Several thousand miles from their stomping grounds Northern California’s preeminent prizefighters Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero and Vicente Escobedo finally meet as professionals.
It’s a lightweight clash that’s been waiting to happen for more than a decade.
Ever since both fought numerous times as amateurs both Escobedo (22-2, 14 KOs) and Guerrero (27-1-1, 18 KOs) have been waiting for their first pro encounter and it happens this Saturday Nov. 6, at Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. It’s a 10-round lightweight battle for the number one spot.
“I’ve known him for a while. The first time I fought him was in Santa Clara. He had just got back from the Junior Olympics. I think he’s a year older than me so he went to the Junior Olympics and when he got back, I beat him,” said Guerrero, 27, a native of Gilroy, California who is a former featherweight and junior lightweight world champion. “I think he was 15 and I was 14. Three times we fought. I beat him twice and he beat me once.”
Guerrero became a professional boxer in 2001 while Escobedo stayed in the amateur program and eventually represented the U.S.A. Olympic boxing team in 2004.
“We roomed together too one or two times at a tournament in the US championships or some other tournaments,” said Escobedo, who turns 29 on the day of the fight. “Were not really close but we’ve known each other for quite a bit.”
On Saturday the two Northern California pugilists will know each other even better.
Guerrero has slowly become one of the most feared boxers in the world. Aside from his two-fisted power, the southpaw with speed has a fearlessness that belies the cheerfulness he shows to others when not geared up to fight.
Guerrero’s wife Casey, has suffered through several bouts with leukemia and has recently survived yet another earlier this year. She’s been cleared and now Guerrero can focus on his boxing career.
“I know with Robert and what’s going with his wife, to perform your best, I understand where it’s very difficult. It’s a big fight for him too,” said Escobedo who grew up near Sacramento. “Both of us know this is an important fight and both of us can’t afford to lose this fight.”
Escobedo, a stylish boxer with power, has slowly ascended to the top of the lightweight division by beating two of three world champions in his last four fights. Even the one loss to Michael Katsidis showed that the former U.S. Olympian from Woodlands, California has arrived.
“If I would have won I would have been world champion and this and that but the loss really helped me to realize the mistakes I did wrong,” said Escobedo who now trains in Indio under Joel Diaz. “I started really paying attention. I got out of those bad habits and corrected them. I’m kind of glad I learned.”
Guerrero has blazed a trail of success in winning the featherweight world title, junior lightweight world titles, then, last July he beat future Hall of Fame boxer Joel Casamayor by decision in a junior welterweight contest.
“Casamayor started laughing cause when we first met he said I was a baby because of the way I went all out and worked hard. He used to tell me to take care of myself,” said Guerrero who used to train alongside Casamayor for more than a year in Van Nuys, California. “After the fight I walked up to him and asked him if I was still a baby. He said no, no, no more baby.”
On Saturday, one or the other Northern California prizefighter will emerge the number one contender for the lightweight world championship.
“This is his shot at a title again. His going to be ready and I’m excited about that. The better the guy comes the better the fight is going to be,” Guerrero said.
Escobedo and Guerrero will be locked in battle in a do or die battle to see who will be fighting the elite prizefighters like Juan Manuel Marquez, Amir Khan or Timothy Bradley.
Coincidentally, Escobedo spars with stable mate Bradley who is also trained by Joel Diaz.
“I get great sparring from Bradley and Julio Diaz,” said Escobedo. “You can’t ask for better sparring than that.”
Escobedo knows he needs it against Guerrero.
“He’s a great fighter,” he said.
Former junior welterweight and welterweight world champion Zab Judah of Brooklyn headlines the fight card at Newark. He faces young stud Lucas Matthysse (27-0, 25 KOs) of Argentina in a 12 round bout for the vacant NABO junior welterweight title.
Judah (39-6, 27 KOs) is returning to the 140-pound division that has suddenly become one of the most popular if not the toughest in pro boxing.
Matthysse, an undefeated boxer-puncher from Buenos Aires, gained notoriety by stopping former world champion Vivian Harris in four rounds last February. But can he beat the talented and experienced Judah?
It’s an interesting match.
Fights on television
Fri. Showtime, 11 p.m., Edwin Rodriguez (16-0) vs. James McGirt Jr. (22-2-1).
Sat. HBO, 8:15 p.m., Zab Judah (39-6) vs. Lucas Matthysse (27-0); Robert Guerrero (27-1-1) vs. Vicente Escobedo (22-2).
Sat. Showtime, 9 p.m., Juan Manuel Lopez (29-0) vs. Rafael Marquez (39-5).
Mon. ESPN2, 5 p.m., Rico Ramos (17-0) vs. Heriberto Ruiz (44-9-2).