The buildup to a Robert Guerrero fight wouldn’t be right unless there was a sense that the South Bay native was yet again on the cusp of becoming one of boxing’s biggest stars.
That distinction has proven elusive for the 28-year-old southpaw from Gilroy, known as “The Ghost.”
The list of reasons is lengthy: a defeat later ruled a no-contest because Guerrero’s opponent was doped up; a year-long layoff caused by a legal dispute with former promoters; a head butt that cut short the biggest fight of his career; and then just last year, the decision to cancel a fight, so he could be with his ailing wife who had an aggressive form of leukemia, which resulted in his title being stripped.
With each new twist in the saga of Guerrero (28-1-1, 18 knockouts), a family man with two kids, there has been a promise that his patience and determination would be paid off in full. One more victory would lead to the big one—a fight that would make him a household name.
That same promise is again being made in advance of Guerrero’s Saturday night bout with Australia’s Michael Katsidis (27-3, 22 KOs), which will take place on the “Action Heroes” card in Las Vegas and be televised on HBO Pay-Per-View.
And yet, something seems to be different this time around.
Guerrero’s wife, Casey, has been cancer-free for more than a year, and the fighter’s life has regained a semblance of normalcy.
“Now that Casey is 100 percent and healthy, I’m able to get out to a training camp,” says Guerrero, who has been in Las Vegas for the last month, but says he’s been so focused that he hasn’t even visited the Strip.
“It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. Pretty much everything revolved around Casey to get her better and healthy.”
Deciding to be by his wife’s side and relinquish his title by canceling the fight has resulted in the Boxing Writer’s Association selecting Guerrero as its Courage Award recipient.
“It was going to be huge and it was a tough decision,” he says. “Damn, this is an opportunity of a lifetime—HBO, world championship fight, everything is there. But in my heart, I just couldn’t do it. Knowing I had to leave and go train and not being by Casey’s side while she’s getting a bone marrow transplant—it was a no-brainer.”
What makes this fight feel slightly different than those bold promises is the restrictive sanctions imposed by boxing’s alphabet soup organizations.
Saturday’s bout is being billed as an interim WBA and WBO lightweight championship. If Guerrero were to win, giving him five world titles in three different weight classes, he would become a mandatory challenger to the legendary Juan Manuel Marquez, assuming Marquez doesn’t retire or change weight class. Guerrero could also move up from 135 to 140 pounds if he doesn’t find an opponent to his liking.
With a soon-to-be released documentary detailing the travails of Guerrero and his family these past few years, a victory Saturday would be the kind of climax made for movies.