Friday, March 2, 2012

Joan Guzman, Who Once Battled The Scale, Now Battles Father Time

In the wake of Adrian Broner's blistering stoppage of Eloy Perez last week on HBO, plenty of speculation has been tossed about as to who will take over the role of boxing's next big star. Comparisons have been made, respected figures have offered their opinions, and round and round we go. 

It seems a couple of times a year boxing fans get the "next best thing" hard sell by some network or promoter. We know the pitch: this guy has handspeed, punching power and skills, and his career is pointed in the right direction. 

The reality is that, more often than not, these fighters simply cannot live up to the hype -- even if that's not necessarily a terrible thing. 


At one point, Dominican on again, off again contender Joan Guzman was can't miss in terms of promotion and reputation. 

"Little Tyson" Guzman, 31-0-1 (18 KO) and 1 No Contest, is currently battling the clock in his latest bid to make a more significant dent in the space-time continuum of pugilism. 

It's been almost 10 years since he snatched up the vacant WBO 122 lb. title with a 3rd round body shot stoppage of Fabio Oliva on the undercard of Joe Calzaghe vs. Miguel Jimenez in Wales, and one of his biggest issues is only having fought 15 times since. 

Tonight on ESPN's Friday Night Fights, the 35-year-old Guzman takes on Puerto Rican Jesus Pabon in the latest installment of what has amounted to a years-long comeback.  

Between drawing comparisons to Mike Tyson in look and style and becoming a speedy stylist content with out-slicking opponents who don't present clear stoppage openings, Guzman has dipped his toe into just about every pool of boxing no-no short of quitting. From coming in 9 lbs. heavy in his rematch with Ali Funeka in 2010; to canceling his fight with Nate Campbell in 2008 at the 11th hour; to committing fairly blatant in-ring fouls regularly; and finally testing positive for a diuretic and being dropped by Golden Boy Promotions as a result a little over a year ago...Guzman seems to have created his own interesting times to live in. 

A 2006 showdown with WBO featherweight belt-holder Scott Harrison was called off close to fight time because of a dental issue on Harrison's part, so not every single layoff or lengthy wait between fights was his fault.

At the end of the day though, Guzman essentially rendered himself undependable to television networks with the generous helpings of drama. That Friday Night Fights even allowed him to headline one of their shows demonstrates borderline questionable logic on their part, and that idea seemed semi-confirmed when Joan took three tries to make the contracted weight of 140 lbs. yesterday. 

Needless to say, tonight's show is the proverbial "do or die" for Guzman in terms of demonstrating he's worth a higher-paying TV spot. He's unlikely to win over any doubters (of which he has many) with a dull showing. And it's not to say that he needs to dispense with the defense and welcome oblivion or anything, but even at 35, Guzman's ability should be in a different dimension than Pabon's, and in order for him to prove relevant at 140-147 lbs, a statement is necessary. 

The "opponent" Pabon, 17-2 (11 KO), while not a complete bum or anything, is coming off a 2nd round stoppage loss to the relatively plodding and unimpressive Javier Castro, who just overwhelmed the Puerto Rican southpaw with a steady barrage. Quite simply, Pabon isn't in the class of a fighter who was successful in over 300 reported amateur bouts, and that should be apparent in the ring tonight. 

A win for Pabon would clearly be the biggest of his career, but he may need a Chuck Norris intervention to pull it off considering he didn't look to take a great shot against Castro. Even if Guzman's punching power hasn't carried up in weight with him as well as he'd have you believe, his hands will also be noticeably quicker than Pabon's. 

For years it was as if Guzman's potential in the sport was just fuel that would inevitably ignite into something impressive, but momentum from big wins over Humberto Soto and Jorge Barrios was halted by inactivity and a more tedious style. 

The clock ticks away slightly quicker for the little guys, it seems, with many lighter-weight fighters burning out by their mid-30's. Tonight, Guzman ultimately decides whether this is a legitimate surge, or just another comeback. 

In the co-feature, Ed Paredes, 29-3-1 (19 KO), takes on late substitute Manuel Leyva, who sports a 21-4 (12 KO) record. Paredes will be attempting his 7th win in a row, while Leyva comes into the bout at 1-3 in his last four. One of Leyva's losses was a stoppage in less than a round to prospect Dannie Williams. 


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