(Photo via Showtime)
When boxing promotional juggernaut Golden Boy Promotions announced their most recent run of major fights, most experts thought if one of the house fighters was going to lose, Gilroy, Calif.’s Robert Guerrero felt the part.
Instead, Golden Boy lost Victor Ortiz to a broken jaw—as well the projected Saul Alvarez pay-per-view showdown that was tied into it. They lost Amir Khan to a figuratively broken chin as he suffered a shock loss to a mostly under-appreciated Danny Garcia.
Noticeably missing from this past fight week in San Jose were Golden Boy Promotions founder Oscar De La Hoya, CEO Richard Schaefer, as well as main matchmaker Eric Gomez. Both are in London for the Olympics, no doubt working on softening up the American boxing team to turn pro with them, likely dangling the announced deal between CBS and Golden Boy to promote their pro debuts on network television.
It must be noted that Schaefer did in fact call Guerrero immediately following the press conference from London, where it was around 6 a.m.
Both De La Hoya and Schaefer were present for Ortiz’s conceived welterweight mismatch with Josesito Lopez and Amir Khan’s predetermined junior welterweight walkover of Danny Garcia. Though both of those were fighters were turned upside down by scrappy and hungry opponents, Guerrero was thought to be in against the stiffest test of the three.
Guerrero had last fought more than 15 months ago in an exciting victory against rugged but fading Michael Katsidis in his first fight against a real lightweight at the 135 pound limit. Prior, Guerrero had mostly fought blown up junior lightweights such as Joel Casamayor but showed he could take a legitimate lightweight punch when he stood up to Katsidis’ power and grinded the Australian down to a decision win.
But in jumping in to fight undefeated Selcuk Aydin, Guerrero was testing him against one of the biggest punchers in the welterweight division. That 12 pound climb in weight was something you don’t often see the house fighter get put against them when taking a step up, but it wasn’t the only thing.
Guerrero came into Saturday’s fight with Aydin coming off a long layoff per the reconstructive shoulder surgery he needed for an injury he suffered in training last August. The injury came just days before he had a chance to secure a potentially career best win over Marcos Maidana.
Khan’s fight did more than 6,500 tickets and Ortiz’s more than 7,300. The only problem with those numbers is more tickets were comped rather than paid for. Guerrero’s number on Saturday that was given to the press at the post-fight press conference was 6,267, but I will go out on a limb and say they broke their three major fight streak of comping more tickets than selling. We’ll be able to know that number for sure from the California State Athletic Commission sometime next week.
Robert Diaz was in town from Golden Boy and did a pretty good job all week. The build-up to the fight was made interesting by Aydin’s decision to play heel, though he turned out to be the ever gracious loser following his close but clear loss to the local draw.
Aydin gave the media a light-hearted moment by saying he felt like Ivan Drago against Rocky Balboa, except he was coming to Rocky’s country to fight him. There was a sense of patriotism in the air given the start to the Olympic Games in London, and there were united chants of “USA” throughout Guerrero’s performance.
Speaking of the Olympics, it is good to see Golden Boy be serious about going after the U.S. Olympic talent pool, which looks deeper than it has since at the very least the 2000 games when many projected future champs were thought to emerge. Through Sunday afternoon, the American team was a perfect 4-0 on the world stage.
If Golden Boy had plans on infiltrating the Games, why not try and get Guerrero’s fight the week earlier on July 21. It could be possible that the HP Pavilion, Saturday night’s venue, was only available for the 28th, but no information could be turned up that the venue hosted anything on July 21.
Though Guerrero has shown himself to possess some of the bigger talent in the sport, it largely feels like he has been overlooked by his own promoter. Guerrero could have reached this level three years ago if he had better luck than he has.
Questionable decision making regarding Guerrero’s career under Golden Boy includes things such as matching Guerrero against fellow northern California fighter Vicente Escobedo on the east coast rather than somewhere the local support could show up and provide a great atmosphere.
Matching Guerrero against former sparring partner and used-up potential Hall of Famer Joel Casamayor was another letdown, as it looked no doubt how some of their sparring sessions might have looked. Guerrero gained nothing from the victory and still found himself in boxing no man’s land.
Now that Guerrero’s wife, Casey, is healthy following a bone marrow transplant, and an always troubled shoulder has been repaired, if Guerrero is going to make a lasting impression on the boxing community for his in-ring work, now is his best opportunity.
