By Ryan Maquiñana
As Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero commenced his Big Bear training camp for the fight of his life August 27 against Marcos Maidana in San Jose, the three-division beltholder took time out to speak to BoxingScene.
“I got here last Sunday, and I've been here a good week and a half now,” he shared, preparing for his shot at the WBA junior welterweight ‘regular’ title. “Monday was the first day of sparring. I went four rounds with Frankie Gomez. Abel [Sanchez]’s also bringing in a 140-pound Russian guy to spar me.”
While it always feels good to get back in the ring, one must never neglect the seemingly peripheral aspects of training as well. At Big Bear, the lofty heights above sea level can leave a fighter gasping for air in the early stage of roadwork. The mountainous terrain offers quite the contrast to his last camp in Las Vegas or his usual locale of Gilroy, Calif., his hometown.
“It's definitely different from Gilroy,” he stated without hesitation. “Training at 7,000 feet, it's a tougher run because there’s not that much oxygen in the air. It’s harder to breathe. Once you get used to the elevation, you can do what you usually do, like run four to five miles. That first week you’re breaking in, but you have to know when to push and when to pull, so there’s a fine line so you don't get overworked.”
Guerrero insists that he’s been mindful of all parts of his training.
“All last week it was about getting acclimated to the elevation and doing my runs,” he recalled. “I’ve been doing a lot of shadowboxing, working mitts, bag work, you know, the basic stuff. I’ve been keeping it real light to get accustomed to the elevation, but everything's on pace.”
Pacing has become the word of the day for Team Guerrero, right down to his eventual battle with the scale.
"Right now I'm about 147 pounds,” he said, which is seven pounds over the junior welterweight limit. “I'm right where I need to be. By fight night I'll be 140. I'm feeling good, feeling strong. Like I said, everything's right on pace where it needs to be.”
The preparation doesn’t stop when “The Ghost” unwinds back in his room. Ruben Guerrero Sr., his father and trainer, soon arrives with manager Bob Santos with the DVD player with what probably won’t be a bootleg copy of Horrible Bosses or Captain America.
“We're always watching film, studying Maidana,” he said. “You have to be a student of the game and break the fighter down. We watch him over and over to get his rhythm and movement ingrained into your mind. We're working on strategy and the gameplan now.”
One of those broadcasts is the bout that put Maidana on the map, the relentless upset stoppage of Victor Ortiz, who like Guerrero is a southpaw. When asked if he’d be paying more attention to that disc in the collection because of the similarity in styles, Guerrero answered in kind:
“Well, Maidana comes to fight. He is what he is and he knows what he is no matter what style he’s fighting against. He's coming to take you out. He's one of those fighters that you have to be careful of because he changes his pace and he catches you sleeping. He's very unorthodox.”
Maidana will be defending an interim belt that will be elevated to a “regular” belt due to WBA regulations concerning unification bouts. It just so happens that the Argentine’s last loss was to the man who will fight on Saturday for the “super” version of the belt, Amir Khan.
Of course, if Guerrero beats Maidana, he might very well be in line to face the winner. So will Team Guerrero glue their eyeballs to the screen this weekend?
“I'll be watching the fight, but our main focus is Marcos Maidana,” he admitted. “I have to get past him first. I'm pretty sure this fight right here is an eliminator to fight the winner, so it’s exciting, but you still have to take care of business come fight night.”
The “Ghost” did put his analyst’s hat on for a moment and broke down the matchup between Khan and IBF champ Zab Judah.
“Especially with a lefty with punching power and handspeed like Zab, I would like to see how he reacts to him, because I’m a southpaw, too,” he said. “Zab’s got skills and experience. Also, he has [Pernell] Whitaker working with him who in his day was one of the craftiest fighters, and to this day, is one of the best lefties ever.”
He ended his thoughts with a prediction.
“With the Amir Khan and Zab Judah fight, to me it’s a pick ‘em fight,” he opined. “It can go either way. I'm hoping to see a good fight between the two, because the better it is for me when I step up to the plate. If I really have to make a prediction, though, I think Amir Khan beats Judah by a split decision.”
Guerrero was much less definite when asked to call his own fight.
“I really don't like giving predictions on my own fights except that I’m coming to win and I’ll be ready in top shape,” he promised. “I've giving myself the opportunity to win being here in Big Bear training hard.”
With his wife Casey and their children back home in Gilroy, Guerrero vows to leave nothing to chance in the days leading up to August 27.
“I've been talking to them over the phone to see how everything's going,” he said. “My family and the whole Bay Area's excited for the fight, and now I just have to stay focused.”
Ryan Maquiñana is the boxing correspondent at Comcast SportsNet Bay Area and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. E-mail him at [email protected], contact him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.