhaps it’s the wake-up called he desperately needed.
At 34 years old, and with his recent record (which includes a controversial decision victory over Aaron Martinez), Guerrero knows full well he must not only prevail, but look impressive in the process.
The Bay Area boxer – who splits his time in Las Vegas — made some key changes to training camp. To whip himself into tip-top shape he returned to CrossFit, a workout he hadn’t employed since his slugfest win over Yoshihiro Kamegai in 2014.
He also returned to plain, ol’ fundamentals with his father and trainer, Ruben Guerrero.
Most of all, Guerrero plans to revert to the featherweight “Ghost,” the one who used angles, speed and volume-punching to confound opponents, rather than the pressure-style, bulldozing fighter he became as a welterweight in 2012.
“It’s been like, try to mow everybody down, which is not gonna get it done at 147 pounds,” Guerrero said. “I started at 122 pounds and now I’m fighting these big guys, it’s like, I’m not gonna wrestle everybody down.
“I want to prove to myself that I can put a dent in (the welterweight division), win the title and take care of business.”
The former three-division champion can pinpoint the moment he transformed into a face-first, Mexican-style fighter. And it happened to come on the best night of his career.
It was in 2012 against then-welterweight contender Andre Berto. The bout was Guerrero’s most high-profile to date, and established him not only as a player at 147, but one of the sport’s best action fighters.
Guerrero applied non-stop pressure in a rugged phone-booth war. He was relentless and closed both of Berto’s eyes, even dropping the former champ in Rounds 1 and 2 en route to a wide decision win.
“That fight kind of screwed me up as far as me thinking, ‘Oh, I can just mow everybody down at 147,’” he recalled. “And I fell into that bad habit of just coming forward and stay in your chest and just try to bang you out.
“Then I started to get lazy. That’s all I wanted to do. … I’ve been fighting like a lazy man. It’s easy to just get up in your chest and just stand there and throw punches.”
The Berto victory led to a life-changing opportunity against Floyd Mayweather Jr., and earned Guerrero unspeakable riches, but his career was never the same.
He wasn’t competitive with Mayweather – not many fighters are – and then Guerrero was a party to one physically taxing fighter after another. Kamegai. Keith Thurman. Martinez. Danny Garcia.
The skid has Guerrero on the outside looking in, and it’s pretty clear: Win or become a stepping-stone.
Hell, Guerrero has already heard the calls – that he’s just that for Figueroa, an undefeated, bilingual 27-year-old with a fan-friendly style.
“I built myself into a landmine,” Guerrero said. “As soon as he steps, he’s blowing up.”
The confidence? Unwavering.
Can Guerrero actually change his style at this stage of the game? He says the last time he resembled the fighter he truly is came against Selcuk Aydin in his welterweight debut.
He boxed on his toes and moved in and out against the far more physically imposing man. That’s who Guerrero wishes to be – needs to be — once again.
“I would say that before, but I never really worked on doing different things, being able to sustain my style,” Guerrero admitted. “A lot of times, I’ll come out and start doing it, and then say, ‘You know what? I’ll just go forward; it’s easier.’
“When you’re financially comfortable, you can just sit around all day and not have to work; it can get you a little lazy. It’s the drive to be the best. It’s all there. It’s time now to just take my career to a different level and try to finish it with a Hall of Fame career.”
First things first: Guerrero needs to prove to himself – and everyone else – that he’s not a stepping-stone.
To accomplish his goal, he must break old habits. He must refuse the siren’s call to mix it up in another crowd-pleasing war. And we all know what they say about old habits – yeah, they die hard.
Mike Coppinger is the Senior Writer for RingTV.com. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger
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