It’s one of the most rare events in boxing: Two fighters advised by power broker Al Haymon going head-to-head.
But in Peter Quillin’s first defense of his WBO middleweight title, he’ll take on managerial stablemate Fernando Guerrero in the co-feature to Danny Garcia-Zab Judah Saturday on Showtime at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I welcome all challengers, but I know there isn’t a middleweight like me,” Quillin, 29, boasted. “I’m the best in the world. I look in the mirror and see myself and say, ‘Even he can’t beat me.’ I know what I’m doing outside of the ring is helping me to be a better fighter in the ring.”
The fight was originally slated to take place on Feb. 9, but when Garcia withdrew, citing a rib injury, the whole card was rescheduled for April 27. On Friday, both fighters missed the 160-pound limit on the first attempt, but after the allotted hour to drop weight, they officially weighed-in at 160 and the title bout is a go.
Just two years ago, Guerrero, 26, was one of the hottest prospects in the sport: He was routinely drawing crowds of 8,000-plus in his hometown of Salisbury, Md., and seemed on the cusp of title contention, a southpaw power-puncher with a deep amateur background. But a shocking stoppage loss to an aging Grady Brewer in June 2011 upset those plans and he’s been on the comeback trail since, fighting four times against opponents with double-digit losses.
Quillin (28-0, 20 knockouts) represents the best opponent of Guerrero’s career by a mile, as well as his first world title shot and his premium network debut.
“I was always told that I was going to be a champion. I never expected anything less,” said Guerrero, a native of the Dominican Republic. “People never expected anything less, but once you get out in the real world, it’s not that easy. You’re not going to be a champion just because people tell you that you’re going to be a champion.
“So now I’m here to prove it to the world and especially to myself. I heard it before. I want to make it true, and do it for everybody that believed in me and then just keep it going.”
The setback to Brewer was costly, but one bad loss doesn’t mean Guerrero (25-1, 19 KOs) can’t become the fighter many thought he could and he says he’s “been waiting for this moment [his] whole life.”
“It was one of the hardest things in my life,” admitted Guerrero. “When you lose a fight like that, when you’re undefeated and everything like that, it’s hard, you know; and you go through those breakdowns. … I’m going to go in there and just broadcast my talent and broadcast my speed. If he hits me hard, I’m going to hit him harder. If he’s fast, I’m going to be way faster. If he’s better, I’m going to be way better than that. I will be the champ.”
Guerrero is a decided underdog, though. Quillin broke out in 2012, attaining a No. 6 RING rating at middleweight. He defeated an old Winky Wright in June before scoring an impressive decision win over Hassan N’Dam to win the title, a bout where he dropped his foe a stunning six times.
But he feels the best is yet to come.
“I’m not up the ladder yet where I want to be,” said Quillin. “I want to be a unified champion. I want to be all these other things and whatever comes my way I just make sure that I bust the challenges down to become just a better fighter, a better champion
“The thing that’s important to me is that I’m doing this for myself and nobody else, so once I step in there on April 27th the only thing Fernando Guerrero is going to be able to do is run back in that hole because I’m going to be a cat on his ass.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Mike Coppinger is a contributor to USA TODAY’s boxing coverage. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger