Robert Guerrero began hearing whispers that he was washed up last June, when the former two-division champion had to rise from a fourth-round knockdown during a disputed split decision victory over Aron Martinez.
Those whispers very well may grow into shouts after David Emanuel Peralta’s “Ghost-busting” performance Saturday night.
Fighting for the first time outside of his native Argentina—and for the first time in 15 months—the little-known Peralta (26-2-1, 14 KOs) out-hustled, outboxed and outslugged the man nicknamed “The Ghost” on his way to a shocking 12-round split decision victory at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California.
Two judges scored the bout 116-112 and 115-113 for Peralta, while a third had it 115-113 for Guerrero.
Making the result all the more stunning is the fact Peralta was working as a cab driver in Argentina before being offered his first opportunity to fight a former world champ.
“All thanks to God for the glory. I came to fight, and I knew I would win,” said Peralta, who turns 34 on Wednesday. “He is a very good fighter, but I hit him with the harder shots.”
A 33-year-old southpaw who had been idle since a hard-fought unanimous decision loss to Danny Garcia for a vacant world title in January, Robert Guerrero (33-5-1, 18 KOs) came out strong, sweeping the first four rounds on the scorecards.
However, he was unable to build on that early lead as he was generally beaten to the punch throughout the second half of the bout, almost getting dropped for the fourth time in his career in the ninth round.
Guerrero, who lost the final eight rounds on one card and seven of the last eight on another, didn’t seem overly upset when the decision was announced. Later, though, he disputed the scores.
“I thought I clearly won the fight,” Guerrero said. “For the one judge to say I lost eight rounds sounds crazy to me.
“I won the rounds when I boxed. Peralta was very awkward, but I felt that I won.”
Guerrero yielded a two-inch height advantage to the 5-foot-11 Peralta, yet attacked from the outset, finding the head and body with left-hand leads, crosses and counters over double- and triple-jabs and occasional right hooks.
Even though Guerrero's punches had more steam behind them, Peralta stood his ground and even forced the action at times in Round 2, when a counter right hand landed cleanly and earned Guerrero’s respect.
Guerrero regained momentum in the third, though, cornering and opening a cut over Peralta’s right eye from a ruled punch (although the gash appeared to have been caused by a clash of heads). Then in Round 4, Guerrero twice wobbled his opponent with hard left crosses.
From there, however, Guerrero started to get increasingly sloppy while also struggling to deal with Peralta’s footwork and increased pressure. Over the course of the momentum-swinging fifth through eighth rounds, Peralta jabbed and countered from distance with both hands.
Then in Round 9, the native of Cordoba, Argentina, nailed Guerrero in the face with a big right hand that knocked the ex-champ into a corner. Although the turnbuckle was all that held up Guerrero, television replays seemed to show that Peralta’s left foot had trapped Guerrero’s right, potentially causing the latter’s backward stumble just as the punch connected.
Knockdown or no knockdown, the damage was done, as a frustrated Guerrero never regained his composure, failing to adequately adjust to a sneaky right hand that Peralta landed seemingly at will.
Peralta’s ability to rally over the second half of the fight is all the more impressive when considering he had never previously gone 12 rounds. In fact, he’d only once fought more than eight rounds, that being a 10-round split decision loss Cristian Nestor Romero in April 2015.
“This is very disappointing,” Guerrero said. “But I’ll be back, that you can count on.”
Perhaps, but after falling to such an unheralded opponent, some will undoubtedly suggest that Guerrero’s days as a contender in the talent-rich 147-pound division are over.
The Gilroy, California, native has now dropped consecutive fights for the first time as a pro, and he’s 2-4 in his last six contests. The first three of those defeats were forgivable, coming against undefeated world champions Floyd Mayweather Jr., Keith Thurman and Garcia.
This one was against a fighter who entered Saturday just 5-2-1 in his previous eight contests and who had been mulling retirement while moonlighting as a cab driver.
Now, though, after defeating by far his most accomplished opponent to date, Peralta has put his name on the 147-pound map. He’s also put talk of retirement—and his cab-driving days—on hold.
“No way I’m going to retire now,” he said. “I want to fight the bigger names, and I’ll be ready to fight again soon. This was no joke. I can beat a lot of great fighters.”
In other televised action from the Honda Center, Freddy Hernandez (34-8, 22 KOs) overcame a bloody cut over his left eye and outboxed former champion Alfredo Angulo (24-6, 20 KOs) in a 165-pound battle of Mexicans. Hernandez earned a one-sided, 10-round unanimous decision (97-93 twice, 98-92).
Also, Cleveland’s Terrell Gausha (19-0, 9 KOs), a 2012 U.S. Olympian, remained undefeated with a tough majority decision victory over 154-pound rival Steve Martinez (16-3, 13 KOs) of Bronx, New York. While one judge had the 10-round bout even at 95-95, the other two scored it 97-93 for Gausha, who won the final three rounds on those two cards.
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