A day with the champ

A day with the champ

Unlike some of his potential opponents, Robert

The Ghost

Guerrero didn’t turn anyone down. The five-time world champion
boxer greeted most of the about 1,200 fans Sunday who came out in
support of their local hero on Robert Guerrero Day in Gilroy. Full
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Unlike some of his potential opponents, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero didn’t turn anyone down.

The five-time world champion boxer greeted most of the about 1,200 fans Sunday who came out in support of their local hero on Robert Guerrero Day in Gilroy.

“I was more nervous walking over here than a fight,” Guerrero joked addressing the crowd for the first time. “It makes me feel good having Gilroy behind me. I’m homegrown. Born and raised.”

An event spearheaded by Downtown Business Association President Eric Howard and local business owner John Tomasello, Robert Guerrero Day allowed fans to meet the champ, shake his hand, pose for pictures and get an autograph – or two.

“We are blessed to have him,” Howard said. “This is unbelievable to see the community come out like this.”

Guerrero most recently defeated Michael Katsidis to earn the interim WBO and WBA lightweight world titles. And on May 6, The Ghost received the Bill Crawford Courage Award given by the Boxing Writers’ Association of America.

The Ghost’s achievements inside the ring were indeed recognized, but at the heart of the occasion was another opportunity for Guerrero to demonstrate his advocacy for cancer research.

All proceeds from food sales, raffle items and donations went toward the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society – a cause close to Guerrero and his wife Casey, who was diagnosed with leukemia in 2007 and received a life-saving bone marrow transplant in February 2010.

“Everything that is raised today is all for cancer research, and that right there is one of the most important things being in my shoes is to get out there and make a difference,” Guerrero said. “I may be the fighter, but we are all going to knock out cancer.”

Throughout the day, a booth was available for those interested in becoming bone marrow donors. At the conclusion of the six-hour event, 53 individuals had signed up, said Trina Brajkovich, account executive for Be the Match – National Marrow Donor Registry.

“You can’t even measure what something like this does. It makes a huge difference,” Brajkovich said. “Unless people know someone, it’s a one-ear-out-the-other sort of thing. So when a celebrity can bring some attention to it, it makes a big difference.”

The afternoon was filled with celebration, city camaraderie and even a boxing demonstration with Guerrero and his father and trainer Ruben Guerrero. The day also included Mayor Al Pinheiro giving Guerrero the key to the city.

“Let me reiterate, he’s a Gilroy native,” Pinheiro said to a roaring crowd as he presented the 28-year-old Guerrero with the key – the first citizen to receive the distinction.

Guerrero was also awarded the Chiefs Challenge Coin by Gilroy Police Chief Denise Turner, a certificate of appreciation from the American Legion Gilroy Post and three certificate of commendations from the office of Supervisor Mike Wasserman, the Gilroy Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Association.

“Everybody coming out is what it’s all about,” Guerrero said in between penning his name on a miniboxing glove. “It’s about the community coming together. They embrace me and my wife. It’s nice to have that support from everyone. I’ve seen faces that I’ve seen since I was a kid. Everybody is enjoying themselves.”

California Assemblyman Luis Alejo also read a proclamation dedicating May 15 as Robert Guerrero Day in Gilroy.

“He’s just wonderful,” said Sylvia Parker, who got The Ghost’s autograph for her husband – a cancer survivor. “He signed it ‘Get Well.’ ”

Gloria MacVicar, owner of California Silk Screening, donated 150 specially made T-shirts which sold out by 3:30. MacVicar was first diagnosed with terminal cancer nine years ago and goes through treatments once every three weeks.

“Cancer isn’t running my life,” she said.

Fans with those shirts, boxing gloves and photos formed a line for autographs that rarely dwindled.

“He’s for the people,” Ruben Guerrero said. “He’s not all about himself. He’s humble and a regular guy. He will always do something for someone else.”

Erik Killin and his wife Jessica, a breast cancer survivor, drove more than three hours from a town near Redding to partake in Robert Guerrero Day.

“Nine out of 10 boxers are down-home guys,” Killin said. “And (Robert) is just that.”

Brothers Robert Garza, 14, Ernesto, 13, and Gabriel, 10, were antsy as they waited in line to meet The Ghost.

“This is the first time I get to see him up close and talk to him,” Robert said.

Station 55 and Lizarran Tapas Restaurant donated the food which kept patrons fueled and energized for the three live music acts – including Bombshell Bully’s and J.J. Hawg.

“Extra kudos to Station 55 which had its employees out there helping out,” Howard said.

Donations were also contributed by Garlic City Books, Garlic City Billiards, The Salvation Army and Sysco Foods.

All told, $4,200 was raised, Howard said, with one-third of the proceeds directed toward Be The Match and the remaining given to LLS.

“(John Tomasello and I) both thought it went off better than expected,” Howard said.

There was some boxing business involved too, as publicist Mario Serrano teased the crowed a bit hinting toward a possible August 6 card in San Jose.

Guerrero, as always, made it clear he will fight anyone at anytime.

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