By Jake Donovan
Acquinity Sports had every intention to hit the ground running when electing to enter the boxing business. The South Florida-based company made its promotional debut earlier this year, gaining television coverage for the event when Telefutura aired the January show live from Hollywood, Florida.
A slew of Dominican prospects and contenders were signed to by highly motivated promoter Henry Rivalta, including 2008 Olympic Gold medalist Felix Diaz and two-time Olympic entrant Juan Carlos Payano. However, its most notable signing captured the most headlines – and also raised the most eyebrows – when the company made a considerable investment into Joan Guzman’s comeback.
The unbeaten Dominican star carries an eye-popping record of 33-0-1 (20KO), title reigns in two weight classes and a rich amateur pedigree which includes a run with the 1996 Dominican Republic Olympic boxing squad. He also carries a considerable amount of baggage, though.
Difficulties at the scales and a reputation for a lack of discipline between fights have severely slowed the career progress for Guzman, now 36 years old and still forced to prove his worth to the public.
None of this was news to Acquinity CEO Garry Jonas. The business mogul – who also heads the coupon aggregate company bsaving.com – knew the risks of investing into the future of the 16-year ring veteran, personally serving as his adviser.
All the right moves have been made, as Acquinity is now one win away from crowning its first champion. Guzman fights for a vacant 140 lb. title against Khabib Allakhverdiev on November 30.
The card – titled “Beatdown 2012” - will air live on Pursuit TV and Bounce TV, and will be immediately followed by a concert headlined by global superstar Flo Rida and will feature several other notable hip-hop stars from past, present and on the local scene.
A major buzz has circulated throughout the area regarding the show, but Acquinity’s primary concern is the outcome of the main event. Allakhverdiev (17-0, 8KO) is a handful for any 140 lb. fighter on the planet and a very large check was written in order to bring this fight to the U.S. rather than for Guzman to have to travel to Russia.
Still, Jonas and the rest of his team are confident in Guzman, based on his ability but more so the dedication he’s shown ever since signing with Acquinity Sports. Jonas took a few moments from his hectic schedule to discuss his professional relationship with Guzman, how the fighter has changed for the better and what it would mean personally to the promoter for his first champ to be crowned.
What does Guzman winning a title mean to Gary Jonas and to Acquinity Sports?
Garry Jonas: Any time you set out to achieve something and you attain it, it's a special feeling. I think a lot of people in boxing wrote Guzman off for a variety of reasons. We took a chance on him; for it to pay off with a championship would be very sweet.
Guzman appears to be on the right track, to what can that be attributed?
GJ: When I met with Guzman, I saw a man with a lot of character. Given the bad reputation, I figured he was misunderstood or that he has matured and changed as a man an as a boxer. He and I sat down and had a very frank conversation about his work ethic, his dedication to his craft. That talent alone doesn't achieve greatness. That his head - meaning his discipline and his heart, meaning his willingness to sacrifice - had to be there alongside his obvious skills, and once he put it all together he would finally find out how good he could be. I saw a light go on in his head. He got it and we decided to do whatever it takes to help him make his comeback.
He doesn't come to "camp". He trains and practices every day, all year round. We spoke about what he needed to do to become a better boxer than he was. We made a list of things he needed to improve on and gave him a very rigid routine. The focus, the structured environment, the strict diet - all of these things transformed Joan. He has finally become a professional athlete, not just a boxer. To answer your question, Guzman has grown up and now understands what a man must do to be at his best.
We all know Guzman has had issues in the past, what can you say to those who continue to judge him?
GJ: Guzman has a lot of fans, and he has a lot of critics. Those who criticize him have every right. Anytime an athlete has everything you could ask for and then the public sees him take it for granted and waste it, the criticism will be well deserved. He understands that now and is dedicated to showing his critics that he has learned his lesson and has changed. Everyone makes mistakes, but those who recover from them often get the most praise. He realizes he is getting a chance to redeem himself and it’s definitely a motivating factor for him now. Guz’s image isn't the reality, he really is a soft spoken humble guy who is sensitive and wants everyone to like him. Hopefully boxing fans will give him another chance.
For a moment we should all try to forget his mistakes and focus on how good this guy really is. I can now tell you that regardless of how good he may have looked at times, he was so much more talented than that. Because he was lazy and not dedicated, he didn’t come into his fights well prepared. But because of his talent he was able to get by. Now he's been training for nine months straight, in better physical condition than ever before. This is the first time in his career he is honing his skills for the fight rather than killing himself to just make weight. I think all this will result in boxing fans seeing a Guzman that is far better than ever before. He is a young 36, he still has his speed and is more athletic than ever because of his conditioning regimen. I’m excited to see just how good he is now that he has finally put it all together.
What’s next for Joan Guzman if he becomes a three-time champ? Who is on the radar?
GJ: Good question. That's really up to Showtime and HBO. Most fans don't realize that those companies control boxing at the championship level. Congratulations to them, in business we all strive to have that effect on our industry. If they want somebody to fight Guzman, chances are they will because that's where the big paydays come from.
The golden rule is... the man with the gold rules. They've got the gold; they decide who fights who with the rare exceptions like (Floyd) Mayweather and (Manny) Pacquiao. If HBO and Showtime give him another chance, I think we could get together with Top Rank and do something like this: Brandon rios; then after he beats Rios, Timothy Bradley; if and when he beats Bradley, then comes Pacquiao.
We would like to get this done all in the coming year if Top Rank and one of the big networks is willing. We would like to get Danny Garcia for the WBA (140 lb). super championship, but I doubt Golden Boy Promotions or Garcia would take the fight . Golden Boy is very smart at picking the right fights for their fighters in order to protect their investments.
The two networks are all about the fans, so if the fans ask for it, they will probably try to find a way to make it happen. Guzman will fight anyone out there. He isn't worried about protecting his undefeated record; he wants to fight the best before he retires.
Do you believe Joan will stop being avoided if he becomes champ?
GJ: While he was once avoided out of fear, now he is avoided because the big two won’t put him on. This is a championship bout; why isn't this on HBO or Showtime? It's Guzman’s fault, I don't blame them for not wanting to take a chance on him. He has to fight his way back into their good graces. He has to win back boxing fans, that's his only chance of getting big fights.
He knows the only thing he controls is what he does, how hard he works and to never let down the fans or the networks again. It's been a good year, he's on the right track, now he has to win convincingly over Allakhverdiev and then I think he will get back into big fights. He created the problem; he's focused on fixing it.
Finally, what can we expect from Acquinity Sports in 2013?
GJ: We aren't a Golden boy or a Top Rank. We don't have the relationships with the networks. We are trying, but they don't need us. All we can do is continue to recruit top talent, foster a great training environment for our fighters, and give them the guidance, training and discipline to become champions. We figure if we continue to develop great fighters that the fans want to see, the rest will take care of itself.
In our first year we have already got a potential champ in Guzman. (Super featherweight contender Argenis) Mendez is fighting (a rematch with Juan Carlos) Salgado for a championship early in 2013, that would be two. Claudio Marrero , ranked number three in the world is a special talent, a well-kept secret that will be unveiled in a championship fight sometime next year. Dominique Dolton is another special talent. I could go on and on, just go to acquinitysports.com to see our team of fighters .
We have signed a deal with Pursuit TV and Bounce TV to showcase our blue chip prospects in 2013. Tune in there to see boxing’s next stars. We promise to put them in tough and make sure the fans get entertaining fights.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox