If Robert Guerrero gets his way Saturday night in Las Vegas, WBA welterweight champion Keith “One Time” Thurman’s nickname will take on a new meaning. As in that time Thurman squared off with “The Ghost” Guerrero at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and couldn’t connect his “One Time” signature knockout power punches for victory.
NBC brings the squared circle back to the sporting forefront on network TV for manager Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Championship. Guerrero (32-2-1, 18 KOs) headlines opposite Thurman, and the Gilroy, Calif.,-based southpaw intends to make it the night Thurman (24-0, 21 KOs) suffers his first career defeat.
“Since fighting Mayweather, everyone wants to knock me out to prove they did better than Floyd,” Guerrero told Sherdog.com via e-mail as he headed to Sin City for fight week. “So I have a target on my back but I’m OK with it. I love to mix it up. Keith Thurman has the same mindset. He thinks he’s going to knock me out early. He’s going to be in for a big surprise.”
Guerrero moved up to the welterweight division nearly three years ago. A November 2012 pillar-to-post phone booth fight along the ropes with Andre Berto announced Guerrero’s status in the weight class. It was an exciting enough win to register his first main event at the MGM Grand in the foil role to Mayweather. “Money” soundly outpointed him, handing Guerrero his second career loss and first at welterweight. Guerrero bounced back after a year layoff versus Yoshihiro Kamegai, returning to his fan-friendly head-to-head style. He seized victory despite his left eye swelling almost completely shut in a 2014 Fight of the Year candidate.
It’s this track record that Guerrero insists positioned him to headline the first of Haymon’s cards that are “changing the game in a positive way.” In a rough economy, Guerrero sees this as a “monumental moment” to reengage boxing fans because everyone can watch, even if they have a bunny ears antenna.
“Everyone knows I like to go to war and that’s what the fans love,” he said. “I’m very blessed to be in this position and I believe I bring more fans to the sport with my fighting style.”
Guerrero would love to make NBC his fighting home. That’s for Haymon and his team to decide. Since he only fought once in each of the last two years, he hopes a win to kick off PBC sets him up to fight three times in 2015. His confidence in knowing there are few things he hasn’t done or seen in the sport has him focused on the task at hand in the orthodox titleholder. He’s not treating the Floridian lightly despite 14 years in the game professionally compared to Thurman’s seven. Solidifying a network TV platform relies on dismissing the opposition handily in their showdown.
“I love being in this position, as the crafty veteran,” said the 31-year-old. “This is what boxing is all about. He’s trying to make a name for himself and I’m looking to defuse his momentum. All I know is I’m going to be throwing down on March 7th. He better be ready to rumble.”
Thurman has knocked out all but three of 24 career opponents. Only one didn’t hit the mat. Guerrero declares he can fight in Thurman’s power range or wherever he wants the bout to occur as long as he’s the one controlling the space and pace, sticking to the game plan and listening to his corner.
“I’m certainly not going to let him dictate the fight,” said the 35-fight veteran. “He has a lot of power but he’s never been in the ring with a fighter like me. We’ll see if he can handle the heat. I’m not worried about anything.”
Guerrero promises he has “something special” for Thurman. Enduring a third career loss is not an option for Guerrero. Sending Thurman down the ranks and seizing his title is what Guerrero must do in the name veteran role attempting to shut down the powerful up-and-coming champ. The implications are robust with each vying for the first main event title win on a PBC card. PBC is sure to be busy with welterweights in Haymon’s stable like Berto and Joseito Lopez, and Shawn Porter and Robert Garcia, all slated to meet on PBC’s second installment next week on Spike TV. Haymon’s roster in the 147-pound division is deep and Guerrero expects to etch his name in one of the top spots with the second most high-profile fight of his career.
“This is a major step for the boxing world and the whole boxing community will be watching along with the new fans that will be tuning in,” said the Mexican-American fighter. “It’s time to leave everything in the ring.”
Guerrero hears the boxing world’s rumblings a lights-out puncher like Thurman may leave him unconscious and defeated. He has never been knocked out in his career. Still, it’s a possibility every time he enters the ring, one he’ll rage against on network TV to inaugurate PBC. Standing across from Thurman -- a four-to-one underdog -- places a chip on Guerrero’s shoulder: one the rugged veteran plans to cash in under the MGM Grand spotlights for NBC network TV to witness.
“I had a great camp and on fight night you’re going to see a man on a mission to prove to the world I’m elite,” said Guerrero. “Enough said, lets go.”
Danny Acosta is a longtime Sherdog.com contributor that has written for Vice Sports and Maxim Magazine among many more. Listen to the “Acosta KO” on Sirius 92 Tuesdays 5 ET/2PT and Majority Draw Radio on iTunes. Follow him on Twitter @acostaislegend.
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