A failed attempt to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics didn’t discourage Matthew Guerrero.
The plan all along was for the 2014 Manteca High graduate to eventually make the jump to the professional ranks regardless.
Guerrero, now 22, has officially arrived, making his pro debut on July 20 in the "Friday Night Fights" card put on by Toscano Boxing Promotion at San Joaquin County Fairgrounds. He did his part in delighting the home crowd, putting away winless Patrick Gutierrez of Las Vegas with a third-round technical knockout in the 135-pound bout.
Gutierrez (0-7) was dropped by a straight right in the third round and did not come out for the fourth.
“I really didn’t feel any nerves at all that day,” Guerrero said. “I just felt 110 percent confident that I was going to go in there and put on a show for the crowd. I knew I was going to walk away with the victory. I listened to my coach, fought a good fight and it all worked out.”
Guerrero left behind a decorated amateur career in which he logged more than 100 fights. He claimed three Jr. Golden Gloves championships and took bronze medals in the Junior Olympics and U.S. Nationals.
In the fall of 2015, he participated in the Pathway to Glory Olympic Trials Qualifiers to vie for a spot in the U.S. Trials. He suffered a cut above his right eye and had to bow out on his last chance to move on. The 2016 Rio Games marked the first time in over 30 years that boxers did not wear headgear.
“That was my first time without headgear,” Guerrero said. “I didn’t let it get to me, I just learned from it.
“After not getting into the Olympics, that was my whole plan starting out. I really wanted to go to the Olympics, but if I didn’t make it I was going to continue boxing and turn professional.”
Guerrero competed in one more tournament as an amateur, placing second in the California Golden Gloves in March of 2016.
“After that, I was just keeping in shape and waiting for my chance,” he said.
Although he went two-plus years between his last amateur fight and first as a pro, Guerrero remained active in sparring — even getting a few rounds in with promising Stockton prospect Gabriel Flores Jr. (9-0). The 18-year-old Flores recently made his California debut on an ESPN-televised card in Fresno and is believed to be the youngest boxer to sign with Top Rank.
“He’s real smart and makes you think a lot, and that’s what you really need in the pro game,” Guerrero said of Flores. “You can’t go in there swinging wildly, you have to pick your spots. He is also a really good counter puncher, so if you throw something lazy he’ll make you pay for it. It was just really good work overall in getting me ready.”
Since his last amateur match, Guerrero reunited with former trainer Felipe Martinez at Savage Elite Fitness, the training grounds for other boxers from the region featured in "Friday Night Fights."
Martinez introduced the Guerreros — his dad Rick and older brother Kevin help train Matthew — to Jorge Toscano of Toscano Boxing Promotions.
“He got the ball rolling for me,” Matthew said of Toscano. “He helped me get my license got me my first fight.”
Guerrero said his second fight may come in the fall.