To deafening screams of adulation and applause, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, anchored his on the ropes, arms raised with a green belt in his left hand, crowned champion once more. The stage was his, and he owned it.
What a night. What a fight. What a moment.
Guerrero’s slick sunglasses he wore at the post-fight news conference didn’t cover all the wounds resulting from his 12-round barnburner against Selcuk Aydin at HP Pavilion on Saturday night.
His forehead, darker in some spots, a disturbing black and blue color – bruised and battered by the punishing punches of his opponent.
Those same reflective lenses, though, also couldn’t hide Guerrero’s satisfaction following a unanimous decision victory. Nor could it conceal the pure and passionate gratification of earning the WBC Interim Welterweight championship of the world seeping from an energetic boxer, who carried a chip on his surgically repaired shoulder into the biggest bout of his career. Whether he admits that’s the case or not.
And Aydin, who came to the United States in search of the biggest win in his career, but will instead return to Turkey with his first professional loss, sat solemnly in the pressroom doing what he could to hide a different set of emotions behind his Aviator sunglasses.
“I hope tonight. I put on a good show for you. I am more angry that I made the people who love me and support me sad,” Aydin said through an interpreter. “I waited three years for this shot. Robert is a very experienced fighter, he taught me a little bit of boxing and I couldn’t do what I wanted.”
But this was Guerrero’s night – one, that for some, surely once seemed unfathomable. He, again, sidestepped a challenge many thought too daunting. But with Guerrero, and his faith, what challenge is too great? He thinks none.
“Bring anybody. Like I said, I’m looking for the best fights. It’s just trying to get these guys in the ring,” Guerrero said. “I’m the mandatory to Floyd (Mayweather Jr.) now. Hey, let’s make it happen.
“I’m the champ now at 147. They used to give me a lot of stuff about Guerrero hasn’t fought anybody, that’s because nobody wants to fight,” he continued. “How am I going to fight anybody if nobody wants to fight? I’m winning titles at different weight classes. I just moved up two weight classes to welterweight and won the title. Let’s make the fights now. There’s no excuse. The only excuse now is if you are avoiding me.”
He said he shook off a little ring rust gathered over a 15-month layoff. In the process a Guerrero most of us hadn’t seen before emerged in the form of a wrecking ball, smashing its way into the 147-pound division – a boxer, quick and fluid with the power to amplify all of the skills honed while fighting at lower weights.
Obstacles, for one reason or another, have been part of Guerrero’s career. Like he did against Aydin in the ring, he has batted away the advances, hunkered down and faced the problem head-on.
Trash talk in the months ahead of the fight turned to a near-brawl at the pre-fight weigh-in Friday and multiplied to an absolutely entertaining and chippy contest. Face to face, body to body and shot for shot, the two pummeled on one another and didn’t disappoint.
Guerrero dug in against a proven welterweight contender for 36 minutes of non-stop action in front of a loudly appreciative crowd, earnestly pulling for its hometown hero.
“It meant a lot fighting back (In San Jose,)” Guerrero said. “It was a war. Everybody loved it. Aydin came to fight. He was throwing bomb after bomb. There were no dud monents. A lot of hard punches were thrown.”
The emotional victory, of course, was shared with wife Casey. Guerrero has said he fights for his family; it’s his livelihood, his means to support his biggest supporters. Ringside sat Casey, and the woman, Katharina Zech, whose bone marrow transplant saved her life two years ago. Zech, who is from Germany, has spent the last few weeks with the Guerrero family. The group first met earlier this year in Arizona.
By their side, the Guerrero’s two children, Robert Jr. and Savannah. He pointed first to them after his win.
“Casey made me want to fight harder and reach my goals,” Guerrero added.
What and, who, Guerrero reaches for next will be decided in the coming months. One thing is for certain, there is no way the shades will block the glare from the spotlight that will now shine upon Gilroy’s own six-time world champ.
The Ghost will be seen.