Thursday, March 5, 2009

Robert Guerrero Knows the Way to San Jose

'The Ghost' makes his return to the Bay Area on Saturday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.

Robert ‘The Ghost’ Guerrero was born, raised and still lives in Gilroy, California which is also known as the ‘Garlic Capital of the World.’ In Guerrero’s hometown, they even make garlic ice cream and the joke is that you can usually smell Gilroy before you can see it.

“I was born and raised right here in Gilroy,” says the 25 year-old Guerrero. “I grew up fighting here and everybody around here has seen me fight since I was an amateur growing up. They’ve seen me since the beginning right up until my last title defense and I still walk around town here like a normal guy.”

On Saturday night, Guerrero, a former two-time IBF featherweight titlist, will fight at the HP Pavilion in San Jose which is a quick 30 mile drive up US-101 from the only home he has ever known. Guerrero knows the drive well, but he doesn’t believe in the lyrics to the old song, ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose’ which was made famous by Dionne Warwick.

‘Fame and fortune is a magnet,
It can pull you far away from home.’

“I’m excited to be fighting in San Jose,” says the soft spoken and always smiling Guerrero of the fight that is practically in his back yard. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time. Now it’s finally here and it’s going to be good. Not only for myself but all of the people who follow boxing down here. It’ll help to give boxing the spark it needs down here and to get that fire going in this area.”

Guerrero is already a two-time 126-pound titlist, and if things go his way on Saturday night the sky could be the limit.

After a nearly year long and onerous legal battle, Guerrero, who sports a record of 23-1-1 (16)KO, switched promoters last December from Goossen-Tutor to Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy and he sounds like a fighter that has gotten a new lease on life. The excitement in his voice is obvious when he speaks of the possibilities of fighting under the new banner and what it will mean to his future.

“It’s going to be great,” says Guerrero of the relatively new relationship. “They’ve quickly brought me a fight in San Jose and that’s exciting for me. They’re always doing big things for their fighters and they’re going to do big things for me, too. That’s what I needed and I think that 2009 is going to be a huge year for me.”

David Itskowitch, COO of Golden Boy claims there has been much interest in tomorrow night’s tripleheader card that will see Guerrero take on unknown and undefeated Daud Cino Yordan of Indonesia, James Kirkland against Joel Julio and Victor Ortiz versus Mike Arnaoutis.

“We’re really happy to be here in San Jose,” said Itskowitch. “We’re excited to come up here for the show. When word started to leak out about these fights, for the first time that I’ve been at Golden Boy, we started to get a lot of fan e-mails. People were asking if it was true, is it coming, is it happening? I think that’s a good indication of the fan support we’re going to get for the event. People seem to be genuinely excited and there’s an excitement about having a big HBO card here. It’s a homecoming fight for Robert and it gives his fans a chance to see him.”

Guerrero made short work of Edel Ruiz and took him out in the first round with a bodyshot that caused the veteran to crumple.

For Guerrero, it’s a comeback of sorts as he sat out for nearly a year while his promotional issues worked their way toward a resolution. He returned in January (as a junior lightweight) on the Shane Mosley - Antonio Margarito undercard with a first round knockout win over Edel Ruiz in a fight that lasted only 43 seconds at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

He is also coming back from a personal battle as his wife, Casey, was diagnosed with leukemia in October 2007. They received the news only a week before his title defense against Martin Honorio. Guerrero still went through with the fight and he stopped Honorio in the first round, but after that the young fighter spent most of his time supporting his wife and two young children while dealing with a dilemma that is way more serious than any opponent he will ever face in a boxing ring. After a round of chemotherapy his wife is now in the clear and with his promotional situation resolved Guerrero feels like he can focus of all his efforts on becoming the best that he can be in the ring.

“Thankfully, everything is going great with her now, everything is good,” says a relieved Guerrero, who still swallows hard when he talks about it.

“She’s in remission right now and thank God that has gotten taken care of. You know, that was the hardest fight that I’d ever been in, but just being by her side was very important. I’m so thankful that she is now O.K. and hopefully that’s behind us. Now I’m with Golden Boy and they’re looking out for me so all of the pieces have finally fallen into place. I’ve worked very hard to get where I’m at - and now it’s coming home.”

Guerrero (right) is not afraid to go engage in hand-to-hand combat and the struggle of this fight is evident on the faces of both fighters.

Guerrero is a third generation fighter. His grandfather, also named Robert and whom he is named after was a boxer as was his father Ruben who has served as his trainer since he first laced on a pair of gloves at the age of nine years old. Guerrero first began training at the Gilroy Community Youth Center Gym and it’s still where he does some of his training when he’s not up in the mountains of Big Bear, California trading leather with the likes of ’Sugar’ Shane Mosley and other top ranked, world-class fighters.

Guerrero was nicknamed ‘The Ghost’ early on and he explains how he got the interesting moniker and one that he also shares with world middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik.

“It comes from being the fast in the ring. I hit guys and then I’m gone,” he proudly says. “I’m over here and then I’m over there. They don’t know where the punches are coming from and a lot of guys were like, ‘Hey, he’s like a ghost.’ They could feel the shots, but they couldn’t see them coming, so that’s how I got the name.”

For the first time in a while, Guerrero seems as though he finally able to put the rest of the world on hold while he continues to pursue his dreams.

In regards to his immediate future, Guerrero says only this: “I feel I’m on the verge of becoming a superstar in the sport. I want to go to the next level and win championships in multiple weight classes.”

And one other thing - he knows the way to San Jose.

March 2009

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