(Robert Guerrero threw out the first pitch of an Oakland A's game Sunday, photo courtesy of Stephanie Trapp / TrappFotos)
It has been more than a year and a half since a major fight took place in northern California. The region is home to arguably three of the sport's best fighters in the world, with Oakland's Andre Ward, San Leandro's Nonito Donaire and Gilroy's Robert Guerrero all winning their assortment of important bouts over their careers.
Ward returns to Oakland on Sept. 8 after fighting in southern California and Atlantic City in his last two contests. Donaire has not fought once in northern California since bursting on the scene following a devastating KO of Vic Darchinyan five years ago. Guerrero hasn't fought in the area since 2009.
The three fighters have a good rapport with each other and always seem to be trying to one-up each other with each fight. Guerrero has a chance to sway the locals in his favor with a victory over Selcuk Aydin in San Jose on Saturday, televised by Showtime.
“It's awesome because Andre and Nonito and myself, we're all from the same amateur team,” said Guerrero Sunday to TQBR. “We grew up together in the amateur scene. To build boxing up to what we did, is awesome. Us three are out there doing big things in boxing and bringing it over here. Like I said, it breeds big opportunities for other fighters as well.”
Guerrero returns to the HP Pavilion July 28 in a 12-round contest, which is only a few exits from where he grew up. This will be his fourth appearance at the home of hockey's San Jose Sharks, yet he hasn't scored anything close to a career defining victory there just yet. Against Aydin, Guerrero has a chance to make a big statement as he hurdles two divisions up in weight to take on a fully developed beast of a 147-pounder in Turkey's Aydin.
“I'm excited that I'm fighting back home, especially for the fans,” said Guerrero. “Especially the fighter that I'm getting in with. He's a straight forward fighter that uses a lot of pressure and hits hard, that always makes for good fights. It's gonna be a great fight for everybody and I'm excited. Put that all aside, the main goal is to get the win.”
The last time Guerrero fought a major bout at the “Shark Tank” was in March 2009, when he met little-known Indonesian Daud Yordan in the opening bout of an HBO Boxing After Dark tripleheader. It was just Guerrero's first fight under the Golden Boy Promotions banner with the first being a shake off the rust one-round knockout off-television just a few months prior.
After one round, it looked as though Guerrero-Yordan was going to shape into a nice test for the local draw. Unfortunately, a headbutt occurred in the 2nd round that opened up a cut in a very bad place on the right eyelid of Guerrero and it was decided he should not continue, ending the bout in a no contest.
Having been ringside for that one, many of the fans actually walked out of the arena before Victor Ortiz and James Kirkland would score knockout victories in their scheduled mismatches in front of a half empty crowd.
Guerrero would deliver a more complete performance against overmatched Efren Hinojosa three months later on ESPN2, but has since not fought west of Las Vegas.
You couldn't quite say that Golden Boy has done the best job at moving Guerrero along, though he has made solid stops at the 130 and 135 pound divisions under their banner. One misstep the outfit made was setting up Guerrero's fight with fellow northern Californian Vicente Escobedo on the East Coast in New Jersey in an HBO Boxing After Dark opener rather than somewhere in northern California that would have done positive things for both pugs.
Guerrero scored his best win last April in an exciting slugfest with all-action Michael Katsidis on the well-received "Action Heroes" pay-per-view and looked well on his way to reaching a new level in his career.
Unfortunately, when that point nears in the career of “The Ghost,” something always seems to knock him back a step or two.
In this most recent case, Guerrero was set to fight the indestructible Marcos Maidana in his San Jose homecoming on HBO last August, but suffered a shoulder injury which called for a cancellation and rehabilitation.
Before that, it was his wife Casey's battle with cancer, which she was diagnosed with just a week before a featherweight bout against Martin Honorio, whom he conquered in a one-round drubbing. Guerrero put his career on pause and focused on his wife's health, nearly missing a year of action.
That story thankfully has a happy ending as Casey had bone marrow donated that saved her life. In fact, the young woman who saved Casey's life will be ringside with her to watch Guerrero fight Aydin this weekend.
Though Aydin is not a known commodity stateside, he represents a huge challenge to Guerrero, and if he is successful he could finally be on the verge of a big money fight with a name opponent. It will be a difficult task as Guerrero's long layoff and big move up in weight are two things no fighter wants to take on heading into an important fight, let alone both simultaneously.
“When we were talking Aydin I watched tape on him first to see what he had, I knew he was a tough guy,” said Guerrero. “The guy is undefeated, majority of his fights are KOs, hes been the mandatory for two years. You look at his credentials, he's been avoided like the plague, so I was up for the challenge.
“I really feel like blowing through all the weight classes I've blown through, and trying to get into the mandatory spots and fight all these champions and get my shot, being avoided myself, I had to step out and do something not very many fighters are willing to do," he continued. "That's why I took a step to 147 pounds to take on the hardest punching guy that no one wants to fight.””
Sunday afternoon, Guerrero was in attendance at the Oakland A's come from behind victory of the vaunted New York Yankees, which completed the first four-game sweep at home of the Yanks in team history. Guerrero threw out the first pitch and got quite a reaction from the crowd.
“Whether it is Oakland, San Francisco, San Jose, the fans here are great, they come out and support,” said Guerrero. “That is the main thing, having support from all your fans out there.”
Guerrero hopes that Saturday is just the beginning for him and that finally, for once, he will hit that next level as a fighter. For boxing in the northern California region, hopefully Guerrero draws well enough that Golden Boy will bring him back as a headliner in the future. A number of fighters in the region are starting to hit their stride and could use the support of a Guerrero and Ward to help boost their name.
“It works out for everybody,” said Guerrero. “I keep winning, keep bringing fights out here, it brings opportunities for all the fighters from out here that are striving for what I'm striving for. Being one of the big names in the Bay Area, there is something that comes with that.”
Golden Boy Promotions has not had a good run of it lately with welterweight Victor Ortiz and junior welterweight Amir Khan, two of their biggest names, suffering shock upset knockout defeats in the past two months. Of those three fights, many felt that Guerrero was the one with the stiffest test and now he remains the only one with a chance to bring home the victory.
With Khan and Ortiz both being knocked back a step, Guerrero has a chance to establish himself as one of Golden Boy's most ready fighters for a stiff test if he looks impressive Saturday night. Based on his come forward volume-punching style, it looks to be an exciting fight. Selcuk Aydin possesses the tools necessary to once again upset the Golden Boy apple cart, but Guerrero has faced so much adversity in his life that moving up two weights off a layoff and an injury could figure to be easier for him than most.
Usually fights with this many question marks heading in produce some of the best results.
Mark Ortega can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
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