By Jake Donovan
Former two-division champion Joan Guzman is enjoying his newfound leadership role. The unbeaten Dominican star has taken under his wing several of his country’s brightest young stars to form the “Dominican Dream Team.”
Guzman touched down in his birth land Wednesday afternoon to embark on a Dream Team tour throughout the Dominican Republic to hype up his next fight, which lands on May 18.
The bout comes on the heels of his highlight-reel 8th round knockout of Jesus Pabon earlier this month, which aired live on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights. The opponent, venue and network have yet to be determined, but it hasn’t prevented Guzman from placing all of his focus and energy on making his next – and every future – opportunity count.
“I appreciate the faith that my manager Jose Nunez has always placed in me,” Guzman (32-0-1, 19KO) states, grateful of the relationships maintained during his up-and-down career, as well as newly ones formed. “I also thank my new promoter Henry Rivalta and Acquinity Sports for being willing to take a chance on my future. I promise to make them proud.”
Joining Guzman in the rapidly rising stable is welterweight contender Ed Paredes and a slew of up-and-coming unbeaten Dominican prospects, including Juan Carlos Payano, Lennin Castillo, Claudio Marrero and Felix Diaz.
Promoting the all-star collection of talent is newly formed Acquinity Sports, headed by Rivalta, with Nunez proudly serving as their manager.
“It’s an exciting time to have this much talent coming from the Dominican Republic and I’m honored to be trusted by all to guide their promising careers,” states Nunez. “Acquinity Sports has big plans for all of my fighters and I’m confident that all roads will lead to championships for every fighter in my stable within the next couple of years, perhaps some sooner than others.”
Paredes (29-3-1, 19KO) was last seen on the televised co-feature to Guzman’s knockout of Pabon, scoring a crowd-pleasing win of his own in stopping Manuel Leyva in the 7th round. Based out of Florida where his fan base continues to grow, the rising welterweight contender – who turns 27 on Sunday – is riding a 10-fight unbeaten streak.
Payano (9-0, 5KO) also appeared on the aforementioned card beneath Guzman and Paredes. The 27-year old – a two-time member of the Dominican Republic Olympic boxing squad (2004 and 2008) took a major leap from six-round bouts to his first scheduled 10-round fight and passed with flying colors, pitching a shutout over Jose Silveira in their regional bantamweight title fight.
Joining his stablemates on the March show was Marrero (11-0, 9KO), who was forced to go the distance for just the second time in his career. The 23-year old still looked sharp, dominating Gerardo Zayas in scoring a lopsided 10-round points win.
Castillo (5-0, 3KO) hasn’t fought since last June, but in bringing in Nunez as his manager has been given the assurance of an active 2012 campaign. The rising prospect will join his teammates on the May 18 card.
Rounding out the group is Diaz (10-0, 6KO). The 28-year old captured Olympic Gold in the 2008 Summer Games in China, but has yet to parlay that success into a fruitful pro career. That status figures to dramatically change for the better now in the company of the aforementioned young stars, beginning with his ring return in May.
Realizing the young talent with whom he is now associated as well as those investing in his future, Guzman is taking his career far more serious these days.
The current 140 lb. contender returned to the ring last November in his native Dominican Republic, scoring a first round stoppage of Florencio Castellano. Coupled with the knockout win over Pabon, the targeted May 18 date will mark his third fight in the past six months, the type of in-ring activity that allowed his career to thrive on the way up.
Guzman has captured titles at 122 lb. and 130 lb., but has struggled with weight and inactivity for much of his prime and as he moved through weight classes.
An effort to capture a world title in a third weight class (lightweight) was thwarted first in his struggling effort against Ali Funeka, lucky to have escaped with a draw in their first fight. The rematch four months later saw Guzman show up a massive 9 lb. over the lightweight limit. The Dominican star won a decision, but was ineligible to claim the vacant title due to missing weight.
The following fight was thought to be the final nail in his coffin, missing weight once again for a Dec. ’10 stay busy clash with Jason Davis, only to test positive for a banned diuretic afterward. The infraction resulted in a six-month ban and his overall actions killed plans for a proposed showdown with then-140 lb. titlist Amir Khan, as well as ending his relationship with Golden Boy Promotions.
Guzman appears to have turned a corner in what many believe to be his last boxing life. Two straight knockouts and the admiration of the next generation of Dominican stars has the unbeaten veteran optimistic of his future, as the promotional tour shall indicate.
Only time will tell if it truly sticks this time around.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected].