12 Rounds With … Robert Guerrero

Former two-division world champion Robert Guerrero knows there are boxing pundits and fans out there questioning why he doesn’t just call it a career and retire.

Robert Guerrero

Former two-division champion Robert Guerrero faces a tough challenge Saturday night against former 135-pound titleholder Omar Figueroa Jr. in a 147-pound showdown Saturday night in Long Island, New York. (Andy Samuelson/Premier Boxing Champions)

But the 34-year-old Northern California native and car aficionado insists there is plenty left in his gas tank, and he plans on proving that Saturday night when he takes on former 135-pound titleholder Omar Figueroa Jr. in a 10-round prime-time showdown at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Long Island, New York (FOX, 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT).

Robert Guerrero (33-5-1, 18 KOs), who won world titles at 126 and 130 pounds along with interim championships at 135 and 147, has lost three of his last four fights, but the 5-foot-9 southpaw insists he has completely retooled his body and revamped his game plan since dropping a 12-round split decision to unheralded Argentine David Emanuel Peralta last August.

The fighter known as “The Ghost” recently took a break from training in his lifelong hometown of Gilroy, California, to discuss Saturday’s big showdown, why he’s not ready to hang up his gloves just yet and what doesn’t go well with garlic.

How do you view your upcoming fight against Omar Figueroa?

Every fight is big, but I know that I have to win this one to get back on top and see what’s on the other side. Deep down in my heart I know I can still fight at a championship level. I just took it back old-school for this fight and you’re gonna see the results Saturday night. 

What have you been up to for the most part since your last fight?

It wasn’t a year off, but it was a year out of the fighting ring. It was rebuilding and going back to the drawing board. I went back right after the last fight and took a couple of weeks off, and then got right back in the gym and started focusing on what I must do to get back on track. Really going back to that drawing board and rewriting everything. 

You’ve said before that you don’t want to be anyone’s steppingstone. Do you look at this fight as possibly being your last stand?

I think every fight is your last stand. Everybody can be a steppingstone because that person is trying to beat you to get to the top. I look at it the same way; I look at him as a steppingstone. No matter who is in that ring, the loser is going to be the steppingstone. And I’m not coming to lay down.

What are your general thoughts about Figueroa?

He is a good fighter—strong, young and ambitious. You have to be ready for a guy like Omar. He throws a lot of punches, he’s unorthodox, switches stances a lot. He throws a lot of lead right and lead left hands, and from different positions. But if I put the game plan together right and stay focused in the ring, he’s very beatable.

Regardless of what happens against Figueroa, you’ve had a remarkable career. Have you at all seriously contemplated retirement?

No, but it’s coming, and it’s coming fast. Time flies by and you have to sit back and look at the bigger picture and see how you feel, how your body is holding up. And then I will go from there. But I feel great. I feel like I haven’t felt in a long time and I can’t wait to get out there.

Can you tell us about your CrossFit training?

I’ve been CrossFitting the last six months and it’s helped out a lot. I had done it before in the past and worked with it but kind of fell away from it. I had one great fight with [Yoshihiro] Kamegai [in June 2014] but backed completely off of it.

Dave Castro, a really good friend of mine who runs CrossFit, set me up with a guy out of Santa Cruz, Greg Amundson, who did a tremendous job. He tailored a lot of workouts to what I need in the boxing ring, he came to the gym and studied how I move—my leg work, the arm work, the elusiveness in the ring and the different angles your body goes into. He tailored a bunch of workouts to fit the profile of a fighter.

It’s been great, kept me in shape and just able to come into the boxing gym and work hard. I didn’t have to worry about getting in shape, didn’t have to worry about making weight. I could just work on technique and take care of business.

Every fight is big, but I know that I have to win this one to get back on top and see what’s on the other side. Deep down in my heart I know I can still fight at a championship level. Former two-division champion Robert Guerrero, on fighting Omar Figueroa Jr. on Saturday night

Everyone is talking about the upcoming Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Conor McGregor showdown. Since you fought Mayweather four years ago (Guerrero lost a unanimous decision in a 147-pound title bout), what do you think of the fight?

Mayweather has too many skills. He’s too fast, his footwork is too fast, his reaction time, his counterpunching. I think it’s way too much for McGregor, especially in that boxing ring.

You have the best boxers in the world who could barely land a shot on [Mayweather]. The fastest fighter besides Mayweather, [Manny] Pacquiao, couldn’t really touch him. I don’t see McGregor really doing anything in the ring but being a catcher’s mitt and taking punches.

How did you get your nickname?

I was 9 years old and I got in the ring and sparred, and would let punches fly … step off to the side, let more punches fly … and then go back again the other way and let more punches fly. The kid I was sparring was like, “He’s like a ghost. He’s there and not here.” Ever since then, it’s stuck.

Your hometown of Gilroy is known as the “Garlic Capitol of the World.” What’s the craziest thing with garlic you’ve eaten?

Garlic ice cream.

Was it any good?

I had it once and never had it again (Laughs).

Are you upset about the Oakland Raiders relocating to Las Vegas?

I’m kind of heartbroken but I do have a home in Vegas, so it looks like I’ll have to visit more often. I’m excited because they’re gonna have a good season this year. And they still have two more years up here.

What’s one thing people don’t know about you that would probably surprise them?

I’m a pretty good welder and fabricator. I can rebuild cars; I can build any kind of fence you want. I got a lot of talents outside the ring, different blue-collar skills and stuff.

You’re a known car aficionado. What’s your most-prized vehicle?

A white 1958 Chevy Impala convertible. I have a red one, too, but the white one was my first one. It’s my baby.

Working on cars is a family tradition of ours. Watching my dad build lowriders and different cars and motorcycles and stuff, it grows on you and then you just pass on that tradition to your children. My son loves cars and motorcycles. It’s a family thing.

You and your wife, Casey, recently renewed your wedding vows. What was that moment like for both of you, especially considering it was a decade ago that she was diagnosed with leukemia?

Renewing our vows was incredible; it was a special thing. Every woman wants that big wedding, but we were young and just got married real fast [in 2005]. But to be able to give that to her now is incredible, especially with everything she’s been through.

With the ups and downs of her battling cancer and the ups and downs of boxing and everything that just comes along with life, it was nice to be able to renew and have a good time and celebrate 12 years. The most exciting thing was she said “yes” again.

What boxer in history would you most like to have fought?

[Former featherweight champion] Salvador Sanchez. I think he is one of the greatest fighters ever. Watching film on him, the way he moved, the way he threw punches, combinations—just everything about him. I think he’s a guy who would push somebody to the extreme limit. I would love to find out how I would fare against him.

What is your favorite punch to throw, and in what fight did you land it perfectly?

My left hand. I think the most beautiful left hand I landed was after my wife got diagnosed with cancer and I was fighting a guy named Martin Honorio on Showtime [in November 2007]. The first minute of the very first round I landed a beautiful left hand that put him out. I went right home to be with my wife.

If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?

I would eliminate cancer. That’s a rough blow for anybody. Having to experience that with my wife was brutal. I would never want to see anyone have to go through that.

“12 Rounds With …” is published Wednesdays at PremierBoxingChampions.com. Next week: former 147-pound world champion Victor Ortiz.

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