By Ryan Maquiñana
Seven months have passed since middleweight Fernando Guerrero was defeated for the first time as a pro after a shocking fourth-round stoppage loss to Grady Brewer.
The bitter taste of the canvas, however, no longer resonates in the Dominican Republic native’s palate.
“When it happened, I thought, wow. I could lose? I could not be a champion?” asked Guerrero (22-1, 17 KOs), who now calls Salisbury, Md., his home. “It just makes me want it even more because after 21 fights with 17 knockouts, I thought I would just fight for a title, win, and then you know, live happily ever after. Now that I’m in the real world, I know it’s not going to be given to me.”
Getting back in the win column with a fifth-round technical knockout of Robert Kliewer commenced his comeback, and after making a cross-country trip to Southern California for his most recent camp, the explosive southpaw has no plans on looking back.
“So far it’s been going great,” he said about his tutelage under new trainer Ricky Funez at the Ten Goose Gym in Van Nuys, Calif. “This is a hungry guy who’s been in the shadow of [Joe] Goossen, and he’s as hungry as me.”
The 160-pounder spoke to BoxingScene.com about the coastal change and how he plans to climb the middleweight mountain despite his initial setback. He is slated to fight on the Andre Berto-Victor Ortiz II undercard on Feb. 11 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
BoxingScene.com: How is life in Southern California?
Fernando Guerrero: Everything’s going good. I love it here. A lot of my Hispanic people are here, so you need to watch what you say because you don’t know who’s speaking Spanish. I’ve had a couple times out in California but the first time here in this area.
BoxingScene.com: You’re usually based in the East Coast. How did you end up on the West Coast?
Fernando Guerrero: I’m working with the Al Haymon group. I found out [Andre] Berto was fighting [Victor Ortiz], and they asked me about fighting on the card. I was like, “Sure.” I was supposed to go to Vegas, but I chose to train here with Andre since we’re going to be on the same card.
BoxingScene.com: Tell me about sparring Andre Berto.
Fernando Guerrero: This is the first time we ever sparred. A lot of people come out and they use being a sparring partner as a resume. Yo soy un campeón, and so is he, so I think we’re both working together and helping each other out. When you fight and see people on TV, and once you’re in there in them, it’s real. He’s got fast hands, but I think I’m right there with him.
BoxingScene.com: After your last fight in December on the Khan-Peterson undercard, this is now the second Golden Boy card on which you will have appeared. What’s your promotional status if you are no longer with Prize Fight?
Fernando Guerrero: I’m a free agent. I haven’t signed anything with nobody. I’m not with Prize Fight anymore. I’m just with Al Haymon.
BoxingScene.com: How did you initially start a relationship with Al?
Fernando Guerrero: He called us and said he wanted us. I didn’t even know who he was or anything about him. But when they explained the type of things he does for us, I told him I wanted to meet him. If I sign with a guy, I want to meet him face-to-face, so I went to his hometown in Ohio and got to know him. He’s a swell guy, cool guy, I liked him, and now I’m with Al.
BoxingScene.com: Are you still maintaining a relationship with Hal Chernoff and Barry Hunter now that you’re on this coast? What’s your trainer situation?
Fernando Guerrero: I’m just learning boxing. I’ve been doing this for so long in the amateurs, and you have to be smart in every area. The thing is basically, I’m in control of my own career. When I step my foot in the ring, I put my life on the line. I’m never going to undertrain because I want this for my people. I want this for my family. I want this for my country.
Right now, my team introduced me to Ricky [Funez] to train me, and so far it’s been going great. This is a hungry guy who’s been in the shadow of [Joe] Goossen, and he’s as hungry as me. I’ve been in the shadow of all these other fighters because I haven’t showed what I had yet.
I want to be the best Dominican-American fighter there is. The only Dominican I could idolize as a youngster was Sammy Sosa. Now that I’m coming up, and I see kids following me, I can’t let them down. I have to make it. There are all these thugs and rappers, and this and that for kids to follow, but I try to bring something different to the table.
Being a nerd is not a bad thing. Being smart is not a bad thing. Not knowing anything from the streets is not a bad thing. I’m not one of those. I’ve never been in trouble. I’ve always had straight A’s and followed what my parents told me. My dad came here illegally to sacrifice his life to bring me to America. I got to do it for him.
Back in Salisbury, I have so much support from people sacrificing all kinds of things. They don’t have to miss a day of work to watch me fight. There are dancers, and even people making bobbleheads. It’s crazy. I can’t let the community down. Hopefully if I can win a world title, I can keep giving back and make people smile.
BoxingScene.com: You have some solid wins on your list, from Jessie Nicklow to Ossie Duran to Gabriel Rosado. However, you had a setback where you were stopped by Grady Brewer. You’re back in the win column after picking up a win over Robert Kliewer in your comeback fight last month. How did you deal with your first loss and what was your mentality as far as bouncing back?
Fernando Guerrero: It’s just being a believer. You know how when you were a little kid, your parents would never tell you about death? They’d say, “He’s sleeping.” You’re not a believer until you mature. I never would’ve thought I could never lose. I never would’ve thought that I could be hurt.
When it happened, I thought, wow. I could lose? I could not be a champion? It just makes me want it even more because after 21 fights with 17 knockouts, I thought I would just fight for a title, win, and then you know, live happily ever after. Now that I’m in the real world, I know it’s not going to be given to me.
You cannot disrespect nobody. Not just Brewer, but all those guys I’ve been in the ring with. Ishe [Smith], and Jessie [Nicklow], and Michael Walker, and Gabriel Rosado. I want to thank all of them, especially Brewer. Those are the things that make me better, all these experiences.
My father Pedro was in the ring with me that night. He just held me and started smiling. He looked me and said, “Man, now you know what boxing is all about. Now you’re a real fighter.” On my worst defeat on my worst day, he smiles? I mean, what else can I do except smile right there with him because I know he loves me no matter if I win or lose.
So now I take him everywhere I go. He was a coalminer, and he used to cut sugar cane. He’s all about hard work. I got him running with me, as old as he is. I keep him close to me. Our relationship’s been stronger ever since. If we go down, we go down together. If we go up, we go up together. But we’re still together. It’s wonderful.
BoxingScene.com: What is something that you have added to your game working with Ricky Funez?
Fernando Guerrero: We’re working on precise punching technique, as in like digging my knuckles in my shots. When I throw punches to the body, I don’t overthrow them. We’ve been really working on turning my hands with the straight and underneath the uppercuts. Ricky makes sure I punch with good rotation and makes sure my knuckles land instead of just my fist. I think it’s really going to add something to my power.
BoxingScene.com: They haven’t announced an opponent for your Feb. 11 fight on the Ortiz-Berto undercard. Is there anyone you’re targeting in the middleweight rankings in the immediate future?
Fernando Guerrero: I would like to fight whoever people want me to see fight. Who do I need to fight be respected? That’s who I want to fight, so really, I don’t care who it is. Whoever is respected, that’s who it’s going to be. You got your Canelo, your [Julio Cesar] Chavez, your Sergio Martinez, your [Miguel] Cotto, those type of guys. Who can I fight to be legitimately respected as a true champion? I want to be undisputed one day.
BoxingScene.com: Does this mean you’re going to campaign at 160 for good now, or still test the waters at 154?
Fernando Guerrero: My father said he wants me to fight at 160. Even in the amateurs, I fought at 165. Everyone has always respected my power, and I feel good at 160.
BoxingScene.com: Did you feel weight-drained at 154 in the Brewer fight?
Fernando Guerrero: You know, it’s not that I felt drained. You know how people say, “I feel good. I feel good.” With Brewer, come on. When I was in the ring, I was smiling in the third round. When I went out to knock him out in the fourth round, he hit me in the back of the head. I’ve been hit there before, but it never affected me. But it was different this time. So I’m going to be staying at 160.
BoxingScene.com: Do you have anything else to tell the fans out there?
Fernando Guerrero: I’m Dominican, but it doesn’t matter where you come from. Whoever knows hunger knows my pain and knows what I’m going through and knows the boat I want to make. Doesn’t matter if you’re Dominican, Mexican, Puerto Rican, whatever. If you’re hungry, too, then you’re from my country.
Soy Dominicano, pero si tú conoces hambre, tú conoces el pais mio. Nosotros somos todos Latinos, y tenemos que estar juntos.
The fans can follow me on Facebook and Twitter: @FernandoDomini.
Ryan Maquiñana has a weekly column for Comcast SportsNet Bay Area (CSNBayArea.com). He’s also a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine’s Ratings Advisory Panel. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, check out his blog at www.maqdown.com, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.Tags: Fernando Guerrero