If you were watching Robert Guerrero last Saturday on the PBC on NBC, you were probably not very impressed with “The Ghost’s” split decision victory. In fact, after the beating Guerrero suffered at the light handed Aaron Martinez—he of the four KOs in 24 fights—you might even think that just maybe “The Ghost” should vanish.
I’m not here to disagree with you.
Guerrero has lost 3 of his last 4 bouts. He was completely outclassed by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May of 2013, no shame in that. As you may have noticed, that’s been going around for a while. He followed up that loss with a unanimous decision against Yoshihiro Kamegai. A nice enough win, but hardly anything to get excited about.
Then things got rough for “The Ghost.” He was almost unanimously shut out against Keith Thurman in the inaugural primetime broadcast of the PBC on NBC last March. Guerrero suffered a brutal knockdown in round 9 and barely made it through the round. He recovered enough to be somewhat competitive in the final rounds, even dissuading Thurman from pressing for the knockout with some well-timed shots of his own.
Still, it was a surprisingly weak performance from the champion of four different weight classes. Guerrero looked slow, often unable to let his hands go. He’s always been a guy who mixes it up, but even by that standard, he got hit a lot and easily.
So I was surprised and even a little concerned to see Guerrero get back in the ring so soon after such a punishing, one-sided defeat. My concerns were well-founded when the feather fisted Martinez brutally sent Guerrero to the canvas in the fourth. Unsurprisingly, Guerrero fought on and narrowed the cards–although the boos filling the auditorium when the scorecards were read and awarded “The Ghost” the victory were understandable. If you are the kind of person who judges a fight by “who would I rather be?” at the end of it, well, you probably wouldn’t have wanted to be Guerrero.
While I found the decision highly questionable, I was saddened by the derision aimed at the “winner.” Robert Guerrero is not going to be confused with the greatest fighters of his era. Even though he has been an active, hard punching fighter, he’s often been more workmanlike than electric. He also lacks the signature wins that would set him apart.
It is however fair to say that he has been the author of an honorable career. While belts are perhaps less meaningful than ever, wearing one in four different weight classes leaves little to apologize for. When matched against an opponent in what you might call a “pick ‘em” fight, Guerrero almost always won. His victories over Casamayor, Katsidis, and Berto are testament to this. He was once upset by Orlando Salido, but that fight was later ruled a no contest after a post-fight test screening found steroids in Salido’s system.
The only other upset loss of his career was a split decision against Gamaliel Diaz. This is a result he would avenge a little over six months later with a decisive 6th round knockout.
Most importantly, Guerrero has managed his boxing life around the more real life fears created by his wife, Casey’s, five year battle with leukemia. Entering into his prime when his wife received the diagnosis, Guerrero vacated his IBF Super Featherweight title and put his vocation on hold while she battled the disease.
The Guerreros were fortunate, and a bone marrow transplant saved Casey–leading her to remission. I’m willing to bet he would count that as the greatest victory in his life.
After seeing Guerrero struggle so mightily and be hurt with such regularity by what should have been an inferior opponent, it is now fair to say that “The Ghost” is closer to the end than the beginning. Make that much closer. He made 32 look pretty old last weekend. But then it’s the miles not the years, and Guerrero’s odometer suddenly seems to have reached the point where retirement is a wiser bet than fixing what needs work in the gym. There comes a point where the cost of the repairs outweigh the ride. I think Robert Guerrero is now there.
While no one should be surprised if he goes on to fight several more times, I fear additional rounds will neither bolster Guerrero’s ledger, nor his future health. He is a man who once understood that there are bigger things in life than boxing when it came to the necessary care of a loved one. I hope that same wisdom visits him now and serves just as well for him as it did for his wife.
Yes, it’s true, “The Ghost” never quite crested the top of the wave in his sport. He’s never been the most popular. He will not be spoken of as an all-time great by anyone you would take seriously. He has been a fighter though. A world class one at that. He has done well for himself and his family. That’s no mean feat. It should be recognized.