Michael Rosenthal

Guerrero feels ‘it’s my time’

Robert Guerrero's decision over Joel Casamayor might've been his most-impressive victory. Howvever, he has bigger plans. Photo / Chris Cozzone-FightWireImages.com

Robert Guerrero has won three major titles in two weight classes, a feat many elite fighters never accomplish. He could retire today and call his career a success.

“The Ghost” is not a major player in the sport, though, not a fighter with a signature victory or national fame, not a fighter who commands seven-figure paydays. That, he hopes, comes next.

Guerrero, 27, faces one-time amateur rival Vicente Escobedo on the Zab Judah-Lucas Matthysse card on Saturday in Newark, N.J., on HBO. If he wins, he might next face the winner of the Nov. 27 Juan Manuel Marquez-Michael Katsidis, which could be his final step to stardom.

“It’s exciting,” said Guerrero, referring to the prospect of facing Marquez. “It’s very exciting to be in there with the best in boxing. Marquez is pound for pound one of the Top 10 in the whole world. To have an opportunity to fight him … I just feel I would be blessed.

“I’m excited to be in this position.”

Guerrero (27-1-1, 18 knockouts) has been fighting professionally since 2001, enough time to have received the opportunity to test his skills against the very best.

However, he has had more than his fair share of obstacles that have hindered his ascension. Losses to Gamaliel Diaz and Orlando Salido, the latter of which was declared no-contest when Salido tested positive for steroids. His wife’s battle with leukemia, which became his first priority. A promotional conflict that kept him out of boxing for a year. And a no-contest fight early last year that prompted some to call him a quitter, which hurt his pride.

Some fighters might’ve asked themselves along such a difficult path whether great success was in the cards. Guerrero said he never did, not once.

He was asked specifically whether self doubt ever crept into his psyche and he paused, as if the question made no sense, before answering emphatically in the negative.

“I don’t let things like that get to me,” he said, referring to his professional setbacks. “I don’t hang my head. I’m move on. I’m a professional fighter. I just try to grow from situations like that.

“There were never times when I thought this [his success] isn’t going to happen. Not at all.”

Guerrero seems to be at his most confident now. His lone loss and the “quitter” fight, when he was cut against Daud Yordan and didn’t demand that the fight go on, are behind him. He has the full backing of Golden Boy Promotions. And, most important, his wife Casey is doing very well.

Plus, he’s coming off the closest thing he has to a signature victory: a onesided decision over 39-year-old former two-time titleholder Joel Casamayor in his last fight.

Guerrero outboxed Casamayor from beginning to end, his only slip up being a flash knockdown when the fight was out of reach in the 10th round. He looked like a gifted fighter at the peak of his ability.

“Robert did a good job against Casamayor,” said Escobedo, who counts Guerrero as a friend. “[Casamayor’s] a difficult fighter. Plus, he’s a southpaw. I guess people said Robert should’ve knocked him out or should’ve done this or that. I still think he gave a good performance. He fought a good fight.”

Escobedo represents a step up in competition for Guerrero not because he’s more gifted than Casamayor but because he’s a very good boxer and in his prime.

Guerrero won two of their three meetings as amateurs in the late 1990s but both of them dismissed those fights as irrelevant. Today, Guerrero is the more-accomplished of the two as Escobedo, a 2004 U.S. Olympian, is still seeking his first major title.

Guerrero seems to be approaching this fight as if he’s facing Manny Pacquiao, though. He can taste that overdue stardom and has no plans to be derailed on Saturday.

“It’s right there in front of me,” he said. “It’s just a matter of taking advantage of the opportunity. I’m ready for it. It all came at the right time. I just think God put me through what I went through so that when it happens, I’ll be ready for it. Everything comes at the right time. It’s here now. It's my time.

“It’s not who makes it there first but who stays there the longest. I’m planning to be there a long time.”

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at RingTVeditor@yahoo.com

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