By Sean Crose
No one expected it.
Robert Guerrero was supposed to step into the ring at the Stub Hub Center on Saturday and reclaim his position as an upper echelon fighter. His opponent, Japan’s Yoshihiro Kamegai, was a mere afterthought, a hard hitting nobody with limited skills and no chance whatsoever.
Photo: Tom Hogan/Hogan photos
Surprise, everyone. The Japanese welterweight came to win. What’s more, he fought to win. He took everything Guerrero tossed at him and barely buckled a knee. What’s more, he hit back. Hard. Hard and continuously. If my name were Roach, Garcia or Hunter, I’d be looking the kid up right away.
For Kamegai looked like a diamond in the rough. One could only imagine what he would look like in the hands of a top trainer. While it’s true Guerrero made the mistake of going to war with a warrior, Kamegai’s raw talent simply could not be denied.
Needless to say, the bout did nothing to help Guerrero’s standing. A new adherent to the uber-macho CrossFit program, Guerrero clearly stepped into the ring with the idea of beating his opponent into defeat. It wasn’t the smartest thing Guerrero had ever done.
For by the final quarter of the fight, Guerrero was cut very badly above the left eye. The man had to be wondering what, if anything, he could do to stop the relentless freight train before him. In the eighth, for instance, Guerrero hit Kamegai with a left that made it look like the fight was all but over. It wasn’t. Kamegai walked back to his corner at round’s end.
While there was little doubt Guerrero was winning the fight, the man had to struggle for each and every round. If he hadn’t underestimated his opponent before the fight, the boxing world at large clearly had. Showtime’s numbers might not be all that great for Saturday’s bout. Had people known what kind of fight would transpire, however, the ratings might have been through the roof.
To Guerrero’s credit, the man they call the Ghost was willing to go into the trenches for the entire fight. Never once did he decide to employ his considerable boxing skills – at least not for any significant amount of time. Showtime’s Paulie Malignaggi believed that after a point Guerrero had no choice but to slug.
Whether that’s true or not will probably be a matter for repeat viewings (Malignaggi, for the record, is turning into an excellent commentator). What is true is that this gem of a bout is clearly fight of the year material. If you didn’t see it live, make sure you catch a replay.
Going into the final rounds, it seemed like a pretty safe bet that Guerrero would, in fact, walk away with the victory. Kamegai, however, was certainly going to walk away with a ton of new fans. How could people not like such a fighter? The man proved to be a throwback to Ward and Gatti.
In the end, Guerrero walked out of the ring with the decision victory. Kamegai had nothing to be ashamed of, though, In fact, the slugger from Tokyo may end up with a bright future ahead of him. Seriously now, who wouldn’t want to see this guy fight again?
As for Guerrero, it’s obvious he’s now going to be known for more than just a lopsided loss to Floyd Mayweather. For he partook in a truly great battle on Saturday. Personally, I’d love to see these two lions meet again. If Guerrero’s smart, he’ll try to outbox Kamegai next time.
And if you’re an American trainer and you’re smart, you’ll look up Yoshihiro Kamegai right away.