Sometimes the best fights have the least fanfare. Being slated between a history-making middleweight bout and the return of Canelo Alvarez meant that there wasn’t much space to really promote Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero and Yoshihiro Kamegai. But on Saturday night, these warriors delivered one of the most action-packed fights this year, compelling fans and media alike to pay close attention.
Guerrero, once at the epicenter of the boxing world in his fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr., now is just another name in the loaded welterweight division. Had he fought within the first six or nine months of his loss to Mayweather, his return to the ring may have been more notable. But he waited, and waited. Thirteen months have passed since he last stepped foot into a ring. He hasn’t even been seen much at ringside. Truth be told, his father/trainer has made more of a name for himself in the passing months. Ruben Guerrero even landed a spot on the boxing reality television series “Knockout,” where he has often got into scuffles with Floyd Mayweather Sr.
Kamegai, although undefeated until midway through 2013, was basically an unknown to the masses coming into Saturday’s fight. His appearance at the StubHub Center was his second. In his first, he lost a unanimous decision against Johan Perez. What people learned in that fight was that Kamegai was a simple, come-forward pressure fighter who offered few other wrinkles to his game — a perfect foil for a onetime big name in boxing looking to bring some luster back to this star power.
Had the fight maintained the rhythm of the first round, there would be little to write home about. Thankfully, Guerrero decided to throw finesse out of the window and live up to his name. The second round was a toe-to-toe battle that played out on about one square foot of canvass. With his back against the ropes, Guerrero invited Kamegai in for a lesson on infighting. Little did he know that the Japanese fighter had plenty of lessons to teach of his own.
Although Guerrero got the better of the exchanges, the unknown challenger found ways to give almost as good as he got. In his comeback fight, Guerrero probably should have chosen to box and hit the body early so he could earn the late knockout. Maybe Guerrero was thinking more about the marketing of his fighting style than the longevity of his career, and that’s why he relinquished his reach advantage in lieu of a brawl. Whatever the reason, he didn’t decide to turn back to the jab and lateral movement he displayed in the opening round.
After the fifth, Kamegai started to make it impossible for Guerrero to return to finesse boxing. He started with a beautiful uppercut that split open Guerrero’s left brow and almost immediately shut his eye in the sixth. Together with the body work the Japanese fighter put in early, by the 8th, when Guerrero tried to box, his legs just couldn’t obey.
What fight fans were left with was a technical brawl where the fighters all but forgot that a jab ever existed. Throwing and landing hundreds of power punches, each fighter earned the respect of the enthusiastic fans at the Stubhub Center and those watching at home on Showtime.
Guerrero walked away the winner, but with a performance such as they delivered, both he and Kamegai are sure to be rewarded with further nights under the Showtime banner. There are so many pieces on the welterweight throw board that it’s difficult who know exactly who will be next for either man. Guerrero undoubtedly wants back into the seven-figure paydays, but even as entertaining as his fight was on Saturday was, that likely isn’t in the cards for his next fight.
The closest he might come may also offer the boxing world another entrant into the fight of year category, in a fight against Andre Berto. Their first meeting was a fight of the year candidate in 2012 and likely would have won the honor had it not been for the knockout heard round the world delivered by Juan Manuel Marquez against Manny Pacquiao.
Coming off back-to-back losses, Berto would risk a great deal stepping back into the ring against Guerrero (just take a look at the picture above). If he’s willing to bear the risk, a great prize may await the winner of their rematch. After all, fortune favors the bold. Amir Khan lost out on the biggest event in boxing this year because he decided to back out of a fight against Devon Alexander, hoping instead to be picked as Mayweather’s next opponent. In the meantime, Marcos Maidana put it all on the line in a career-defining victory against Adrien Broner. We all know what happened next for Maidana. With a welterweight division filled to the brim with talent, in order to put those big paydays within hand’s reach, the fighters must be increasingly willing to push the pace and throw caution to the wind.