By Thomas Gerbasi
Apparently we weren’t the only ones who saw it. When Dominick Guinn was on the verge of big things in the heavyweight division from 2003 to 2006, only to lose winnable fights by turning off his hands in the midst of a bout, it wasn’t just the fans and the media wondering what was going on with “The Southern Disaster.” His close friends, including two world champions, saw it too.
“Vernon Forrest and Arturo Gatti, and other guys that I’ve had great conversations with, that was my entourage,” said Guinn. “They were warriors and they were the ones that always told me that if I let my hands go I would never be beaten. Arturo and Vernon used to tell me that all the time.”
Both Forrest and Gatti are gone now, both tragically dying within weeks of each other in July of 2009. But Guinn is still here, and on Saturday, the 38-year-old who has lost three of his last four bouts gets another chance to show the world how good he can be when he lets his hands go, or, as he used to say, “unleashes his demons.”
“I kind of got away from boxing and having fun, but I’m back to having fun and you’re gonna see on August 3rd,” said Guinn, who faces Tomasz Adamek in a televised bout at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut. “I’m just gonna go in there and let my boxing talk for itself and we’ll see who’s gonna put on the better show.”
Stepping in for the injured Tony Grano, Guinn’s name was a blast from the past for many who thought he had simply faded into retirement, obscurity, or both. But after back-to-back 2007 losses to Eddie Chambers and Robert Hawkins that pretty much scratched him from the heavyweight top 20, he kept to a two fights a year schedule for a while, running off five straight wins over opposition that ranged from 27-1 Jean Francois Bergeron and 21-0 Johnnie White to 19-17-2 Charles Davis and 8-9 Terrell Nelson.
But three losses to three unbeaten heavies, two in Germany against Kubrat Pulev and Denis Boytsov, killed any momentum he might have used to push his way into another big fight. So after a first round knockout of journeyman Stacy Frazier in June of 2012, he waited and hoped that his number would get called, because his own calls were going unanswered.
“I couldn’t get any fights around here,” said the Arkansas native who now makes his home in Houston. “I’d go to call out people’s names, and they’re just passing me by, like who am I? So I had to take whatever I could get, and I took those fights (in Europe) thinking that I could knock the guy out going overseas.”
That didn’t happen, yet on the other side of the coin, Guinn wasn’t getting knocked out either, proving that he’s still durable, still a test for whoever he faces, and still capable of putting on a memorable performance if he can just unleash those demons.
So can he?
“I’m not taking anything away from the people I fought, I’m just kicking myself in the butt, that’s all,” said Guinn of a past that saw wins over Michael Grant, Duncan Dokiwari, and Audley Harrison get erased in fight fans’ memory banks by his listless losses against Monte Barrett, Sergei Liakhovich, and James Toney. “I know how good I am, and to sum it up, no ifs ands or buts about it, I’m gonna let my hands go and we’re gonna go from there.”
The thing is, with Adamek still being a small heavyweight and one that showed some wear and tear in his controversial win over Steve Cunningham last December, Guinn – who sparred with Adamek and helped prepare him for his signature win over Chris Arreola in 2010 – is a live underdog this weekend. He knows it, and the family and friends that have stuck by him through the lean years know it too.
“My close friends and my family, they know,” he said. “They know what’s going on, they see me in the gym, and they believe in me. They know that I still have it. I’m sure there are some other guys that have been around and they’ve been knocked out a couple times and their family told them ‘hey, you need to hang it up.’ But my family and my close friends, they’re there for me.”
And even when an October 2012 bout with Franklin Lawrence fell through, Guinn tried to stay positive in a sport that can often be discouraging.
“Last year, I was training for Franklin Lawrence, then a week before the fight, they end up calling me and telling me the fight was cancelled,” he said. “And that hurt because that’s the last big thing I had scheduled. This division is screwed up because a lot of the top guys are sitting back waiting or trying to piggyback, saying they’re going to take a safe fight so they can get a big fight with the champion and get the payday. Then I’m pretty sure they’re proud of being knocked out then because it’s all about the money. I think that’s why I have the losses I have on my record now. I want to be the people’s champion. Anybody they called me to fight, I fought. I never ducked anybody and I never will duck anybody. If you say this person is bad, then I want to fight him first.”
So after Grano went down to injury and Guinn got the short notice call from his former promotional team at Main Events, there wasn’t any hesitation in accepting the fight. Funny thing is, to a lot of fight fans who weren’t following the sport in his heyday, Dominick Guinn may just be the “new guy” in the ring on Saturday. That’s fine with him.
“I actually don’t care if they know me or don’t know me,” he said. “But I feel like if you watch me, you’re gonna like me.”
He laughs, well aware that he has that rarest of opportunities in front of him. A second chance.
“I’m happy where I’m at, I’m happy I’ve been through the things I’ve been through, and it’s gonna show,” said Guinn. “When I’m on top of the world, I can definitely say that after the things I’ve been through in my boxing and in my life, they made me stronger.”