- Michael Woods, Boxing
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Joan Guzman excited fight fans with his potential, circa 2005. Fight fans saw his skills, his style, and tossed him into the mental mix with the best and brightest at 126 pounds.
But weight woes, such as when he was 3½ pounds overweight for a fight with unified lightweight champ Nate Campbell in September 2008 and pulled out of the fight at the 11th hour, put him on a watch list.
Will he make weight? Does he want it? Can we rely on him?
Guzman, then a Brooklyn resident, exacerbated the issue when he was nine pounds over the lightweight limit for a 2010 rematch with Ali Funeka. Nine pounds. That's over the line, even in the minds of people disposed to give the Dominican-born hitter a pass for his weigh-in issues the previous time.
Since then, however, he screwed his head on right and got more serious about nutrition, and steering clear of delicious foodstuffs. But the questions keep popping up about Guzman, age 37.
The latest "whack-a-mole" kerfuffle popped up in his last bout, which unfolded in Florida last November. Guzman met Russian rumbler Khabib Allakhverdiev, a 29-year-old lefty, for the vacant WBA 140-pound crown. Guzman was sent to the canvas in Round 3, off two right hands. Then Guzman hit the deck in Round 8, as he was off balance and his foe pushed him. He stood up, favoring his left leg and wincing. The ref called a timeout, and Guzman chose to continue, though he was limping. Khabib, no fool, hopped on his opponent. Guzman was knocked down after eating flurries and looked at his corner, and shook his head no. A ring doc checked him out, conferred with Guzman, and the ref, and the fight was halted.
Howls ensued on Twitter, from the mind-readers who knew that the boxer wasn't truly hurt and just wanted out. The fight went to the cards, and Allakhverdiev was awarded the decision. Guzman (33-1-1 with 20 KOs) was now tagged with his first loss as a pro, and once again, fair or not, questions are dogging him.
The fighter gets another chance to prove his worth, and shut up those bitter Twitter gnats, when he fights Vicente Mosquera (32-2-1 with 17 KOs; age 33; from Panama) in Florida on June 28. The interim WBA world 140-pound title will be up for grabs.
Guzman, who moved to Miami a year ago, told me he knows naysayers think he wanted out versus Khabib. "Only fighters know," he said. "Only people who go in the ring know. People talk too much."
He said his left tibia was injured in the fall and that his right hand suffered a fracture at some point in the fight, as well. I wondered if those injuries aren't a sign from fate to inform him that it might be time to hang 'em up? No, he said. "I'm 37, I don't feel like 37," he said. "I think I have two or three years left."
Henry Rivalta of Acquinity Sports, which is promoting Guzman-Mosquera, says he's confident Guzman will again quiet the doubters. "The weight thing is in the past," Rivalta said. "This is going to be his time to shine. Both guys are over 30, have a lot to prove. But Guzman has never been beat up, he hasn't been in wars."