By Nick Tylwalk
Among boxing's current group of rising stars, Robert Guerrero is one of my favorites. He's skillful and tough inside the ring, and according to what I hear from writers whose opinions I trust, he's a good guy to talk to outside the ring as well.
The story concerning how he put his professional career on hold during his wife's serious health troubles is an admirable one that will probably get a lot more play if Guerrero continues to climb the sport's ranks.
It's quite possible that's going to happen. Guerrero looked great in his most recent outing, easily outboxing gritty Michael Katsidis and earning a wide unanimous decision. Katsidis was even able to give Juan Manuel Marquez a few nervous moments when they fought, but he pretty much had nothing for Guerrero.
So I'm glad Guerrero is nearing a dealto fight former light welterweight titleholder Marcos Maidana in August. That should be an excellent boxer versus slugger match-up, one that could prove to be pretty exciting. Maidana also has some name recognition thanks to his thrilling battles with Amir Khan (which he lost) and Erik Morales (which he won), plus his 2009 stoppage of Victor Ortiz.
Assuming it's signed, the Guerrero-Maidana fight will take place at 140 pounds. And that's what worries me just a bit.
See, Guerrero hasn't even been a lightweight that long. He's fought only four times at 135 pounds, plus one fight above 135 that we'll get to in a few moments. Financially, it makes sense to keep moving up to 140 or even 147 if you can, because that's where all the competition and big money fights currently reside. Just because you can move up, though, doesn't necessarily mean you should.
Guerrero was fairly big for a featherweight or super featherweight, though he actually fought some guys at those weights who were as tall or taller than him (like Jason Litzau, for example). Even at lightweight he was decent sized, and though his advantages in height and reach didn't win him the Katsidis bout by any means, they certainly didn't hurt. At 140, Guerrero is just another guy, physically speaking. He'll pretty much be looking Maidana right in the eye, if not just a tad up.
In terms of power, there's really no comparison. Maidana is a heavy-handed brawler who forced Ortiz to quit and wobbled Khan. At featherweight, Guerrero had the same kind of finishing ability, as all of his wins at that weight in fights of 10 rounds or more came by KO. But that stopping power hasn't followed him up: Just one of The Ghost's four victories above 130 pounds was a stoppage. Part of that can be chalked up to tougher competition, certainly, but not all of it.
Recent history is also full of cautionary tales on the dangers of moving up in weight too quickly. Vic Darchinyan and Paul Williams once openly talked of being able to quickly leap up two or three divisions and keep winning, but both men found the reality much tougher than the theory (though Darchinyan has at least recently righted the ship). Kelly Pavlik had a pretty easy time of his middleweight title defenses, but he was humbled when he tried to jump up ten pounds to tangle with Bernard Hopkins, and the jury is still out on his future at super middleweight.
Unless your name is Manny Pacquiao, there simply isn't much reason to think that moving up multiple weight classes in quick succession is a good idea. The greater opportunities for fortune and fame notwithstanding, I just hope Guerrero's team has a good handle on what a challenge it's going to be.
A decisive victory over Maidana puts Guerrero right in the mix with the likes of Khan, Timothy Bradley and JMM. It may even get him on the fringes of the Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather list of potential opponents. That's a very good place to be, yet there's a very real risk that balances out the juicy reward. I'll be pulling for Guerrero to succeed, but not without some nervousness.
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