Guerrero has deservedly earned the title of being one of boxing’s legitimate nice guys. Interestingly enough, the Guerrero clan showed their most-aptly described “vato”-ness at the weigh-in where a brawl pretty much broke out on Friday. In the post-fight press conference, Guerrero and his team preached the family aspect of their operation, which becomes obvious upon talking to Guerrero for more than five minutes.
From Guerrero’s manager Bob Santos to Mario Serrano — the hard-working publicist who no doubt floods your e-mail inboxes with a vengeance if you’re a member of the media — Guerrero’s team seems so well-constructed that when Guerrero has hit road bumps in his career, you can see where he’s had support to bounce back to his current place.
Will this win get Guerrero a shot at Floyd Mayweather, Jr. the way they want it to? That Guerrero’s own promoter hasn’t seriously discussed Guerrero as an opponent for Floyd on top of the recent dissention between Floyd’s team and Golden Boy, Guerrero should focus his sights on the newly wide open welterweight division and trying to clean house.
In attendance on Saturday was top welterweight Andre Berto, who will soon be looking to bounce back from his brush with performance-enhancing drugs that forced a cancellation of a rematch with Victor Ortiz. USA Today’s Mike Coppinger noted to me that when Berto was announced and booed by the crowd, he laughed, making him wonder if Berto is taking on the role of boxing bad guy in stride.
Now that Antonio Margarito has hung up the gloves for good, Berto could slide into that role rather well, especially considering he already has the necessary massive chest tattoo that guys coming off losses or personal issues tend to sport in the immediate aftermath.
With both Ortiz and Khan being felled in the past two months, Golden Boy should look to shift more of their focus to the career of Guerrero, who has done what few others have: beat a legitimate contender at a weight division four weights above where he first began fighting meaningful fights.
If Golden Boy intends on making an appearance on network TV with the debuts of this crop of U.S. Olympians, why not topping the card with someone like Guerrero, who is likeable, well-spoken, and mostly exciting on top of reaching the Olympic Trials as an amateur?
No word yet on what Guerrero’s purse was for this fight, but I’d estimate that it is remarkably lower than what Ortiz and Khan got for what many thought were going to be lower risk fights.
As a boxing fan, would you be interested in seeing Guerrero against a Berto, a Kell Brook, a Shawn Porter, or another similarly talented welterweight on network TV? Abner Mares has been the speculated headliner for such a card, though his potential opposition pool at junior bantamweight has less to pick from than where Guerrero fights.
Guerrero fights at welterweight will undoubtedly be intriguing due to the thought that Saturday showed he could take a welterweight punch but didn’t have quite have the power at the weight to back off his opponent. Aydin came on late in the fight and Guerrero’s superior experience in big fights proved to be a big disparity as he used all of his smarts to hold off the Turkey based Aydin.
Aydin fairly noted that the level of competition where he began his career was many levels below what Guerrero has been in against his entire career. Guerrero is the furthest thing from a manufactured star; he’s gotten to his current spot the hard way, dusting off early losses and setbacks to prove again and again he belongs in discussions for big fights at whatever weight in which he is looking for work.
One thing I will always recall about Guerrero is the first time I saw him in person, as a fan in June of 2006 in a rematch against scrappy veteran spoiler Gamaliel Diaz, who handed Guerrero his first loss the previous December on ShoBox.
In the first fight, Guerrero shot his wad a bit early and Diaz weathered the storm, coming on late to eek out a split decision win. Guerrero almost fell for the same trap in the rematch, as he jumped all over Diaz, dropping him a number of times before Diaz battled back.
This time, Guerrero showed a little more patience as Diaz began his comeback, finally landing a perfectly placed shot to the body that ended the night and earned Guerrero revenge and valuable learning experience.
Sometimes it must be learned that guys can’t be molded into something they are not. Despite sometimes tense settings, Guerrero has managed to elevate himself to his current status despite not having anything really handed to him the way some of his stablemates have.
It could prove to be what keeps the 29-year-old Guerrero at the top of the game for many years to come.
Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com and followed via Twitter at www.twitter.com/MarkEOrtega. Mark also contributes to renowned boxing publications RING Magazine and Boxing Monthly, and is a member of the Boxing Writer’s Association of America and RING Ratings Advisory Panel.