He entered the ring with a heart as heavy as his hands.
Robert Guerrero (33-3-1, 18 KOs) may have won a hard-fought decision against a game Aron Martinez (19-4-1, 4 KOs) on Saturday at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, but his mind wasn’t on what he won.
It was on what he lost, instead.
In the days leading up to the fight, one of Guerrero’s family members, cousin Rachelle Rose Perez, unexpectedly passed at the age of 29.
“I was really, really close to my cousin. Man, it just really hit me hard,” he said. “Especially during the weigh-ins, when they buried my cousin. At the press conference, they were doing the rosary and stuff like that, so it really played on my mind, not being able to be there for the family.”
Guerrero’s father and trainer, Ruben Guerrero, noticed the difference in his son.
“His mind wasn’t really clear. I could tell,” he said. “He wasn’t 100 percent there because of what was going through his mind. We tried to roll through whatever happened and not let it get to us, but it got to me real bad. I tried not to show it, I tried to keep him focused, but I could tell he wasn’t focused for a little bit.”
Still, after a slow start where Martinez was able to press the action, hammer Guerrero on the ropes and score a knockdown in Round 4, Guerrero regained composure and began to reassert himself in Round 5.
He swung the momentum in his direction by fighting on the outside in the center of the ring, keeping Martinez at the end of his jab.
“Once I got behind my jab and started boxing, turning him, I was freezing him up,” Guerrero said. “He didn’t know what to do. He was just waiting for me to come in and hopefully catch me with a good shot and counter me. He was trying to draw me back into fighting him on the inside, which was pretty much his only chance. So I just stuck on the outside and boxed him a little bit.”
Guerrero says that he was prepared for Martinez’s game plan, which was predicated on getting right in Guerrero's face and enticing him into a brawl.
“That’s what I expected from him, to go for broke and give it all he had,” Guerrero said. “He used his head very well inside there. That’s why I just started boxing from the outside because he really started trying to use that head.”
Guerrero’s victory over Martinez was his quickest return to the ring in five years after he lost a fiercely contested fight to Keith Thurman in March.
He’s said that he’d ideally like to fight twice more this year.
Before looking too far into the future, though, Guerrero's taking a moment to deal with the heartache of the present.
“You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to take care of business,” he said of attempting to process the loss of cousin while fighting on. “Thank God I got the win. The fight was dedicated to [Rachelle].”
For complete coverage of Guerrero vs Martinez, visit our fight page.