①Robert Guerrero's shadowboxing punches sliced through the air. ②He darted around the ring with a bounce in his footwork.
①"I probably look a lot better now, don't I?" he said, a wide smile creasing his face. "I feel alive again."
①Two weeks earlier, Guerrero had stood outside the Stanford Hospital, explaining his decision to pull out of the biggest fight of his career to support his wife, Casey, who had undergone a bone-marrow transplant. ②She will get better, he said in a tired voice.
①He was right. ②Casey is out of the hospital. ③And although her health remains fragile, the signs are encouraging in her long-running battle with leukemia.
①That's why the Gilroy boxer known as "The Ghost" was back to dancing around the East Palo Alto Boxing Club ring as if a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
①"It's funny, but people kept coming up to me and saying, 'You gave up your title? How could you do that?' " ②Guerrero said. "I just told them that it means nothing to me. ③What I'm doing is more important. ④But just watch, because I'll be back."
①His gloves were a blur as he threw another combination.
①Guerrero arrived at the gym with Casey's grandfather, Jerry Kissee. ②They had just dropped Casey and her grandmother, Joan Kissee, off at Stanford for her regular monitoring. ③As he taped his hands, Guerrero said Casey had begun regaining her weight, and all the tests so far had been encouraging.
①Casey said in a brief phone interview that her recovery seems to be ahead of schedule.
①"I'm feeling good, and the doctors say I'm doing really well," she said. ②"That's important, because this is the one last thing they could do to stop it."
①Casey, 26, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in fall 2007. ②Twice she had relapsed, which led to the Jan. 25 bone-marrow transplant from an unknown donor in Europe.
①She will spend the coming months in virtual isolation to prevent infection. ②She wears a mask whenever she is outside. ③All of her food must be well-cooked, including fruits and vegetables. ④She returns to the hospital three times a week to have her blood checked.
①Casey is staying in Menlo Park temporarily, because she needs to be close to the hospital if she becomes ill. ②But she can again see their two young children — Savannah, 4, and Robert Jr., 3 — as long as they are healthy.
①"She's looking great now," Guerrero said. ②"But my father was really tripping out when he saw her right after the transplant, because she was at the worst stage. ③He just turned to me and said, 'So you think you're a fighter? Now Casey is a real fighter.' "
①Guerrero, 26, temporarily threw in the towel on his boxing career to be in her corner. ②He was supposed to fight Australian Michael Katsidis in an HBO bout March 27. ③It would have meant a payday in excess of $100,000 for Guerrero (25-1-1, 17 knockouts) and was envisioned as a springboard to more high-profile bouts.
①"I was just worrying about so much," Guerrero said. ②"When I was in the gym, I couldn't relax, because I knew I had to get back to the hospital when the doctors were there. ③I was thinking about the kids all the time. ④I was just getting pulled in a million directions."
①So he gave up the fight and also relinquished his junior-lightweight world title (130 pounds).
①Shelly Finkel, Guerrero's co-manager, is a veteran of the fight game. ②He has never heard of a boxer canceling a main event to be with an ill wife.
①"But I also can't imagine a young man with two children having his childhood sweetheart be this sick so early in their lives," Finkel said. ②"It's a big burden, but he had no choice. ③He's not the type of kid to run away from responsibilities."
①Even Casey was a little surprised "... but thankful.
①"I was so scared," she said. ②"I didn't know what to expect. ③I was happy that he could be there all the time with me. ④This is just the way Robert's always been. ⑤He's all about taking care of me and taking care of the kids."
①Guerrero finished his workout with a long session on the heavy bag. ②Between punches, he talked about being taught how to help take care of Casey's medical needs. ③He even joked that he would like to receive a certificate proving he was "Stanford-educated."
①But Jerry Kissee said he calls Guerrero "Doctor." ②One night, Guerrero had gone home to be with the kids when Casey called and said she was having trouble with a catheter. ③Guerrero got right back on the road to help her.
①"He's such a nice person, and he's so in love with my granddaughter," Kissee said. ②"How can you not admire a young man like him?"
①The gym sessions are mostly a stress reliever for the boxer. ②But if Casey continues to improve over the next month, Guerrero might resume serious training. ③For now, he's taking it one day at a time.
①"Everything can change quickly, so the focus is still on her completely," he said. ②"But maybe pretty soon she'll want me to get out and go fight somebody. ③But I really don't want to go back into the ring until Casey can be right there watching."