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Guerrero looking to be two-divison champion

Story by David Robinett
Photo by Chris Cozzone

It has been a year of highs and lows for former IBF featherweight champion Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero, (24-1-1, 17 KOs).

Returning in January after a nearly one-year layoff, Guerrero successfully moved up to the super featherweight division with a first-round knockout of Edel Ruiz. That was followed in March by a calamitous no-contest against Daud Yordan in which Guerrero was perceived by many to have prompted a referee’s stoppage after suffering a cut in the second round. Three months later Guerrero gained a measure of redemption by fighting through another cut and stopping former lightweight contender Efren Hinojosa.

Guerrero’s roller coaster ride has led him to a chance to capture a title in his second weight division this weekend, as he squares off against current IBF super featherweight champion Malcolm Klassen, (24-4-2, 15 KOs), on Saturday night as part of an HBO Boxing After Dark tripleheader from Houston, Texas.

“I’ve been out here for a month and a half in Big Bear [California] getting physically and mentally ready for the fight,” Guerrero told “Those South African guys come in shape and they come to fight, so I know Klassen is going to be ready.”

In assessing the challenge posed by Klassen, Guerrero acknowledged the South African sparkplug might be the toughest assignment so far in his burgeoning career. “He has really fast hands, and not just fast hands but his punch output; he punches over a hundred punches a round and carries that all the way through the fight,” observed Guerrero. “He’s a two-time world champion and to be a champion and to be defending your title, you’ve got to have something in the tank.”

However Guerrero’s confidence is peaking having spent considerable time training with “Sugar” Shane Mosley in the Southern California mountains. “Shane is extremely fast, not just with his hands but with his feet, and then there’s his ring generalship and the experience that he has,” explained Guerrero, describing his preparation for the fleet South African. “It’s a big help to see how crafty Shane is in the ring and it really does up your game a lot just being in there with him.”

Guerrero continued, “Being in camp you always want to better yourself and learn more, and improve on what you already have. We’ve been working on a lot of different things and on fight night its going to show; I think a lot of people are going to be surprised. We’ve been out here working hard and focusing on different things and putting the package together. We’re going to be ready and I’m excited about this fight.”

Guerrero also spoke of the benefit of training far from the distractions of home, despite his strong roots in the San Francisco Bay Area. “Coming down here, being away from everything and focusing on fighting has been really good,” Guerrero acknowledged. “[Training] close to home is always a distraction. Some people may not think it is, but it is. But you’ve got to pay the price if you want to be a champion. To be at that world class level, you got to make the sacrifice and that’s what I’m doing.”

Guerrero’s confident tone is a change from the almost defiant one he was forced to strike earlier this summer, following the onslaught of criticism arising from his no contest against Yordan. Guerrero admitted that having to fight through a similar cut in his next fight out in June was a blessing in disguise.

“A lot of people were looking at me kind of funny because I was happy about getting cut,” said Guerrero, recalling the smile on his face the moment he felt the blood on his face against Hinojosa. “You know I took a lot of heat in the [Yordan] fight about the cut I got there, and it just goes to show what kind of fighter I am and what kind of heart I have to fight through it [against Hinojosa]. Its never good when you get cut, but in that case I was glad it happened.”

Despite the turmoil from earlier this year, Guerrero knows a win over Klassen will shift the focus from the past to the future. However, Guerrero is mindful not to underestimate Klassen, even though Guerrero has the physical advantages and has the home field advantage with this being Klassen’s first fight overseas.

“[Fighting overseas] can be a negative or it can be a plus, it depends how you come prepared,” explained Guerrero. “When I went out to Denmark [to win the IBF featherweight title] I knew I had to make it happen. I worked hard and went out there and got the job done. But like I said before, South African guys come in shape and they come to fight no matter where they are. But I’ve worked hard, and God has blessed me with a great camp and a great opportunity and I am going to be ready for it.”

The August 22nd HBO Boxing After Dark tripleheader at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas begins at 9:45pm ET/PT (tape delayed on the West Coast.)

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