It's too easy a crack, too flippant for me to giggle or make an ironic comment when Joan Guzman tells me, "I'm more hungry for the title. I'm more focused. I'm more disciplined," during a phoner to tell me about his new personality as a fighter, and human being.
The Dominican native, who had been on and off pound-for-pound lists circa 2005-2006-2007, turned into something of a poster boy of boxers bedeviled by the scale. Jose Luis Castillo turned that title over to Guzman, and fans and pundits simply shook their heads at the fortunes of a kid who had over 300 amateur fights, had a style that transitioned nicely to the pros and was lock-down bet to elevate himself to star territory. What might have been, they said to themselves.
What still will be, the 30-0-1 Guzman insisted to me.
And I confess as I listened to him, I did what you're not supposed to do, or not supposed to admit to, anyway. I wanted to believe him, and felt myself rooting for his success, rooting for the ex-super feather and super bantam champ to get on a track of self discipline so he can show the boxing world that he didn't waste a bucketload of potential.
"Now I'm hungry," he tells, and I don't crack up. Because us laymen really don't have proper respect, by and large, for what fighters go through to make weight. How many of us deprive ourselves of food, how many allow our stomachs to grumble for more than about 15 minutes? The average fighter does it for days and weeks on end. So I'll not crack wise about Guzman's scale woes.
"Me not making weight, that changed my mind. Now I'm focused on boxing," he says. "In the past, I had too many problems, and didn't think too much of boxing. Now I put two hundred percent into my career."
Not to go all Enquirer on the guy, but I asked if he'd been battling drugs or drink? The suspicion isn't unwarranted; the Nevada athletic commission suspended him for eight months for using a banned diuretic prior to his last fight, against Jason Davis last December. That KO2 Guzman win was changed to a "No Contest" because of the flagged urine.
No, he said, not even close. He told me his mom was diagnosed with cancer, and two years ago, she died. "When she was sick, I was not drinking, not smoking. I like to eat, that's my problem."
Guzman, who turned 35 in May, says that's rear-view mirror stuff. He's working out three times a day, declares that the weight is dripping off of him under the stern gaze of trainer Anthony Terranova, and states that he knows he's too old to mess around. "I'm not young anymore. And I understand that people are mad at me. But I promise, no more problems."
Check back for a look at who Guzman wants a piece of in this final run at stardom, and self-respect.
Follow me on Twitter here. Send suggestions or hatemail to FightblogNYC@gmail.com.