Claiming to be refreshed and refocused, Gilroy's Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero returns to the ring Saturday night after a 13-month layoff following his lopsided loss to unbeaten welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Guerrero, 31, will face Japanese slugger Yoshihiro Kamegai in a 12-round welterweight bout at the StubHub Center in Carson, the co-main event on a card to be televised by Showtime.
Guerrero (31-2, 18 KOs) said he required the extended layoff after fighting three tough bouts in 10 months, which included WBC interim welterweight title victories over Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto before losing a unanimous decision to Mayweather on May 4, 2013 in Las Vegas.
He maintained he also needed the time to reassess his career after Mayweather outpointed him 117-111 on all three judges' scorecards. Ultimately, he determined he wanted to expand his all-around skills with the long-range goal of meeting Mayweather again.
"The first thing is putting that loss behind me and learning from it, growing from it, and becoming a better fighter," Guerrero said. "There's a long road ahead and I know Mayweather has three more fights lined up for him. But I want to try to get back in that position and give it another shot."
Despite his layoff, Guerrero said he has been in the gym training since Jan. 1, and after undertaking a new conditioning regimen under the direction of CrossFit, believes he has improved his speed, strength and endurance.
Reflecting on his loss to Mayweather, Guerrero said he realized he had to incorporate fresh, forward-thinking methods to improve his ring skills and versatility in order to show he's worthy of a rematch.
"I lost to the best fighter in the world, so it makes you want to get better, stronger, faster," he said. "Seeing what kind of foot and hand speed he had makes me want to step my game up more. It really lit a fire under me to become a better fighter, start using every tool that I have and not just get caught in one dimension, where I start trying to walk guys down and outmuscle them. You get a quick guy like Floyd and it's tough to muscle him because he's got those quick legs and feet."
In Kamegai (24-1-1, 21 KOs), Guerrero won't be facing that kind of opponent. The Tokyo fighter is a straight-ahead puncher who has demonstrated himself to be a lethal knockout artist in Japan. However, he has not fared as well fighting in the United States. Kamegai lost a unanimous 10-round decision to Johan Perez on June 8, 2013, in Carson, and also fought to a draw with Jorge Silva in Sacramento in 2012. His only victory on American soil was a sixth-round TKO of Hector Munoz in November of 2011 in Las Vegas.
But Guerrero says Kamegai is the perfect opponent for his first comeback bout.
"Kamegai is a tough guy," he said. "I've been watching film on him and he comes to fight. He doesn't back down and he just keeps coming. He comes to put you out."
He isn't too worried about ring rust after the longest break of his professional career, which started in 2001.
"One of the things about the layoff, it gives you a fresh start when you begin training again," he said. "You go back and assess everything and you start from the beginning. When you're constantly in training camp and you train and train and train, you tend to develop bad habits, habits that stick with you and you start falling into a one-dimensional style. You start forgetting about the rest of the stuff you can do.
"The biggest concern is just being out that long. But I'm in great shape and I'm always ready to fight. I'm excited to be coming back, and when you have that kind of layoff, you get hungry, you starve. You're excited and refreshed to be back in that ring."
The Guerrero-Kamegai fight is being staged by Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions on a card that will also feature a 12-round bout for the vacant WBO featherweight title between undefeated American Gary Russell Jr. and Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko.
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