The last month has been a whirlwind for 16-year-old Jesse James Guerrero, who will make his professional boxing debut against an undetermined opponent in a 108-pound bout on Saturday in Rosarito, Mexico. The incoming Gilroy High junior was planning on becoming a pro when he turned 18, but his goal was accelerated once U.S.A. Boxing—the national governing body for amateur, Olympic style boxing—cancelled all of its events through 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to Ruben Guerrero, Jesse’s father and older brother of Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero.
But it wasn’t until the July 4th weekend when the wheels got set in motion for Jesse to turn pro. That’s when Bob Santos—an established pro boxing manager who was instrumental in Robert’s Hall of Fame-caliber boxing career—saw Jesse in a sparring session. Santos is well connected in the boxing industry and was instrumental in setting up Saturday’s match. Ruben Guerrero Sr., who trained four of his five sons to pro boxing careers, already had it in the back of his mind that his grandson Jesse was ready to go pro.
“I see a lot of potential in him,” Guerrero Sr. said. “He has a lot of pro game, more of a pro style boxer than amateur. I’m going to groom him up right, match him up (with the right opponents) and do what it takes for him to be a world champion. We take it step by step, and this is the next big step.”
Jesse has experienced every gamut of the emotional spectrum in the last couple of weeks.
“A lot of confusion at first, but then things became clear once I was able to think it over,” he said. “When I get to Mexico, I feel like there’s going to be a wow moment and I’ll say to myself, ‘This is actually happening and I’m going to do this.’”
Jesse had a poignant conversation with his grandfather when they talked about the pros and cons of going pro at such a young age.
“He told me, ‘You know what grandpa, I want to turn pro,’” Guerrero Sr. said. “I looked at him and knew he was serious. I said, ‘Alright, this ain’t no game. You’re going to fight men now.’ I looked at him and knew he was ready, and I told him I was 100 percent for him.”
Jesse trains out of the Pound 4 Pound sports fitness center in downtown Gilroy, which is owned by the Guererros. Another up and coming boxer, Diego Castillo, also trains at the facility along with veteran pro Colombian Oscar Escandon, who is 26-5 with 18 knockouts. Jesse has the unique opportunity to train with both of the fighters, and the sparring sessions with Escandon has accelerated his learning curve. Jesse has only been boxing consistently for the last three years, having grown up with football as his favorite sport.
Around Jesse’s eighth-grade year, his father Ruben asked him why he was still messing around with the pigskin when his obvious talent was inside the ring.
“It was a tough-love conversation,” Jesse said. “That’s when it all changed, when I started working out with my dad with the focus on boxing.”
A 5-foot-8 and a feathery-lite 108 pounds, Jesse possesses quick feet, a fierce left hook and an effective jab. The Guerreros are boxing royalty, characterized by a blue-collar work ethic and fierce competitiveness. Family lineage aside, comparisons would be unfair at this point as the focus has been on putting Jesse on a progressive path and maximizing his potential–however high that ceiling may be.
“Boxing runs in his blood,” Guerrero Sr. said. “He’s got power and hits like a 125 pounder even though he’s at 108. Even Oscar said this kid has got a lot of power.”