Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero is readying himself for the biggest fight of his career, his HBO-televised showdown against Andre Berto at the Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California on Saturday, November 24. Guerrero (30-1-1, 18 KOs) has clamored to be front and center, taking on the biggest names and the best fighters, and finally, he has arrived.
Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) has long been in a big name in the sport, having been groomed for stardom by promoter DiBella Entertainment and HBO, receiving constant exposure for years before truly proving what he was capable of in the ring. Guerrero's journey towards headline status has certainly been more winding and laborious, and it's something which is fueling him for this fight.
He has dealt with potentially career-threatening injuries and promotional setbacks. Of course, none of it could come close to comparing to his wife Casey's battle against Leukemia.
Casey received a bone marrow transplant thanks to donor Katharina Zech, now a close family friend. The surgery was a success, and the harrowing experience has only made Guerrero and his family that much stronger.
His mental strength and will to succeed have been forged out of necessity. "Having gone through everything, and how hard it has been... and now it's all falling into place," Guerrero said. "All the stuff I've been through inside the ring and outside of the ring, it just prepares you."
Guerrero has had to scratch and claw to reach this level, and has had to overcome so very much in his personal life. Fighting Berto, long an HBO star, simply provides Guerrero with even more incentive.
"It's motivating to be getting a fight with Berto who has been on HBO a number of times, and whose name is big," Guerrero said. "It's been a lot of years where I've been looking for key fights to try to solidify myself as one of the top fighters in the world... It's really been frustrating for me, but it's relieving to see that light at the end of the tunnel now."
Berto has seen his own star power dwindle somewhat in the past year, after first losing to Victor Ortiz, and then having his rematch against Ortiz canceled as a result of a failed pre-fight drug test, which he blamed on tainted supplements.
Guerrero isn't concerned about that recent history, although he does believe it warrants some suspicion or perhaps reevaluation of Berto's past performances. "It does raise a question mark... That's the first time he was doing strict drug testing, and then he tested positive," Guerrero said.
Still, he doesn't believe it should be an issue for their upcoming bout. "I highly doubt Berto is going to try to do anything, having already tested positive once... I don't think he would go and risk his career at this point."
More important than any lingering doubts about performance enhancing drug usage will be the challenges that Guerrero faces in Berto himself, a highly skilled and athletically-gifted fighter who has spent his entire career in the Welterweight division.
This is opposed to Guerrero, who didn't make his debut at 147 pounds until his last fight, on July 28, when he fought Selcuk Aydin for the interim WBC Welterweight title. It was only his second career fight above 135 pounds, and only his sixth above the Super Featherweight limit of 130 pounds.
In a hard-fought, rough-and-tumble type of affair, Guerrero took home a Unanimous Decision, handing Aydin his first loss. That experience was crucial for Guerrero, who actually believes that while Berto is the bigger name, Aydin is the bigger puncher, and the physically stronger fighter.
"Having that fight with him and dominating him and getting the victory, it was important for my confidence and for me to assert myself in the 147-pound division. I really feel that Aydin is stronger and bigger than Berto body-wise," Guerrero said.
He's not focused on the problems Berto could cause him, as much as he has self belief in the problems that he will cause for Berto. "I'm left handed with quick hands, good punching power... I really think a lot of people underestimate that," Guerrero said.
His southpaw stance should serve him well in the fight. When Berto has struggled, it has been against lefty opponents. He won a highly controversial decision over the rangy southpaw Luis Collazo in January 2009, and he lost to Ortiz in April 2011.
Guerrero doesn't see himself as just another lefty, however.
"The difference between me and the other southpaws he fought is that they were one dimensional fighters. I bring different dimensions in the ring where I can fight different styles, so that's going to make it even a tougher fight for Berto," he said.
While some still question Guerrero's place in the Welterweight division, he believes that he is just now coming into his own physically without the strains and struggles of cutting down to 130 or 135 pounds.
"I feel great, I feel strong and at full strength, and fast. Everyone knows when you have to cut weight it does take a toll on your body. I'm happy to be at 147, and it benefits me not having to destroy my body coming down in weight," Guerrero said.
And while he has spent much of his career at Featherweight, at 5' 8" with a 70" reach, he has always had the frame to climb the ladder. "I'm a pretty tall guy in the division already," he said, and while Berto may be more thickly muscled, the two are nearly identical in terms of height and reach.
Berto is the only thing standing in Guerrero's way now, and he's not about to relinquish the position he has worked so hard to obtain.
"This is that next step to greatness in the sport. I'm very determined and focused," he said. "I'm truly blessed that I'm getting the opportunity and I'm going to take advantage of it."
You don't doubt him, do you?
Sources: One-on-one interview with Robert Guerrero, Boxrec.com, The Ghost Documentary, Yahoo! Sports
Jake Emen runs the boxing news website ProBoxing-Fans.com, where you can find breaking news stories, interviews, rankings and more. You can also follow Jake and ProBoxing-Fans.com on Twitter, @ProBoxingFans.