Out of the shadow of the valley, a Ghost

Robert

The Ghost

Guerrero is the kind of guy who defies the modern stereotype of
the arrogant, angry young athlete. He’s a great boxer, no doubt,
but he’s also a humble student of his sport, a good father and a
gracious young man.
Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero is the kind of guy who defies the modern stereotype of the arrogant, angry young athlete. He’s a great boxer, no doubt, but he’s also a humble student of his sport, a good father and a gracious young man.

Heck, he wears his religion on his sleeve … or more accurately, on his trunks. No, really – Guerrero’s got “ACTS 2:38″* on the back of his boxing trunks. It’s a fitting verse for the gifted kid from Gilroy, who through his words and deeds looks to put the “holy” back into “ghost.”

Clean-cut, humble, religious. So how come this world-class talent isn’t better known in his own hometown? He’s No. 6 in the world, for crying out loud. He’s got boxing insiders shouting his praises from the rooftops. And he’s doing it all without the hyper-inflated ego we see so often in the sporting world.

How is it that when I go to the convenience store and ask the clerk what he thinks about Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, the clerk says, “Robert who?”

Why, when I pop into In-and-Out Burger after driving back to Gilroy from a Guerrero fight in Lemoore, does the guy at the counter know The Ghost but have no idea he was fighting that night?

It’s a real puzzler. As Guerrero’s trainer, John Bray, told me a few months ago about his boxer, “He don’t drink, he don’t smoke, he don’t chase the broads.”

OK, put on the brakes, back up a minute. Broads? Are we talking about Rocky Marciano or Robert Guerrero here? Did we just time-travel back to ringside at Longshoreman’s Hall in 1949 or something?

In many ways, yes we did, and it helps to explain why Robert Guerrero isn’t yet a household name just a couple of doors down from his own house.

The fight game is a culture all its own. “Casual” fans are in fact not really fans at all. They may take time out to watch the big heavyweight fight, they may have an inkling about superstars like a Roy Jones, Jr. or an Oscar de la Hoya. But do they know who Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez are? Let alone Adrian Valdez – the game featherweight contender dominated by The Ghost last Friday in Lemoore?

Real boxing fans – and I’m not pretending I’m one of them, though I’m getting closer, thanks to The Ghost – dwell in a world of their own. It’s a world of dingy gyms and spit buckets and cheap cigars and Burt Sugar. It’s a world of hard-boiled trainers like John Bray, who speak the funny way they do because they come from an unbroken line of brawlers and jabbers and sweet scientists stretching back to the Regency.

Finally, it’s a world full of, let’s face it, pretty scary guys. It’s a bit unnerving to hang around with people who could pepper your face with about 10 punches before you lifted your hands above your hips.

This is the world The Ghost inhabits. It links directly to the Golden Age of boxing, when Dempsey, Louis and Marciano made the fights the biggest draw in the country, give or take a Seabiscuit.

Today, though, it’s a limited world. Dempsey and Louis have been replaced by Bonds and Brady as the biggest stars on the stage. Modern sports fans laugh when they hear the word “broad,” if they’re not outright offended by it.

It’s incredibly tough, even for a champion, to break out of boxing, to become a superstar.

But here’s the thing. The Ghost has a very good chance to do just that.

“He is so clean-cut, such a model citizen kind of a guy,” says his publicist, Mario Serrano. “Those are the only kind of guys who become breakout stars (in boxing).

“Who better to be an ambassador of boxing than Robert Guerrero?”

Folks, if you haven’t been paying attention to him yet, it’s time to start. Go to his Web site, www.robertguerrero.com and get on the mailing list. Because when the kid from the Garlic City gets his title, when he becomes that household name, you’re going to want to say to all the bandwagon-jumpers that you knew him way back when.

Trust me on that one.

* Acts 2:38: “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”

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