The Ghost Haunting the Ring

The Ghost Haunting the Ring

Bouncing on the balls of your feet, you come out of the tunnel,
pause at the apron, climb up and under the ropes, and soak in the
roar of the crowd. It’s an electric journey for any boxer.
It’s a journey Robert

The Ghost

Guerrero hasn’t made in quite some time.
Bouncing on the balls of your feet, you come out of the tunnel, pause at the apron, climb up and under the ropes, and soak in the roar of the crowd. It’s an electric journey for any boxer.

It’s a journey Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero hasn’t made in quite some time.

When Gilroy’s NABF featherweight champion steps into the ring tonight to face Sammy Ventura of Cárdenas, Mexico, it’ll mark the end of one of the longer layoffs in the young southpaw’s career. Guerrero’s last fight, a 12th-round TKO of Adrian Valdez in defense of his North American Boxing Federation belt, was way back on April 1. An elbow injury scratched a proposed July bout for the Ghost, and tonight’s fight at the Palace Indian Gaming Center in Lemoore will be his first – and perhaps only – warmup for a WBC title shot, possibly in early December.

Guerrero is feeling fit and ready to fight after a summer of recovery and honing his already considerable skills.

“I don’t feel nothing at all in my elbow,” he said Thursday evening after the weigh-in for tonight’s bout.

“I just want to get in there have some fun, shake out some cobwebs. Just get out there and do my thing.”

He’ll have every opportunity to do so against Ventura in the fifth bout of an 11-fight card in Lemoore.

Guerrero’s shortest fight to date was a technical knockout of David Vasquez just 1:02 into the first round of a scheduled 10-round bout on May 4, 2003 at the Trump 29 Casino in Coachella.

Could that personal record be tested tonight at the Palace?

When the Ghost stands in against Ventura of Cárdenas, Mexico in their scheduled 10-rounder, he’ll be facing a fighter on the downslope of his 10-year career. Ventura, 30, ran off a string of 12 straight wins – 10 by knockout – after losing his pro debut to Jorge Ramirez on March 11, 1994. But since beating Ricardo Sanchez on June 21, 1997, Ventura has lost more often than he’s won, in the process getting knocked out 11 times – five times in the first or second round.

To put some more perspective on tonight’s apparent mismatch, Guerrero and Ventura share a single common opponent, Adrian Valdez. Guerrero thoroughly outboxed the tough Mexican southpaw on April 1 at the Palace before putting the icing on the cake with a stoppage in the 12th and final round.

Ventura, by contrast, was out of his league against an opponent the Ghost dominated, getting knocked out by Valdez at 3:02 into the first round of their Feb. 3, 2003 fight.

Guerrero is aware that in the context of the career arc his management team has planned for him, the Ventura fight is less highlight than filler.

“It’s a fight to get me back in the ring,” he said. “I’ve got my next big fight on Dec. 2. I need to get my skills so when I do fight for my title, I’m ready.

“God willing, I stop him early on, but if not, I have to do my thing for the distance.”

Still, the Garlic City bomber realizes it’s unwise to take any fight for granted.

“Any guy that has two hands is a danger,” he said. “One punch can change anything – from a low blow, to a punch you don’t see coming. The second you lose focus, is the second you wind up on your back.”

That said, Guerrero feels his boxing skills are more honed than they’ve ever been. He has now been with trainer John Bray for almost a year. And lately, Bray has arranged for the Ghost to spar with some of the best of the best in the lower weight divisions, including three current and former world champions – Manny Pacquiao, Isreal Vasquez and Lavka Sim.

“Out of all my 15 fights, this is the best training camp I’ve had,” Guerrero said. “The sparring I got, three champs in one camp, is just incredible.”

Tonight’s fight is expected to start at about 8:30pm, according to a member of the Palace staff. As with Guerrero’s April 1 win over Valdez, also at the Palace, a vocal contingent from Gilroy is expected to be on hand.

Guerrero, grateful for that loyal fan base, continues to marvel at his own and other Gilroy athletes’ success.

“That (Little League Softball) World Series team, playing on ESPN2, me fighting on FOX Sports, it’s amazing that so many of us come from this little town,” he said. “I’m No. 2 in the WBC rankings. It’s just incredible that I might have a title fight this year. It’s incredible to come from a little town like Gilroy and get this far.”