Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero (32-2-1) returned on Saturday night with a thrilling unanimous-decision victory over Yoshihiro Kamegai (24-2-1) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
The two men stood chest to chest and whacked each other for 12 brutal rounds. When the smoke cleared, Guerrero did the most damage, though his face didn't necessarily tell the story.
A nasty gash and swelling on the left eye were proof Guerrero was in a brawl. Here's a look at the scorecards, via ESPN Boxing:
Scorecards: 116-112, 117-111, 117-111, to the winner, by unanimous decision, Robert Guerrero.— ESPN Boxing (@ESPNBoxing) June 22, 2014
ESPN's Dan Rafael said what everyone watching was thinking:
A former champion and Guerrero opponent, Andre Berto was also an admirer of the battle:
These boys are slugging it out straight old school phone booth scrap @SHOsports— Andre Berto (@AndreBerto) June 22, 2014
Despite throwing a ton of punches over 12 rounds, Kamegai was a man of few words after the bout:
"Not much I can say. I lost the fight, that's all I can say." Kamegai— Isaac Estrada (@RealBoxingNews) June 22, 2014
From the very beginning, it was clear the bout would be fought in close proximity and with a plethora of punches.
Guerrero's hand speed and savvy helped him win the first three rounds easily. It looked as if it would be a completely one-sided affair. However, Kamegai's pursuit was persistent, but his rudimentary defense offered little resistance to Guerrero's shots.
Slowly but surely, Kamegai's body work and pressure began to take some of the steam out of The Ghost. Guerrero was still landing some big shots, but Kamegai was also doing solid work.
One has to wonder why Guerrero didn't box more, but boxing fans who love a slugfest are glad he ditched the dancing. Guerrero talked about why he chose to stand and bang as opposed to employing lateral movement:
Guerrero: "I like to give the fans what they want so I stood there and through with him."— ESPN Boxing (@ESPNBoxing) June 22, 2014
In the sixth round, Kamegai really began to make some headway. Guerrero's punch output slowed noticeably. In the seventh round, a hard right-hand uppercut opened a nasty cut over Guerrero's eye. The shot also instantly caused bad swelling.
Robert Guerrero won and looks like this what a fight!!! pic.twitter.com/witRTO7cB1— Jeremy Fraser (@Jfras24) June 22, 2014
Guerrero talked about the punch that did the damage to his eye:
Guerrero: "He hit me with a good shot and [my eye] started swelling up quick. It closed up and I was having trouble but it's no excuse."— ESPN Boxing (@ESPNBoxing) June 22, 2014
Guerrero took a little over a round to get back the pace he had early in the fight. Just as Guerrero got his second wind, Kamegai's pace slowed. Guerrero took advantage of the shift in energy.
Consequently, The Ghost did his best work in the ninth, 10th and 12th rounds.
As exciting as the fight was, Guerrero could have made it a lot easier for himself. When you consider the skill level of his opponent, Guerrero's performance didn't help sell him as an elite fighter.
Most of the best in the welterweight division could have potentially shut Kamegai out. This is no disrespect to the rugged 31-year-old Japanese fighter. He's an amazing warrior with a huge heart and a great chin, but his defense is nonexistent.
We'll see if Guerrero can step up his game against more skilled opposition. Perhaps he just got caught up fighting his opponent's fight.
Keith "One Time" Thurman was mentioned by Showtime's Jim Gray as a potential opponent for Guerrero, but the 31-year-old from Gilroy, California, playfully sidestepped the question by likening the highly touted welterweight to the current country music star with a similar name.
Gray brushed off Guerrero's evasion, and Brian Campbell of ESPN took notice:
Great no-sell from Jim Gray on Guerrero's Keith Urban/Thurman joke.— Brian Campbell (@BCampbellESPN) June 22, 2014
Though he was victorious, there wasn't much on display from Guerrero that would suggest he can beat a fighter such as Thurman or newly crowned IBF champion Shawn Porter.
As for Kamegai, he hit a home run with his performance. Not much was expected of him, but thanks to Guerrero's questionable approach, the hard-charging brawler was made to look formidable.
He'll undoubtedly get another shot to please a Showtime crowd. For his sake, fans should hope it's against another opponent willing to stand right in front of him all night.
Otherwise, it could be really boring.
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