The closer we get to Robert Guerrero vs Yoshihiro Kamegai this Saturday, the more I get the feeling that we’re in for a treat. The StubHub Center in Carson, California is one of the best places in the world to watch a boxing event. There isn’t a bad seat in the house. It’s small, intimate, and the open air makes it feel like you’re sitting in a mini-Colosseum.
The arena has become conducive to some real classics. The first match between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado happened there. So did Tim Bradley vs Ruslan Provodnikov. Lucas Matthysse and John Molina just recently had a classic at the arena.
And as we learn more about Japanese slugger, Yoshihiro Kamegai, you kind of get the sense that we might be in for something special. Here are the highlights, including quotes that are pointing toward this Saturday being one to remember. (My thoughts in italics.)
Robert Guerrero: It’s been a year already, so it’s way overdue. I had a good rest and through that downtime, while I was resting, I was keeping in shape. Now I’ve joined up with CrossFit and my condition is incredible right now. I’m feeling great. I’m feeling strong and I’m excited to be back in the ring.
Just wondering… if Guerrero loses specifically due to gassing in the later rounds, which he hasn’t done recently, is anybody going to blame the CrossFit training?
Robert Guerrero: [Regarding the long layoff] I had three fights back-to-back-to-back. The Aydin fight was a tough 12-round fight with him, hard puncher. Then I had the tough fight with Berto, too. We went at it for 12 rounds and then also the Mayweather fight. Those training camps are brutal and they were real close together. So, I took a little bit of time to recover and recoup and I’m back. January 1st I was back in the gym training and I’m excited to be back in.
Robert Guerrero: [Talking about ring rust] So, there’s a long road and I know Mayweather has three more fights lined up for him, and I’ll try to get back into that position and give it another shot.
What would Guerrero have to do to earn a rematch with Mayweather? There 1st fight was completely one-sided. Nothing was left to wonder about. Is there something Guerrero could do in his next 2 fights that could put him in line for a Mayweather rematch?
Robert Guerrero: When you have that type of layoff, a year, you get hungry. You’re starved, you want to get out there and you’re excited, you’re refreshed and you want to be back in that ring. You’ve got to go in there with 100 percent confidence and do your job. Kamegai is a tough guy. I’ve been watching film on him and he comes to fight. He’s one of those guys, like Oscar mentioned, that doesn’t back down. He just keeps coming. He wants to get it on with you. I’ve seen a couple of times in the ring where he does get hit with a good shot, it just fires him up and he wants to go for it.
Maybe I’m being a mark, but there’s something about this comment that makes me feel like we’re going to get a war.
Robert Guerrero: [About bouncing back from his loss to Mayweather] The bounceback, it wasn’t tough at all. You’ve got to learn from experiences like that. I lost to the best fighter in the world. You want to get better, you want to get stronger, you want to get faster. Seeing the type of foot speed he had and hand speed in front of me, it makes you want to step your game up more, so it really lit a fire under me to become a better fighter, to start using every tool that I have and not just get put into one dimension, where I started walking guys down, like I did with Berto, and trying to be that big man and trying to have muscles, where when you get a quick guy like Floyd, it’s tough to muscle because he used those legs and those quick feet.
I respect Guerrero’s response here. He’s right. He’s far more talented than he looked facing Mayweather. The problem is the gap between his talent level and Mayweather’s. Guerrero would put up a hell of a fight with just about every welterweight on the planet. Mayweather… not so much. That shouldn’t detract too much from Guerrero.
Robert Guerrero: [Is it good that you're facing a guy who's going to come out and stand in front of you in your 1st fight back?] I’m expecting him to come and fight. By watching film, this type of guy, he’s a fighter. He comes to fight. He doesn’t mess around. He wants to win and he wants to win with good fashion. He’ll come and bang you up if he has to and if he has to move he’ll move a little bit. But you’ve got to come ready for everything.
This is a professional response.
Yoshihiro Kamegai’s turn to answer questions. The last time Kamegai fought at the StubHub center, he lost. Naturally, the first question was about that.
Yoshihiro Kamegai: [Memories of the last time he fought at StubHub] What I remember from the last fight is the arena, it was a very large arena and I do recall that I had some challenges communication-wise because my team and I did not speak the same language. So, coming back this time I have a different team. We speak the same language and we’re in a better position than we were before.
