By Peter Lim
Former two-time IBF featherweight titleholder Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero attempts to conquer a second weight division when he takes on IBF super featherweight titlist Malcolmn Klassen in Houston at the Toyota Center on Saturday, Aug. 22 on the undercard to Juan Diaz-Paul Malignaggi. “I was getting a little too big for featherweight,” the sharpshooting southpaw said. “Now that I’m at 130 pounds, I feel amazing. I love it.” The bout, staged by Golden Boy Promotions, will be aired on HBO.
It will be Klassen’s first bout outside his native South Africa, but the fact that Klassen is virtually unheard of in this hemisphere is no reason to underestimate him. “Malcomn Klassen is a two-time world champion,” Guerrero said. “I’ve watched his tapes and he’s a good fighter. He has a high punch output and throws a hundred punches a round. Unfortunately, a lot of fighters out of South Africa don’t get the exposure like the fighters here.”
Not unexpectedly, Guerrero, 26, was guarded about revealing too much about his game plan for the fight while winding down his preparations at the Main Boxing Gym in Downtown Houston. “I’m going to have to go out there, put on a good show, dictate the fight and get everything done that I’ve been working on,” Guerrero said. He nevertheless acknowledged that it is a high-stakes duel in which both men had a lot to prove. “It’s a world championship fight, it’s on HBO and I want to make the statement that I ‘m here to take it to the next level,” Guerrero said.
Klassen is not the first unknown outsider Guerrero will face and his track record against obscure foreigners is mixed. In 2007, Guerrero traveled to Denmark and dominated local favorite Spend Abazi before stopping him in the ninth round to win the IBF title for the second time. But when Guerrero fought in front of his hometown fans in San Jose, CA, earlier this year, he had his hands full against a tenacious Daud Yordan of Indonesia before the fight was declared a no-contest in the second round due to a headbutt-induced cut that Guerrero suffered.
Guerrero appears to one of those guys who fights up or down to the level of his opposition. As a streaking prospect, he was upset in his 17th fight by journeyman Gamaliel Diaz via split decision for the NABF title. He subsequently avenged the loss vis sixth round KO and went on to dethrone Eric Aiken for the IBF title. But in his first defense, Guerrero was out-hustled and manhandled by unheralded Orlando Salido, losing a unanimous decision which was later declared a no-contest after Salido tested positive for an illegal substance.
While he has faltered against mediocre opponents, Guerrero has shined against respectable ones. In the two title defenses of his second reign, he flattened the usually-sturdy Martin Honorio with a single, picturesque left in the first round and stopped highly-touted prospect Jason Litzau in eight rounds.
Come Saturday, we’ll find out which Robert Guerrero shows up at the opposite corner from Klassen.