Northern California’s Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero has been a familiar sight in Southern California where he’s engaged in a few spectacular knockout wins.
Now he meets The Mouse.
Number one challenger Guerrero challenges champion Eric “The Mouse” Aiken (16-4, 12 KOs) who defends his IBF featherweight title at the Staples Center on Saturday Sept. 2. The fight will be televised by Showtime.
Both fighters are known for their knockout power and both are extremely religious and open about it.
“Eric Aiken and me are a lot alike,” Guerrero (18-1-1, 11 KOs) said during a telephone press conference. “As he said, he has the Lord behind him. When you have the Lord behind you most times you are unstoppable. When you have another guy that is backed by the Lord too, it is just the two of you in there fighting.”
Aiken, out of Marysville, Ohio, shocked the boxing world with a sixth round stoppage over former bantamweight world champion Tim Austin on April Fools Day. Then to prove it was no joke, he accepted a fight against IBF featherweight titleholder Valdemir Pereira, the hard-hitting boxer from Brazil less than two months later. He won by frustrating the Brazilian into fouling. The referee stopped the fight in the sixth round and Aiken was crowned the new world titleholder.
“It’s kind of surreal,” said Aiken, 26, about being the featherweight world titleholder. “Every now and then I realize I’m the world champion.”
Though fighting southpaws is never a good thing, it’s become a niche for Aiken who’s fought several topnotch lefties in his career. Once again he faces another in Guerrero.
“I’m pretty good with them,” says Aiken rattling off the southpaw victims in his resume including Austin, Darby Smart and Agnaldo Nunes.
Last December, Guerrero was poised to fight for the featherweight world title. All he had to do was beat Gamaliel Diaz. He lost.
“I had a bad night and learned a lot from that fight,” Guerrero, 23, says. “I came back and knocked Diaz out in six rounds and he did not get back up.”
Aiken feels that Guerrero’s wins were not against quality opponents.
“A lot of their (opponent’s) wins were against taxicab and bus drivers,” Aiken says. “They have not been hit as hard as I am going to hit them.”
Scoring knockouts has not always been Guerrero’s modus operandi. In his first two years as a professional boxer he was known as a tall featherweight with fast hands and agility. Then came a change in trainers and suddenly opponents were lying on their back.
“I had an amateur style and wasn’t sitting down on my punches,” explains Guerrero whose last seven wins have come by knockout. “I’ve been paying my dues and the title shot is long overdue.”
Once the most talent-laden division in professional boxing, the featherweights are in need of a name to bring back recognition.
When Rodolfo Lopez defeated Japan’s Takashi Koshimoto on July 30, he joined other featherweight titleholders Chris John, Scot Harrison and Aiken as featherweight titleholders who the boxing world have not had a chance to see much.
One fighter who can bring back the shine is Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez, who lost his title to John when they fought in Indonesia. Few believe John deserved the win but he fought in his home country Indonesia. Marquez recently battered Thailand’s Terdsak Jandaeng before the referee stopped the fight in the seventh round. The Mexico City stylist is scheduled to meet Scotland’s Harrison on November 4.
By the way, Marquez and new WBC titleholder Lopez are both managed by Nacho Beristain. I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
A few fighters who are ready to challenge any of the featherweight titleholders are California’s Steve Luevano, Great Britain’s Nicky Cook, Mexico’s Jorge Solis and Martin Honorio and Ireland’s Bernard Dunne.
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Allan Green (21-0) vs. Emmett Linton (33-4-2).
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Hector Velazquez (44-11-2) vs. Yuri Voronin (24-5-1).
Sat. Showtime 10 p.m., James Toney (69-4-2) vs. Samuel Peter (26-1).