Guerrero-Litzau: Featherweight Fisticuffs

Lost in the immense shadow of this Saturday’s mega-fight, the highly anticipated rubber-match between junior featherweights Israel Vasquez and Rafael Marquez, is an intriguing matchup of two explosive fighters a mere four pounds north of the aforementioned duo. This Friday night Showtime will kick off what promises to be a great weekend of fights with a special edition of Shobox: The Next Generation headlined by two of its alums when IBF titlist Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero (21-1-1, 14 KOs) takes on Jason “The American Boy” Litzau (23-1, 19 KOs) at the Tachi Palace & Casino in Lemoore, CA.  It promises to be an explosive affair. Guerrero,the highly touted prospect out of Gilroy, CA is currently ranked as the #2 featherweight (126 lbs) by Ring Magazine and has been a Showbox regular for some time now.  A 5’8″ southpaw who fights with a TV friendly aggressive style, Guerrero’s stock has risen to new heights as of late.  Thought there were doubts not that long ago in regard to his dedication and focus inside the squared circle.  These lingering doubts arose following Guerrero’s split decision loss to tough but limited Gamaliel Diaz.  In the fight Guerrero appeared far from sharp and was able to get outworked by a focused and determined Diaz.  It apparently was the kind of wake-up call that Guerrero needed as he rebounded with a TKO victory in his very next outing.  It was at that point that a rematch with Diaz was signed and this time around there would be no questioning of Guererro’s will and determination.  What transpired was a brutal one-sided beatdown that continued on until Diaz could no longer withstand the assault in the 6th round.  Guerrero seemed to have recaptured a passion for the sport as he battered in over-matched Eric Aiken over 8 rounds to capture the IBF belt in dramatic fashion.  However, in Guerrero’s very first defense he was soundly out fought against Orlando Salido as he dropped his title in a 12 round unanimous decision to the unheralded Salido.  It was soon discovered in a post fight urine sample that Salido had tested positive for steroids and the result was changed to a No Decision.  From there Guerrero would travel abroad for the first time in pursuit of the belt that now lay vacant as he ventured to Denmark to fight Spend Abazi in Abazi’s homeland.  Credit must be given to Guerrero who rendered the chance for a hometown decision a mute point as he stopped Abazi in nine rounds.  In Guerrero’s last appearance he blew out tough-as-nails Martin Honorio in one round despite having learned that his wife Casey had been diagnosed with Leukemia. Jason Litzau was also considered a highly talented prospect hailing from the decidedly unlikely boxing hotbed of St. Paul, MN.  Litzau is your classic power puncher molded in the image of a Thomas Hearns with his tall slender frame provided the perfect leverage for his punishing blows.  The thing with Litzau is that while he is often referred to as a puncher, the fact remains that “The American Boy” can box with the best of them.  When Litzau actually decides to use his natural boxing ability it can be a thing of beauty.  A lighting fast jab that is often followed by a concussive right hand, Litzau would probably be undefeated right now if he was more attune to his corner’s pleas to box more and brawl less.  Fortunately for those craving action Litzau seems to be most content when he is engaging his opponent in a good ole fashion donnybrook. And while Litzau has made a name for himself for that very reason, such reckless abandon became a detriment when he stepped up to challange the Jose Hernandez on what was to be Litzau’s coming out party.  Scheduled for his first appearance on HBO and with the lucrative prospect of impressing the cable giant’s brass in attendance Litzau decided that he was going to go for a knockout.  For the majority of the fight Litzau threw everything but the kitchen sink at Hernandez who depsite eating a steady stream of leather never stopped pressing the action forward.  Then end came in the 8th round after Litzau had dropped his hands, Hernandez connected with a punch that sent Litzau to the canvas unable to answer the referee.  It was perhaps the worst scenario Litzau could have imagined.  Here Litzau was on the cusp on breaking through to the masses, the big money payday, and widespread recognition and it all was gone.  But let’s not write off Litzau just yet as he has been on a three fight winning spree since suffering his lone defeat and appears to have begun to head the sage advice of his handlers by boxing more and avoiding the unnecessary brawling.  But just how will that all play out in the toughest fight of his career so far?  My Prediction:Guerrero scores a 12 round unanimous decision to retain his title.  Don’t get me wrong, Litzau is a good solid young prospect who may be in line to do some big things in his career but he has never faced a fighter of the caliber of a Guerrero.  Expect some good action early as Litzau tends to fight more aggressively when the spotlight is beamed upon him but I see Guerrero fighting the smarter fight.  It should also be noted that Guerrero is more technically sound of the two and has fought the stiffer competition as of late.  I just can’t see it going any other way other than Litzau managing to crack the pretty durable chin of Guerrero. Confidence:87%.  Pretty high as I feel that Guerrero is the superior fighter in all aspects except maybe in power.  Though it should questioned just how focused can Guerrero possibly be in light of his wife’s near death battle with cancer.  And while I am elated to announce that the Leukemia is in remission with Casey Guerrero, the toll that the treatments have taken on her health has been a major concern for Guerrero and his family.  (On a side note, the San Jose Mercury News has an excellent mini-documentary on the Guerrero’s and I recommend you check it out here.) Still I believe that Guerrero will rise to the challenge and take care of business Friday night.  My Allegiance:  I have always considered Guerrero one of my favorite fighters so forgive the thinly veiled bias.  Like Tim, and every other observer who covers this sport, I usually am good at keeping my affinity for a fighter separate when making a prediction or covering a fight but in this case I am going to embrace my biases for all it’s worth.  Having grown up a little ways north of Gilroy on the east side of the San Francisco Bay Area I have to stick with my NorCal homie.  In addition to that Guerrero is a very humble individual and devoted family man, having spoken to him personally I can vouch for his moral character as it is presented to those in public.  Oh, and it does not hurt that he is a hell of a fighter.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.