'Ghost'-ly blast puts lights out on Honorio

Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero's "phantom punch" put Martin Honorio, right, to sleep. Tom Casino/Showtime

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Maybe Robert Guerrero wasn't as distracted as people feared.

In the final days before the IBF featherweight champion was to defend his title against Martin Honorio, Guerrero learned his wife had been diagnosed with leukemia and would begin chemotherapy immediately.

When he then came in a pound-and-a-half over the 126-pound limit a day later, Guerrero's advisers began to suggest perhaps he should consider pulling out of the fight, a suggestion he adamantly opposed.

He showed how well he knows himself by knocking Honorio out only 56 seconds into the first round Saturday night at the Desert Diamond Casino. Before the aggressive Honorio had any opportunity to test the champion's resolve, he lost his focus for a moment after Guerrero threw a short right jab at him.

The next thing he saw was referee Tony Weeks stopping the fight.

In between, Guerrero (21-1-1, 14 KO) fired a straight left hand behind that jab that slammed into Honorio's temple after he'd turned his head away. The punch that sent him tumbling was one he neither saw nor expected, but it is one he will long remember once someone tells him what happened.

Honorio tumbled down flat on his back, his head slamming hard onto promoter Oscar De la Hoya's Ring magazine logo that was painted on the canvas. Honorio tried to get up as Weeks counted but one of his legs buckled underneath him as he sat in an odd squat.

He managed to beat the count but once up, Honorio (24-4-1, 12 KO) staggered straight across the ring into the ropes in the opposite direction of Guerrero.

That perhaps was the wise choice but Weeks determined it wasn't made voluntarily so he stopped the fight immediately without Guerrero even having to leave the neutral corner.

"He got me with a good shot," Honorio conceded, "but I could have gone on."

Maybe when he figured out what direction he needed to be walking in he could have, but that wouldn't have been soon enough to survive another assault from the champion, who was relieved and ecstatic after his hand was raised.

"This is for my wife, Casey, and for everybody who has sickness out there," Guerrero said. "She is a very strong woman. She told me to go out and fight."

He did but not for long after following a battle plan that turned out to be nearly perfect.

"We'd been working on short, chopping left hands," Guerrero said. "I felt his chin was soft. I saw him lunging at me and he stepped right into it.

"After I hit him I looked into his eyes and saw he was out."

Actually, Honorio had stepped into the leading right jab Guerrero had used to distract him. The instant he turned his head away to avoid it he was struck with the kind of short, chopping left behind it that Guerrero have been practicing, for months, proving that, at least on this night, practice had made perfect.

Ron Borges, who has won numerous Boxing Writers Association of America awards, covers boxing for HBO.com and for Boxing Monthly.