February 13, 2004

Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero: Boxing’s Child Prodigy

By Fiona Manning

Joel Casamayor might have ruled the roost once at Joe Goossen’s hard-boiled Ten Goose Boxing Gym in Van Nuys, California, but there’s a new kid in town and he’s running all his sparring partners out of the gym.

Casamayor’s one-time protégé and Goosen’s “Child Prodigy,” hard-hitting 126 pound southpaw phenomenon, Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero is back after a seven month layoff showing the pros what’s what in the final weeks leading up to his much-anticipated ring return March 14 against Julian Rodriguez at Pechanga Entertainment Resort and Casino in Temecula. The bout will be televised on the Fox Sports Network.

Guerrero, 11-0, 4 KOs is slated for a pretty full schedule this year if all goes according to plan.

His promoter Dan Goossen, brother of Joe Goossen, recognized the talent and skills in Guerrero and is already looking to slide Guerrero into his April card in Florida.

“I think he’s one of the hottest young fighters out there and we have tremendous belief in him and very big plans for his future,” said Dan Goossen.

“He has all the tools to go from being a hot prospect to a hot champion and that is my focus. I plan to not only showcase him in Latino-based cards, but I believe Robert is the sort of fighter who can have crossover appeal to all boxing fans.”

La Prensa San Diego visited Team Guerrero for the first time since Casamayor’s second defection since seeking political asylum in the US from his native Cuba.

Though Joe Goossen was obviously hit by Casamayor’s abrupt and shockingly inexplicable departure, the atmosphere remains cracking and intense in downtown Van Nuys.

The only glaring difference is that while Casamayor favors Bachata; for Guerrero, it’s Kid Rock and heavy metal Metallica when he’s in da house.

There is an ease between Goossen and Guerrero which comes from mutual respect. Guerrero is doing all that Goossen asks of him — and more.

You can hide nothing from Captain Joe.

Just ask Guerrero’s luckless sparring partner, Ricky Funez.

Goossen was all business ringside as Guerrero sparred the first of what were intended to be seven rounds with welterweight Funez.

Funez, who has worked with Goossen for years as an amateur and now stands 1-0 as a pro, took a licking but couldn’t keep ticking.

In the fourth round, he was unable to bear the pressure of Guerrero’s now legendary power and pushed Guerrero away from him.

“No more,” he said. “I’m not a machine.”

Guerrero and his father Ruben Guerrero waited patiently at the ropes. It’s the same old song for them. They just cannot keep sparring partners in the ring.

“You’re not a machine?” countered Goossen evenly. “How you gonna learn Ricky, if you don’t fight guys like this? You think you’re only going to learn if you put a beating on a guy?”

Funez ripped off his head gear and Ruben Guerrero reluctantly removed his son’s mouth piece and head gear.

Robert Guerrero turned to Goossen. “The speed bag or double end bag?” he said, never losing a moment to work.

“We’re used to it,” said Ruben. “Joe Goossen is a world class trainer and a maker of world champion. We just want to get better. We’re not trying to hurt anybody. We just want to do the work.”

Guerrero will have to wait for more rounds this coming week with Art Simonyan who tough a fearsome battler himself, has walked away from Guerrero in the gym before.

“The Ghost” offers no apologies to Funez or any fighter. He is just doing his job.

Goossen kept him focused after the change in the day’s schedules. Both fighter and trainer were completely unfazed.

Welcome to the day-to-day world of boxing.

Goossen himself may have skipped a beat professionally with being able to prep Casamayor for the March 6 rematch with Diego Corrales for what the partnership’s best camp and best pro outing ever; but he is more than ecstatic with Guerrero’s return to the ring after an enforced medical layoff.

He does not talk about Corrales (whom he is now training) on the record or even Casamayor except to say, “I have always had a tremendous professional relationship with Joel Casamayor. I am not Joel’s enemy. This was a business decision and business rules the sport of boxing. I have my business here and it did not coincide with their plans.”

While Casamyor trains in Paso Robles, CA, Goossen remains in the boiler room -how hot is it in this gym anyway?

Guerrero is like a happy kid working out in the gym, always asking Goossen questions, always eager, always quick. Always, always - God bless those sparring partners - those lightening fast hands that are full of bad intentions.

“I over-extended my left elbow last year,” Guerrero said. “When I pushed the arm out I would feel little stabs of pain so the [California State Athletic] Commission doctor wanted to me to take some time off, so I did. Actually, the rest did me a lot of good.”

Guerrero, who lives in Gilroy, CA, comes to LA with his father and manager Bob Santos to work with Goossen and conditioning coach Elan Haim.

“We had to get a little bit of the ring rust off him, but not much,” said a clearly impressed Goossen. “He’s my Child Prodigy, he really is. He is as good as Gabe and Rafael Ruelas in their prime.

“He is a lot like Gabe and Rafael Ruelas. No excuses, no explanations. He’s also very appreciative. And he can fight. For real.”

Goossen feels the layoff helped Guerrero become more comfortable in his long, rangy body.

“He’s always had a good left hand, now he’s really working on those right hooks, the uppercuts, the right body shots. I see the difference in him. He always had the power in both hands. Now he’s extremely comfortable using it.”

Goossen picked up a towel on the ropes and wiped down Guerrero, then his own hands.

“Did you have to use my towel?” asked Funez.

Goossen pretended to wipe his but with it.

These two men go way, way back. Try the fact that Funez once etched graffiti in Goossen’s store-front window of the gym when he was a gang-banger with the handle of L’il Daffy.

“The earthquake took care of it,” said Goossen. “The whole wall and the windows had to be replaced.”

Now there’s new graffiti and Goossen is on the war path for the perpetrator. Woe betide the kid, he’ll end up right in the ring, just like Ricky Funez.

“I am frustrated,” said Funez. “That’s all.”

“No excuses,” said Goossen.

Almost imperceptible, Guerrero nodded in agreement as he hit the bag with right hooks.

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