GILROY, Calif. – Robert Guerrero is a stranger to the spotlight that has been on him since his mega-match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. was announced, but you’d be hard-pressed to recognize it.
Guerrero exudes the confidence of a fighter who believes – no, knows he will defeat “Money” Mayweather on May 4 in Las Vegas. He says the self-belief comes from all the trials and tribulations he’s faced outside of the squared circle. The endless nights sleeping on the hospital floor on the bedside of his leukemia-stricken wife, Casey. The pundits and fans that mocked his calls for a fight with Mayweather just a year ago.
Those experiences only helped to fuel “The Ghost.” He knew he would earn a fight with Mayweather given the opportunity to do so. And he did. He jumped up from 135 pounds to 147 and looked good defeating Selcuk Aydin last summer. Then he signed to fight Andre Berto, what observers were calling a “50-50 fight,” though Guerrero never saw it that way and proved it, dropping Berto twice en route to a wide decision win.
Once again, Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 knockouts) vehemently disagrees with the media’s outlook on his chances. The general consensus is that Guerrero will give Mayweather a run for his money and fall short. But Guerrero’s self-confidence never wavers for a second.
Sure, all fighters are confident and every one of Mayweather Jr.’s 42 opponents predicted victory before they got into the ring. But as I watched Guerrero shadow box in the ring, I knew he actually meant it.
“He says there’s no blueprint to beat him. I told him I already have the blueprint,” Guerrero calmly said to the assembled media while throwing punches in the air at his hometown Gtown Boxing Gym in Northern California. “I know that [Jose Luis] Castillo was in that [fight] and everybody else thinks that except him.
“There is a blueprint to beat him and I’m excited that I have the opportunity to go out there and do it.”
Unlike many fighters who use their underdog status for motivation, Guerrero says he is unfazed by it because he knows he will win. He says that he’s not looking to prove anyone wrong. It’s as if the result has already happened.
“When you’re patient, good things come your way,” Guerrero remarked assuredly. “[The opportunity] is here now and I’m ready for it. I’m excited that I’m getting the opportunity to be one of the best fighters in the world. I just go and do my job. I don’t think about [being an underdog].”
So what is going to separate Guerrero from Mayweather’s other opponents, all who had gameplans and couldn’t execute on fight night?
“I’m mentally strong. I’m a thinker in the world,” said Guerrero, 29. “I’m a thinker in the ring. I can change it up. Floyd Mayweather can change gears and can adapt to any style; so can I. If one thing isn’t working in the ring I’m able to change to something else.
“Hopefully he’s ready for that, because he’s been picking and choosing who he’s going to fight, guys that are tailor made for him, guys that he knows he’s gonna beat, guys that he knows he’s gonna break down in the ring mentally. Hopefully he’s ready.”
THE RING’s No. 3 welterweight believes that one of Mayweather’s greatest assets is his penchant for pre-fight mind games, a tactic Guerrero swears he won’t fall victim to.
“He’s intimidating fighters and in this game, psychological warfare is big,” said Guerrero, who is trained by his father, Ruben. “You can break a fighter at a press conference. That’s what he does.
“He talks about how big a fighter he is, how he’s the best, he’s the real deal, he has money and cars and he’s a millionaire, [has a] private jet, this, that. That don’t mean nothing to me. It makes me laugh. He’s trying to break me down mentally because he knows I’m a threat.”
And it’s not just that Guerrero thinks he’s a better fighter than Mayweather, which he truly seems to believe. It’s that Guerrero thinks he is getting Mayweather at exactly the right time, when he’s “ripe for the picking.”
Guerrero cited the pound-for-pound king’s last outing, a win over Miguel Cotto that was unusually exciting for a Mayweather bout, and said that Mayweather’s legs aren’t what they used to be. He also pointed to “Pretty Boy” Floyd’s jail stint last summer.
At 36, Mayweather is entering the final stage of his career. Every fighter has to get old at some point. When will Mayweather’s time be up?
Guerrero smirked, as if he knows something we all don’t, before saying “everybody thinks he’s unstoppable.”
Photos: Naoki Fukuda
Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger