By Lem Satterfield
With the recent numerically and statistically, 'yet brutally physical, one-sided unanimous decision lightweight victory over Australia's hard-punching Michael Katsidis at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Robert Guerrero not only captured his fourth, and, fifth career title belts over his third weight class, but he also may have thrust himself into contention as one of boxing's pound-for-pound best, overall fighters.
The nearly 5-foot-9, 28-year-old southpaw from Gilroy, Calif., the rangy Guerrero (29-1-1, 18 knociouts) fought tall when he needed to and pummled the 30-year-old, stocky, 5-7 Katsidis (27-4, 22 KOs) with his rapier-like right jab from a distance.
Guerrero also rammed his hard, straight left home, often stepping in behind it to more potently re-enforce its bludgeoning power which contributed to ravaging and bloodying the face of the game Katsidis.
"There were times where I wanted to just exchange and to start rocking and rolling with him. But I knew that I had to stay mentally focused with him. You know, they say, 'Don't hook with a hooker,' because it might get dangerous and Michael Katsidis, he likes to try to get you to fight his type of fight," said Guerrero.
"But I stayed on my game, and I stayed focused, like I had done throughout the entire training camp," said Guerrero. "I was working on turning him and continuing to fire off of my jab and just keeping him at bay and using my range."
But when the most opportune times arose, Guerrero, unlike his nickname, "The Ghost," materialized directly in front of the shorter man and won toe-to-toe exchanges during which he drove Katidis' head skyward like that on a Bobble Head doll.
"I think that I showed that I have the entire package, and Michael Katisidis was the perfect guy against whom I could display all of the talents that I carry. From the chin, the hand speed, the range, the footwork, working behind the jab, staying mentally focused all the way through the fight and not falling apart," said Guerrero.
"Michael Katsidis was the perfect guy for me to do that against because he applies pressure, he's a hard puncher, and, you know he can turn you, he can move, he can come straight at you," said Guerrero. "He was was just the perfect guy for me to show everything that I'm made of, but it also had to do with being well-prepared also. I was well-prepared for that fight."
Guerrero's effort was rewarded by winning scores that were reflective of his near-shutout dominance, being 117-108, 118-107, and, 118-106, respectively, on the cards of judges Patricia Morse Jarman, C.J. Ross, and, Dave Moretti.
Already a two-time IBF featherweight and one-time IBF super featherweight champion, Guerrero earned the interim WBA and interm WBO crowns by vanquishing Katsidis, meaning that he is the mandatory challenger to both 37-year-old WBO and WBA king, Juan Manuel Marquez (52-5-1, 38 KOs), who rose from a third-round knockdown to stop Katsidis in the ninth round of their November bout.
If not Marquez, then Guerrero hopes that his performance draws enough attention to warrant potential opponents such as Filipino star, eight-division king and WBO welterweight titlist Manny Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs), six-time champion, Floyd Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs), WBO and WBC junior welterweight belt-holder Tim Bradley (27-0, 11 KOs), WBA counter part Amir Khan (24-1, 17 KOs), or, WBC welterweight champ, Victor Ortiz.
So who is next for Robert Guerrero?
"I'm willing to fight anyone at 140 and possibly 147 if a big fight comes my way. I'm taking on all comers, because, like I've always said, I want to fight the best, I want to be in there with the best, and I want to beat the best because I want to be the best fighter in the sport," said Guerrero.
"I'm a man of God, and man of God wants to do the best that he can possibly do in whatever he does, and that's what I want to do," said Guerrero. "I mean, you've got Juan Manuel Marquez right there, and you've got Manny Pacquiao, and you've Floyd Mayweather. They are the three, very best guys."
Guerrero won for the 13th straight time during a run that includes nine stoppages, having last suffered defeat by a December, 2005 split-decision to Gamaliel Diaz, whom Guerrero stopped in the sixth round of their June, 2006 rematch.
Katisidis represented the most offensively prolific performance of Guerrero's career, owing to his 429-to-108 advantage in overall punches connected, and the fact that he landed 365 of those to Katsidis head comprised of 166 to the chin, 144 to the right side, and, 55 to the left, according to CompuBox statics.
And Guerrero did so, despite having re-injured his left hand, an ailment that first surfaced during his previous bout, November's unanimous decision over Vicente Escobedo (22-3, 14 KOs).
"They just did an amazing job at camp, with Bob Santos doing the diet, and getting everything fresh. You saw the way that my body looked, leading up to the fight, and, within the fight. Everybody was saying that I looked like a junior middleweight or a welterweight in that fight," said Guerrero.
"But it just had to do with being well-prepared and being able to be in a good training camp. With my dad, Reuben, just in camp, being out there together," said Guerrero. "And also, with Bob Santos, the three of us putting the game plan together, studying tape, we were able to do a tremendous job to get me ready to be a Michael Katsidis."
Katsidis, in fact, represented an increasingly dominant trend on the part of Guerrero, who had vanquished former four-time world champion and Cuban Olympic gold medalist Joel Casamayor (37-5-1, 22 KOs) in July prior to facing Escobedo.
Guerrero scored two knockdowns during his rout of Escobedo, which he won, 100-90, 98-90, and, 96-92.
"Within the last three fights, I think that I've lost four, maybe five rounds. So I think that with my momentum, and with my progression, this fight puts me in the conversations as one of the top 10 best fighters, pound-for-pound. You know, coming out and dominating top fighters is hard to do," said Guerrero.
"You know, the other fights with Casamayor, Escobedo and, now, Katsidis, they were all-out wars both ways. But I'm walking out of these fights not beat up, ready to go, not losing many rounds after dominating the fights," said Guerrero. "You know, I think that it puts me right there among the top 10 fighters in the world. I just think that the more that I'm in training camp, and the more that I'm able to concentrate on boxing, the better that I'm going to get."
In victory over the 39-year-old Casamayor, Guerrero rose from a knockdown in the 10th and final round of a bout he won, 98-89, on two judges cards, and, 97-90, on at of the third -- all while performing with his wife, Casey, at ringside for the first time since having recovered from a life-threatening battle with leukemia.
In March of 2010, Robert Guerrero chose to pull out of a scheduled clash with Katsidis in order to be with Casey during her recovery from a bone marrow transplant, a move that often involved him driving 50 or so miles from the hospital to their home in Gilroy, Calif., to care for their two young children, Robert Jr., 4, and, Savannah, 6.
Guerrero had no such distractions leading into his bout with Katsidis, for which he trained away from home for the first time in a while.
"When you're getting ready for a big fight, and you're at home, you don't get the proper training, even though you may think that you are and you're pushing through and you're working hard. Everything is not right like the way that it should be when you're away in camp," said Guerrero.
"This time around, I was sleeping at the right time, and my meals were at the right time, and the training was right on the right schedule, and the learning curve happenend in the right amount of time," said Guerrero. "Everything is on a schedule where you're able to get the job done at 100 percent."
Guerrero's heroic support of and devotion to his wife and family will be rewarded on May 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he will be awarded The Bill Crawford Award for Courage In The Face of Adversity by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
"I think the more I'm in camp, the better that I'm going to be and the better that I'm going to get," said Guerrero. "I have a lot of faith in my abilities, and God has blessed me with a great body, and great talent, and a great mental space to want to be in there with the best. I want to show the world that from Robert Guerrero, the best is yet to come."