When it comes to five-time world champion boxer Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, one aspect of his personality that has never wavered is his willingness to challenge whoever whenever. He sees risk as a one-way road to reward. And that has served him well. Despite what seems like one setback after another, the Gilroy native has managed to revitalize and rejuvenate his career – and then ceremoniously dominate opponents.
An injured rotator cuff last July derailed his latest attempt to reach boxing’s pinnacle and forced the cancellation of an anticipated bout versus Marcos Maidana. Successful surgery and diligent rehabilitation has Guerrero saying he is back to 100 percent. A persistent public relations push to land his comeback fight has attracted heavy criticism for what seems like the first time in his 10-plus year pro tenure. But to that, Guerrero just shrugs.
Last Thursday, The Ghost (29-1-1, 18 KOs) signed a contract to face Selcuk Aydin (23-0, 17 KOs), an undefeated 147-pounder out of Germany, sliding up two weight divisions for a shot at the interim WBC welterweight title July 28 at HP Pavilion in San Jose – a hometown bout almost two years in the making. A win would put Guerrero in line as Floyd Mayweather’s mandatory at 147 pounds. The fight Guerrero has wanted all along.
On Monday, I caught up with Guerrero in a phone interview and the champ addressed everything from Aydin to those critics and all that is in-between.
Josh Weaver: What attracted you to the Selcuk Aydin bout?
Robert Guerrero: You know, we were trying to get that (Floyd) Mayweather fight and that didn’t go through. So we were looking for the next best available fight and Aydin is it. He is Mayweather’s No. 1 contender in the WBC, and he has been the No. 1 contender to fight Floyd, (Andre) Berto and Victor Ortiz for the past two years. And none of them want to fight him. So to go out and make a statement, we took the best guy who no one wants to fight. Aydin is the right fight for me and a win puts me as the mandatory for Mayweather’s next fight.
JW: The two of you are in the same position in regard to you both were looking for a top challenge but had trouble finding that. Did that play into the process as well?
RG: It is tough to get a fight when nobody wants to fight you. When you have that style that gives people trouble, like I have, people avoid you like you’re the plague. And that’s the problem with Aydin – he’s a big puncher. The last guy he fought he broke his jaw. So guys like Mayweather and Ortiz don’t want a guy with a big punch like that. They look for guys who they can do their thing against and win.
JW: How do you describe Aydin’s game?
RG: Just like his nickname, “Little Mike Tyson,” he just comes at you full speed throwing hard punches, putting pressure on you and trying to take your head off with every punch. You just have to prep for it, be on your toes and be sharp – capitalize on his mistakes and take advantage of everything we get.
JW: You are moving up two weight classes for this fight. Does your approach in the ring change at all?
RG: I’m excited making the move. Not many people can move up two weight classes. I’m a naturally big guy already, so it’s just about doing everything right with the diet and taking care of
I have the style, the speed, the strength, and the power, to make a move like this and be successful.
JW: It has been an interesting year for you. And for the first time in your career, it seems, you have encountered some negative criticism. How have you dealt with that?
RG: Aw, man, that doesn’t bother me at all. That actually motivates me. I’m the type of guy that makes critics put their foot in their mouths. It has been like this pretty much throughout my career. This time, making the move from 135 to 147, like I said, not many people can do it. And usually fighters go into a tune-up fight before fighting for a title. I’m going straight into it and that’s never been done before. It’s time to prove all the doubters wrong. This will be a tough one to criticize – going up two weight classes for a world championship against a guy no one wants to fight. He is coming to fight and it’s going to be one that everybody remembers.
JW: You were in the best shape of your career prior to your shoulder injury. Are you taking the same training approach as you prepare for July 28?
RG: I’m in great shape right now. But there is a fine line of bulking up the wrong way and too much muscle mass can slow you down. We will sit down and see how we are going to do this diet to make sure we do it the right way. I’m pretty much going to stay loose – you want that snap, you want that speed and be elusive in the ring. If you can fight, you can fight. And if you train right, you can stay strong, stay fast and be dominant.
JW: So when are you officially opening training camp for this fight?
RG: We are looking at the end of May and spending about eight weeks at camp. Even though I’m in great shape and feeling good, I still have to take into consideration that I am going to be out of the ring for more than a year. So we will use a little bit of the extra time.
JW: And in the meantime?
RG: In the meantime it’s about staying fit and taking care of myself until it’s time to go hard.
JW: Speaking of staying fit, everything OK with your shoulder?
RG: Everything is great. I just can’t wait to hit someone with it.
JW: Best of all, we are getting The Ghost back at The Tank.
RG: Oh yeah. It’s going to be awesome. This fight is going to be huge. We are going to make history – 147 pounds going for the interim WBC championship. Like I said I have an opportunity to do something that has never been done before. And to go for it close to home … it’s going to be awesome. Plus, it’s the weekend of the Garlic Festival and people are always looking for something to do after the festival. What’s better than a Guerrero fight?