Will this fight against Aydin be the fight to give Robert Guerrero (left) his identity as a fighter and as an entertainer?
One of the great ironies of the fight game is that, despite being perhaps the most corrupt sport in the history of man, its very nature eventually reveals the truth about every fighter that steps between the ropes. The slightest deficiencies in skill or will become magnified in the crucible of battle when one combatant faces off against another. Sooner or later, frauds are exposed and facades are destroyed, leaving only the truly exceptional to stand out from the rest. Simply put, the truth gets told in the ring eventually.
For Robert Guerrero, though, this moment of revelation has proven elusive. A pro since 2001, Guerrero was heralded early in his career as a fighter to watch, someone who could be truly special. It didn’t take long to see why, as Guerrero’s maturity and technical acumen set him apart from many of his fellow prospects that were also on the rise. Though he rolled through the typical diet of soft touches that is standard fare for prospects, something exceptional seemed to reside within Robert Guerrero.
Then a funny thing happened: Guerrero stagnated. Like the child whiz who aced every question in primary and secondary school only to find classes at the university to be more than he bargained for, Guerrero’s early brilliance stunted when he stepped up in competition. An unexpected loss to the unheralded Gamaliel Diaz quieted those who were so quick to praise Guerrero. Though Guerrero went on to stop Diaz in a rematch and garner a featherweight title belt, a subsequent loss to Orlando Salido (which was overturned to a no-decision following a positive steroid test by Salido) halted the momentum that Team Guerrero was trying to rebuild. There was a haunting sense of disappointment, that somehow Guerrero was falling short of the lofty expectations set before him.
To compound problems, Guerrero’s personal life was delivering even more pressing dilemmas. His wife, Casey, was in the midst of a well-documented battle with leukemia. Using his uncertain future as motivation, Robert Guerrero made another run at reclaiming the success and acclaim that seemed all but guaranteed early on. Stoppage wins over Spend Abazi, Martin Honorio, and Jason Litzau signaled a resurgence in Guerrero’s career. It looked like the adversity in Guerrero’s life had lit a fire that had been absent until that time. Finally, the pieces appeared to be falling into place.
Then it happened again. Just as Guerrero was building up a head of steam, he reached another impasse. First came an apparent quit job against Daud Yordan, when Guerrero bowed out due to a cut from an accidental headbutt, opting to take a no-contest rather than continue to tangle with the tougher-than-expected Yordan. Follow that up with wins over a handful of pedestrian opponents, an uninspired decision over the ancient Joel Casamayor, and any buzz that Guerrero had re-generated was effectively gone.
Seemingly aware that his career as a relevant name was slipping through his fingers, Guerrero ended his slump with two exciting wins over Vincente Escobedo and Michael Katsidis, leading up to a major fight as a headliner against Marcos Maidana. If he could beat Maidana, Guerrero would have made himself a primetime player in the deep talent pool from 140 to 147 pounds. Perhaps this would be Guerrero’s crucible, his moment of truth. And with his wife’s cancer in remission, Guerrero was fighting for the first time in a long time with a clear head. It seemed like things were finally aligning for Robert Guerrero.
But, once again, things didn’t work out that way, thanks to a rotator cuff injury that cancelled the fight. Call it unfortunate coincidence, call it fate, or call it a curse, Guerrero again missed his defining moment.
And now, once again, Robert Guerrero is left to figure out how he could once again make himself a relevant figure in the sport. With a career that’s had more ups and downs than a hotel elevator, Guerrero is at yet another career crossroads as he goes into Saturday night’s fight against tough, undefeated, and largely unknown Selcuk Aydin.
Will Guerrero’s moment of revelation come against Aydin? It’s hard to say. If he loses, a cease and desist order will likely be enacted against any further talk of Guerrero being special. If he wins, Aydin’s anonymity will probably count against Guerrero. Nothing short of an electrifying performance will really get him a lot of credit against Aydin, nor will anything less really tell us anything we don’t already know.
Well, what do we know? We know that Guerrero has occasionally exhibited A-level skills, albeit against B-level opponents, during portions of his career. Still, there’s something indicting about that fact. When his career-best wins have come against the likes of Litzau, Escobedo, and Katsidis, and the biggest names on his resume are a faded Casamayor (who he should have stopped) and Salido (who he didn’t beat), Guerrero’s strength of schedule leaves more than a bit to be desired.
We also know that, so far, Guerrero is missing the it-factor, the must-see quality that defines a superstar in the sport. Robert Guerrero appears to be a fighter who has not yet found his identity. Floyd Mayweather is the sport’s great villain. Manny Pacquiao is boxing’s humble warrior. Sergio Martinez’ whirling-dervish explosiveness is breathtaking to witness. Watching Nonito Donaire is like anticipating a Fourth of July fireworks display. All of these fighters have had their defining moments, and have found a sense of identity as a result.
Guerrero has no such identity, mainly because he’s had no defining moment. He’s got no selling point, and he’d better find one fast before time runs out on the 29-year old Californian. Fair or unfair, being a solid technician and a decent guy never generated attention. In fact, it’s the surest way to anonymity.
On Saturday night, Robert Guerrero needs to give fans a reason to watch him, a reason to remember him, and a reason to believe that he matters in the grand scheme of things. He seems to be trying to make that type of statement by jumping up two weight divisions and taking a risk against a tough, undefeated fighter. But there needs to be more. Guerrero’s ambition needs to reveal itself when the bell rings, and his fists need to make kind of statement they never have before.
Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll get the answers we’ve been looking for.