Guerrero and Katsidis are in a buoyant mood at the final press conference for “Action Heroes.” But the smiles will be erased come Saturday, when the combat begins. (Hogan)
In the world of boxing Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero drifts in an out of the mindset of boxing fans and potential foes like his nickname.
Fans are beginning to know him and potential opponents are beginning to fear him.
Guerrero (28-1-1, 18 KOs) finds himself in a yet another move up a weight division as he faces Australia’s Michael “The Great” Katsidis (27-3, 22 KOs) for the interim lightweight title tomorrow at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
HBO will televise this fight and several other compelling battles on pay-per-view.
Little by little the prizefighter from Gilroy, California has grabbed attention with his blend of speed and staggering power as he moves up each weight division. The former featherweight and junior lightweight world champion is now in the hunt for a lightweight world title.
It hasn’t been easy.
Aside from learning the various tricks of the trade the past 10 years Guerrero has been sideswiped by his wife’s battle with leukemia the past several years. It’s been a war on two fronts as he comforted his ailing spouse and fought off opponents in the ring.
“I’m finally able to concentrate on just boxing,” said Guerrero with a look of relief on his face now that his wife has emerged healthy from her last battle. “We decided to move our training camp to Las Vegas for this fight.”
If not for proof of his handiwork it would be difficult to believe that the amiable Guerrero is a prizefighter. Let alone one of the most dangerous and capable boxers pound for pound. He smiles easily and seems more like someone who should be enrolled in law school or medical school.
Other than some barely noticeable scars from head butts, his career as one of the more feared boxers would be difficult to detect. The tone of his voice is always friendly and he smiles easily. But inside the boxing ring, he might as well be an axe murderer.
The southpaw boxer-puncher caught the eye of a few when he knocked out Blythe’s David Vasquez in one round. Up to then, Vasquez had fought several punishing fighters and gave them fits with his iron chin. He had also worked as a sparring partner for Brazil’s Acelino “Popo” Freitas who at the time was knocking out people with regularity.
On May 4, 2003, Guerrero and Vasquez met in a Coachella casino and the end came to a sudden end for the hometown boxer. After barely a minute Guerrero exploded with crackling lefts that pierced Vasquez’s iron chin. It was over in the first round. I remember watching with surprise. Nobody had ever hurt Vasquez like that.
Not many people know about Vasquez’s ability to absorb big blows so the victory went under the radar of most fight fans. But that victory marked the emergence of Guerrero as a talented prospect.
Eventually after victories over veterans like Juan Polo Perez and former world champion Enrique Sanchez it slowly became apparent to at least other fighters that Guerrero was not just another left-handed boxer. Another thing was though he was not known as a knockout puncher in the beginning, eight knockouts in nine fights began to create recognition that the Ghost could crack.
In December 2005, the Gilroy boxer would lose for the first and only time against Gamaliel Diaz, a crafty Mexican fighter who knew all the tricks and more.
Diaz was losing badly to Guerrero but found some chinks in the southpaw’s style. He quickly realized that Guerrero was a basic one-two fighter who almost always began everything with a right jab in those days. With that knowledge and by using every trick in his vast array, the Mexican fighter pulled out a victory over Guerrero by decision.
Guerrero has not lost since that fight.
Changes in his tactics and weaponry have transformed Guerrero into one of the more clever and resourceful prizefighters in the world.
Victories over various styles of top tier fighters like Joel Casamayor, Jason Litzau and Vicente Escobedo are added proof of his growing prowess inside the ring. Whether his opponent is skillful, powerful or willful the Northern Californian has been able to find an antidote.
“Robert gets better and better,” said Bob Santos, who manages Guerrero. “I think he’s even stronger at this weight.”
Sugar Shane Mosley, who is preparing to fight Manny Pacquiao on May 7, predicts that Guerrero will eventually be fighting at an even heavier weight class very soon.
“He hits like a welterweight,” said Mosley who sparred with Guerrero on numerous occasions in Big Bear Mountain. “Robert’s pretty tall and he has good speed and power. He’ll be fighting as a welterweight pretty soon.”
On Saturday he’s fighting as a lightweight and against one of the most dangerous lightweights in the world Katsidis.
“I'm really happy that this fight here I'm fighting against the number-one in the world,” said Katsidis, who trained in Thailand for this fight. “I'll fight the best. I'm fighting the best now because that's what I want to do.”
Guerrero is eager to meet the great Australian slugger mostly because he knows that it will be power versus power.
“I’m really excited to be fighting Katsidis,” said Guerrero while training in Las Vegas. “He has the kind of style I like. He’s like me. He’s coming to fight.”
It should be the fight of the night.