Kamegai must have misunderstood the question or he’s used to fighting in people’s basements because the StubHub Arena is tiny.
Yoshihiro Kamegai: [Whether or not Guerrero's style is conducive to his own] First of all, in terms of styles I think we have a very interactive style. Any time, to get into the ring with a top-level fighter like Robert Guerrero, to me I’m looking at it as a challenge. I have not gone in with someone with that high of a level, so I’m looking at it as going into a challenge and I have trained myself to go into a challenge. As far as his ring rust, he’s had a long layoff before and I saw his fight after that and he came in in very good condition. So, I expect him to be in the best condition that he’s been in, so I’ve trained and conditioned myself to fight the best Robert Guerrero that’s out there.
Yep, exactly what you’d expect from a warrior! I think this is going to be a fight of the year candidate. I’m sorry if I sound like I’m trying to sell this fight more than Oscar De La Hoya is, but I just got that feeling.
Oscar De La Hoya was then asked this question: Oscar, Gary Russell Jr. said on the conference call that his fight could represent a breakthrough between Top Rank fighters, Al Haymon’s fighters and Golden Boy’s fighters given that both camps have great fighters and there are some potential match-ups. Your thoughts on what he said.
Oscar De La Hoya: Well, I think it’s wonderful to hear from a fighter like Gary Russell that he wants to engage in these big major fights, regardless of promoters. That’s what it’s really all about. It’s not about promoters and egos. It’s about the fighters and the fans. So, I’m optimistic that in the near future the fight fans will get what they deserve.
How would Richard Schaefer have answered that question?
Robert Guerrero: [Why CrossFit]
Just something new. You’re always looking to better yourself as a fighter, your conditioning, your endurance, your strength, your speed. One of the guys that runs the CrossFit Games is a good friend of mine, Dave Castro, and he approached me on if I wanted to try it out. I was a skeptical at first with the weight and stuff like that. You never want to get bulked up and tight.
I tried it out and it just blew my mind, all the stuff I could be doing to better my game, how much it elevated my game in the last couple of months. I’m excited, I’m excited and it fits just right.
As I said earlier, it will be interesting how we see CrossFit after the fight.
Robert Guerrero: [Whether his dad is a distraction] No, it doesn’t affect anything. He’s like that on a daily basis, so pretty much they’re just following him around now, just getting it on footage where everybody can see. He does his thing, but I’m focused on what I’ve got to do, he’s focused on what I’ve got to do, so he knows when to turn it on and when to turn it off. I’m happy the way camp went, everything went good and he’s doing his thing. I take my hat off to him. He’s a good guy, he’s out there making it happen.
Did anyone know his dad was involved with reality TV? I would watch his show.
Yoshihiro Kamegai: [Guerrero has speed and a jab, what's the plan] He is very fast, obviously, and he throws a lot of jabs and in the training camp I’ve basically tried to keep a good distance and have a good defense against his jabs and not get hit.
Sounds like Kamegai is planning to slip to the outside of the jab and loop a hook over it. I’m kidding.
The best question is the last one.
Question: Oscar, will you be willing to have, if he’s still in your camp, to have Robert fight a Top Rank fighter after if he wins on Saturday?
Oscar De La Hoya: Well, Golden Boy just wants to make the biggest and the best fights and if it means making the most money, making the best fights happen that the fight fans want to watch, that’s what’s going to happen. We’re all about the fans, giving them the best fights that we have to offer and, obviously, we know Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero is one of the few elite fighters that boxing has today, so whether Golden Boy has an opponent or whether any other promoter has an opponent where we can make the biggest fight happen, that’s what must happen for the fans.
If Oscar is true to his word, kudos Oscar. That’s what fans want and that’s what the sport should be about. If not… well… nothing new I guess. Also, De La Hoya did not address whether or not Guerrero was a Golden Boy fighter or not. Should he be, the potential of a Guerrero fight with Juan Manuel Marquez or Tim Bradley sounds explosive. Of course, that all depends on whether or not he wins.
Watch Guerrero vs Kamegai live on Showtime at 7pm pacific. You can also legally watch online via the Showtime Anytime website.