By Jake Donovan
Unbeaten former two-division champion Joan Guzman figuratively turned heads with his literally head-turning eighth round knockout of Jesus Pabon in their main event Friday evening at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, FL.
The bout served as the headlining act in ESPN2s latest edition of Friday Night Fights. Guzman weighed in at the junior welterweight limit of 140 lb, while Pabon came in slightly lighter at 139.5 lb.
Guzman is still far more boxer than puncher these days, but against dumbed-down competition has shown he can still bang when the situation arises. On the heels of a first round knockout against Florencio Castellano last November, Guzman once again jumped off to a quick start, flooring Pabon with a sneak counter left as his opponent was coming in and caught off guard.
The sequence was telling of how competitive the fight would be. Pabons lone saving grace in the fight came from fickle officiating in the second round. Guzman buckled his opponent with a vicious left hook to the body, only to be warned for a low blow that wasnt very low at all.
Bodypunching remained the key in punishing Pabon, as Guzman scored the second knockdown of the night courtesy of a right uppercut in the third. The Dominican would repeat the sequence in the fourth round, first scoring upstairs and then coming back with a righthand to the chest. Pabon unsuccessfully sold referee Frank Gentile on the notion of being pushed to the canvas as he took his third eight-count in the fight.
Action slowed considerably in the second half of the fight, as Guzman bore greater resemblance to the fighter of the past several years who prefers to coast rather than go all in. The lackadaisical approach allowed Pabon to believe that he had a chance to work his way back into the fight, even in the presence of losing a point in the sixth for excessive holding.
Something suddenly clicked, however, as Guzman turned it up considerably in the eighth round. The moment he did, not only was the fight over but boxing was given a highlight reel moment in the process.
Pabon was growing a bit too brave for his own good and Guzman made sure to make him pay. In a night intended to carry the theme of Dominican vs. Puerto Rican, Guzman dug deep and showed his pride if not for the faux rivalry, then for the sake of his own career. Allowing Pabon to hang around for too long, Guzman closed the show in brilliant and breathtaking fashion.
Punches were beginning to score with alarming regularity as Pabon was on the verge of being taken out. A crisp left hook stopped the Puerto Rican in his tracks and Guzman had the wherewithal to follow up and finish rather than to traditionally stand and pose. A right hand-left hook combination put Pabon down and out, his head crashing against the canvas and left leg kicking up and temporarily twitching in the air.
Referee Frank Gentile began to count but quickly waved off the bout the moment he surveyed Pabons alarming state. Medical attention was immediately given in the ring as the Puerto Rican was able to make his way to a stool.
The official time was 1:28 of the eighth round.
Guzman picks up his second win and knockout in the span of less than four months as he improves to 32-0-1 (19KO). With ring activity and drama at the scales long plaguing his career, Guzman appears to have turned a corner in his career. How long it lasts remains to be seen, though the past two fights have offered promising signs of hope in what has been deemed a last chance tour for the soon to be 36-year-old.
Pabon suffers his second straight loss as he falls to 17-3 (11KO). All three of his defeats have come by knockout, including a pair of second-round KO losses.
In the televised co-feature, local welterweight hopeful Ed Paredes got in some rounds as he labored to a 7th round stoppage over Manuel Leyva. The transplanted Dominican scored two knockdowns in the fifth round and one more in the seventh, the last knockdown causing the fight to be stopped on the spot.
Paredes made things harder on himself than necessary early on, throwing one punch at a time and seemingly disinterested in exploiting Leyvas soft midsection. The rising contender picked up the pace considerably in the fifth, scoring a pair of knockdowns in the fifth round, both courtesy of uppercuts.
Leyva managed to scramble to his feet on both occasions, but it was a matter of time before the out-of-shape Mexican would ultimately wilt. The ringside physician even called time out in between rounds to give the journeyman an extended look before allowing action to resume
For whatever reason, Paredes refused to accelerate in the sixth but turned up the heat one round later. A third and final knockdown in the seventh round was enough to prompt the referee to stop the fight midway through his count.
The official time was 1:20 of the seventh round.
Paredes is now unbeaten in his last ten bouts (9-0-1 over that stretch) as he improves overall to 30-3-1 (20KO). Leyva, who took the fight on relatively short notice and looked the part, loses for the fourth time in his past five fights as he heads back home to Mexico with his record now at 21-5 (12KO).
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com