The mental game is every bit as important as the physical work that happens in the ring, and Fernando Guerrero (27-3-0, 19 KOs) knows it. It’s a lesson that will play out for him Friday when he takes on Caleb Truax (25-2-2, 15 KOs) at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT on Bounce TV from Full Sail Live in Winter Park, Florida.
It’s a lesson he learned in his Greatest Hits, from the highs of an outdoor ring walk to the lows of going into a huge fight with a depleted corner.
3 vs Ossie Duran, October 10, 2009, at Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, Maryland
It was a big step up for Guerrero in 2009 when he took on Ossie Duran. Duran was the most accomplished fighter Guerrero had tangled with at that point in his career, and it was the first time he was scheduled to go 10 rounds.
It was also the first time he was headlining a big venue: Arthur W. Perdue Stadium in his hometown of Salisbury, Maryland, home to the Baltimore Orioles’ Class-A affiliate Delmarva Shorebirds.
“There were over 6,000, 7,000 people there,” Guerrero said. “It was my type of party. Usually when you walk in the ring, it’s not that long. Since I was outside and it was my crowd, they made it longer. Then I had to run inside the ring. I felt like Muhammad Ali going in, fighting outside in the Thrilla in Manilla.”
There’s one other meaningful way in which Guerrero felt like Ali in the third fight against Joe Frazier: He had his arm raised in victory when it was all said and done. He earned a majority decision to give the home crowd something to cheer for.
2 vs Ishe Smith, July 16, 2010, at DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Mississippi
Guerrero's next two fights after beating Duran were over in a combined six rounds, but Ishe Smith would take him to the 10th for the second time in his career. And that’s when he had to learn something about staying focused.
Though he was comfortably in control of the fight, Guerrero went down in the eighth round. He maintains it was a slip, but referee Randy Phillips ruled it a knockdown. Guerrero still prevailed unanimously on the scorecards, but the knockdown ruling made a comfortable fight just a little bit tighter than he would've preferred.
“I felt very confident. I had a good opponent. He brought out a lot of stuff in me,” Guerrero said. “Until I slipped, I was just outboxing him easy. Then I did a stupid thing. I started brawling with him when I had the fight won. It was a lesson to me. You can’t get your emotions involved like that. You’ve just got to keep with the game plan.”
1 vs Peter Quillin, April 27, 2013, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York
The last lesson was the hardest one, though. If the Duran bout was about the joys of fighting in front of an adoring home crowd, his 2013 title match against 160-pound world champ Peter Quillin at Barclays Center, in the heart of Quillin’s Brooklyn territory, was about the perils of hostile territory—particularly when you’re going in alone.
Guerrero was training at the time with Virgil Hunter, who also trains Amir Khan. Khan was facing Julio Diaz in the United Kingdom on the same night of the Guerrero-Quillin fight, and Hunter traveled overseas to support Khan, leaving Guerrero without his cornerman.
“I went in there without my trainer. A lot of people don’t understand,” Guerrero said. “I came from a baseball stadium [in the Duran fight], loving crowd, Fernando Guerrero bobblehead and everything. Then, my coach wasn’t by me. I was getting ready to fight for the world title and he just disappeared. That really hurt me. I’d never been abandoned before.”
It was a bad knight for Guerrero. The powerful Quillin knocked him down twice in the second round and twice more in the seventh before referee Harvey Dock waved it off, giving Guerrero just the second loss of his career.
It wasn’t the knockdowns that stung the most.
“The only thing that really hurt me was that it felt like me against the world,” Guerrero said. “When you go to war and your general just switches sides and you’re willing to put your life on the line with your general, and then he’s not there? It takes a big part of you. Since I overcame that, I realized that no matter what happens, I’ve got to be victorious. It doesn’t matter if your mama’s not there, your daddy’s not there or your coach isn’t there. No matter what, you’ve got to win.”
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