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Robert Guerrero knows pressure, and it's not fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Guerrero had to leave boxing for 15 months after his wife was diagnosed with leukemia. Guerrero says the experience of taking care of her will help him defeat the unbeaten and heavily favored Mayweather.

May 03, 2013|By Lance Pugmire
  • Robert Guerrero faces a daunting task in fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Saturday, but the boxer says raising two kids and supporting his wife who has cancer is where he feels real pressure.
Robert Guerrero faces a daunting task in fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr.… (Jeff Bottari / Getty Images )

LAS VEGAS — Robert Guerrero is from Gilroy, California's garlic capital of the world. His greatest fight stages have been in San Jose and Ontario. And his most compelling pre-fight publicity stop was on evangelist Pat Robertson's "700 Club."

Guerrero, who is Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s opponent Saturday, is a 7-1 underdog to pull an upset for the World Boxing Council welterweight title at the MGM Grand.

This looks one-sided, right? This scrapper of a family man taking on the undefeated, polished king of bling.

But there's something more to Guerrero, 30, that he says will propel him to victory.

"Raising two kids and having a wife dying from cancer, now that's pressure," Guerrero said. "This is no problem. This comes with the territory. You've just got to do it and take care of business."

Guerrero (31-1-1, 18 knockouts) is a former world featherweight and super-featherweight champion who left the sport for 15 months after scoring a convincing decision over Michael Katsidis in April 2011. Guerrero took the break to care for his leukemia-stricken wife, Casey, whose illness is now in remission.

Guerrero flashed a glimpse of how his family concerns shaped him by beating hard-punching Selcuk Aydin in his comeback fight and welterweight debut in July 2012.

"It took me as a man to a whole different level," Guerrero said last week. "To be her caregiver. To give her the shots she needed, to take her to the doctor, give her food, watching her side effects, being mother and father when she was sick.

"You have to keep it together, be upbeat. It makes you a mentally tougher person, teaches you that you can work harder than you think you can."

Guerrero secured the Mayweather fight by knocking down former welterweight champion Andre Berto in each of the first two rounds in their Nov. 24 bout in Ontario, to win by unanimous decision.

And now the ultimate test arrives with Mayweather (43-0, 26 KOs), famed for his quickness and defensive attributes. However, Mayweather's victory over Miguel Cotto in May 2012 left him more marked up than ever.

Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum, speculated that Mayweather, now 36, will have fits against a tough, aggressive left-hander like Guerrero.

"Robert has a heck of a shot," said Richard Schaefer, head of Golden Boy Promotions, who is the promoter for this fight. "He's not going to let the opportunity pass him by. You saw the Berto fight, and the clear question is, 'If Berto can't hurt Guerrero, how can Mayweather?' Motivated by so many things, Guerrero will press the action and go for it."

Guerrero said he's keenly aware of the elusive foe he'll have to catch. "The thing with Floyd is he's a very sharp fighter, very intelligent in the ring," Guerrero said. "Nobody has come close to beating him.

"You've got to be able to make those adjustments in there. That's one of the things — a lot of fighters freeze up, aren't able to make those adjustments when he makes his."

Guerrero argues he's well-equipped to adjust in the ring because of the variety of styles he has faced while moving up to the 147-pound welterweight limit. He weighed 122 pounds for his first pro fight in 2001 at an Indio casino.

Mayweather expressed no specific concerns about Guerrero. The champion said he's content to lean again on his superior attention to conditioning, renewed emphasis on defense and celebrated boxing knowledge to win.

"I think I'm here to humble Floyd Mayweather," Guerrero said earlier this year. "A lot of people, maybe Floyd himself, think of him as the god of boxing. There's only one God, and he's been very good to me.

"God put me in this position for a reason, to do some big things. Not just in the boxing world, but in the spiritual world."

Mayweather counters that Guerrero is a "big-time hypocrite," after the challenger's arrest in March.

Guerrero was arrested in New York for attempting to check an unloaded gun onto an airplane. The gun was registered in California but was not legal to carry in New York, according to the district attorney's office. Guerrero faces up to four years in prison if convicted.

Guerrero explained, "I'm an active hunter, I'm a sportsman."

Queens Dist. Atty. Richard Brown has said, "I hope that Mr. Guerrero fights better than he thinks. You cannot bring an unlicensed weapon — loaded or unloaded — into this county or this city. And if you do, you will be arrested and face felony charges."

Guerrero said, "I was unaware of the gun laws of New York City. Lesson to be learned. … As soon as I left New York and got on the plane, it went right out the window. It's fight time, time to get busy. We're here to do a job. …

"My focus is executing my game plan, winning this fight."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

twitter.com/latimespugmire

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