BOXING: The Ghost goes toe-to-toe with Escobedo on Saturday

Robert "the Ghost" Guerrero in a recent training session. Photo


the Ghost

Guerrero returns to action Saturday for 10-round lightweight
bout with significant title implications at stake against
Sacramento native and 2004 U.S. Olympian Vicente Escobedo.
It’s never just another fight for former three-time world champion boxer Robert “the Ghost” Guerrero.

Whether it’s a bout for the belt or a stepping stone to the next title chance, Guerrero’s mindset is steadfast and straightforward entering any encounter.

“There’s always that drive to be a better fighter,” said Guerrero, who is ranked as the WBO’s No. 1 lightweight contender.

Each time the 27-year-old from Gilroy tightens his gloves and steps inside the ropes, he is fighting as if his career depends on it. And in boxing, most fights do make or break you.

“I look back at everything, all the stuff I have been through in and out of the ring, and you appreciate everything more,” Guerrero said Monday. “And when you appreciate everything, you work that much harder. It’s going into every fight like a champion and a true professional.”

The Ghost returns to action Saturday for 10-round lightweight bout with significant title implications at stake against Sacramento native and 2004 U.S. Olympian Vicente Escobedo.

Saturday’s fight is the co-main event on a two-fight card that will be featured on HBO’s Boxing After Dark live from the Prudential Center in New Jersey.

“This is the next step to that title shot,” Guerrero said. “I’m ready and I know Vince is ready. It’s going to be an exciting one.”

The winner puts himself on the inside track to a lightweight title shot versus either Juan Manuel Marquez, who currently holds the distinction, or Michael Katsidis. The two boxers go at it Nov. 27 in a unified lightweight title fight.

Escobedo, who carries a 22-2 record spanning four years as a professional, had a shot at the interim WBO lightweight title in September 2009, but dropped a decision to Katsidis.

“I feel like I have that experience now,” Escobedo said. “I’ve learned and I think you will see a different Vicente.”

Aside from his match with Katsidis, Escobedo is facing perhaps the biggest fight of his career and his first on HBO.

“It’s a huge opportunity for me,” said Escobedo, who turns 29 on fight night. “To me, this is what every boxer dreams of, being on HBO and being on that top level. This is a fight that I can’t afford to lose, and I believe Robert feels that way as well. I have to go out there and stay focused and dictate the game plan that we have.”

Hours after his unanimous decision victory over veteran Joel Casamayor on July 31, Guerrero (27-1-1) voiced his desire for a shot at the lightweight world title, calling for a match against Marquez.

“You always have to be on top of it, always have to be in shape and always be ready for every fight,” Guerrero said. “I’m still not at that elite level where I think I’m that top guy because there are still guys out there I want to fight. There is so much out there for me.”

The opportunity appears to be on the horizon and it’s Escobedo who now stands in the Ghost’s way.

“This is a fight that you don’t want to miss,” Golden Boy Promotions president Oscar De La Hoya said. “It’s against two young fighters who really are going to put it all on the line and really prove who is the best. We feel, the winner of this fight here, will challenge for the world title early next year.”

Guerrero and Escobedo faced each other three times as amateurs, the Ghost getting the upper hand in two of those meetings.

The fight begins at 8:15 p.m. on the West Coast.

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