LAS VEGAS — Roberto Guerrero never looked as muscular and fit as he did as he flexed in front of a mirror after an evening workout at the Elite Boxing Club, a gritty gym housed inside of a guns an ammo warehouse just off the strip.
“This is what happens when you go to a training camp,” said Guerrero, whose formidable physique will be put to the test against Michael Katsidis on the Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana undercard on Saturday.
Serious training camps have been few and far between for Guerrero as he’s attended to his wife Casey, who has bravely battled leukemia over the past three years. Fans know this. They know how the former two-division titleholder has put his career on hold to support her and help take care of their two children, and they applaud him for it.
The boxing industry also applauds Guerrero (28-1-1, 18 knockouts), who will receive the Bill Crawford award for “Courage in Overcoming Adversity” from the Boxing Writers Association of America this year.
Bob Santos wants to know if anyone — particularly members of the media — will applaud Guerrero if the native Gilroy, Calif., defeats Katsidis. The longtime manager of the 28-year-old southpaw doesn’t believe his fighter receives the respect his accomplishments should have earned.
“If Robert beats Katsidis he’ll win his fourth and fifth world titles (the interim WBO and WBA belts) in a third weight class,” Santos told RingTV.com. “There are guys in the pound-for-pound rankings who haven’t done that.
“Four of his last five bouts have come against top fighters. I’m talking about real seasoned professionals, starting with Malcolm Klassen, a two-time junior lightweight champ who was as tough as nails, a former lightweight champ and Olympic gold medalist in Joel Casamayor, followed by another Olympian in Vicente Escobedo, followed by Katsidis, a total powerhouse who’s been one of the best lightweights in the world for years.
“Can he get a little taste of credit?”
If Santos seems defensive it’s hard to blame him. He’s watched his fighter endure a lot of criticism from boxing writers and hardcore fans in recent years, such as the accusations that Guerrero quit after being cut in his No Contest with Daud Yordan and the poor reviews the rangy boxer-puncher received after his lackluster 10-round decision over Casamayor. Santos believes most of the criticism was unwarranted.
“It still bugs me that there were people calling Robert a quitter,” Santos said. “This guy’s fought with cuts, broken hands, no camps, no roadwork, no sleep, you name it. And we wanted a rematch with Yordan. Do you think Yordan’s people wanted any part of that?
“He got ripped left and right after some of his fights, but you guys try sleeping on a hospital floor for three days, skipping running and sparring, and then try fighting an old master like Casamayor. (HBO commentator) Jim Lampley thought Robert should have looked better in that fight, but I asked him to name one guy who won nine out of 10 rounds against Casamayor. I asked him to name one guy who looked good against him.
“During the Escobedo fight Jim said that he gave Robert some undue criticism in the Casamayor fight. I thought that was classy. I have to give Jim credit for that.”
Santos has no doubt that Lampley, who will call the action to Guerrero-Katsidis as part of Saturday’s HBO Pay-Per-View broadcast, will give his fighter plenty of credit for a victory over the rugged Australian.
He’s not so sure that the folks along press row at the MGM Grand, where Saturday’s card takes place, will do the same. They could say that Katsidis (27-3, 22 KOs), who was knocked out by Juan Manuel Marquez in his last fight, was “softened up” by the lightweight champ.
However, Guerrero isn’t worried about what may or may not be said after Saturday’s fight. He’s too content with life to be concerned about criticism or credit. Casey’s leukemia is in remission following a bone marrow transplant, he’s able to once again focus 100 percent on his career, and he feels great fighting at 135 pounds.
“The smartest thing I ever did was go up in weight,” said Guerrero, who is surprisingly understanding when it comes to how his career has been perceived.
“The problem was that I would look good against a Martin Honorio or a Jason Litzau but then I was never able to capitalize on that momentum because of my wife’s leukemia and the court cases (with former promoter Dan Goossen), which probably took a full year away from my career. But all of that is behind me now and I‘m able to give boxing the attention I need to be at my best.”
Guerrero is confident that he’ll put on one of his most impressive performances — if not his best — against Katsidis and he believes that he’ll finally be able to maintain his career‘s momentum.
“I don’t let criticism bother me anymore because I believe that everything happens for a reason and that good things come to those who persevere,” he said. “I believe that my time is now. People are going to see the best of Robert Guerrero and I know they are going to appreciate what they see.”