By Jake Donovan
One day after plans fell through for an all-Dominican showdown with Victor Cayo, unbeaten former two-division champ Joan Guzman and his handlers sought the next best thing: an opponent that fits within the theme of the March 2 show he will headline.
Guzman will next face Jesus Pabon atop a card that takes place at the Westin Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. The show is titled “Dominican Domination”, with the recurring theme throughout the card being bouts pitting Dominican Republic versus Puerto Rico.
All terms were officially agreed upon and signed Wednesday evening.
“I’m ready for what Jesus Pabon has to bring to the table and will proudly fight for my nation,” Guzman (31-0-1, 18KO) said of his next ring appearance. “I’ve been training hard and preparing myself for March 2. I’ve been in the gym since my last fight (a 1st round knockout of Florencio Castellano in D.R.) and plan to keep myself active while moving towards my next title shot.”
The bout will be Guzman’s second in just over three months, a ring activity rate in stark contrast to the past several years of his career. Perhaps the most gifted fighter to ever come out of the Dominican Republic, Guzman has won titles in two weight classes but his career has been marred by inactivity and struggles at the scales.
To his credit, the current 140 lb. contender recognizes the mistakes he made in the past and knows that actions and not words will be the only way to change the perception that surrounds his career.
“I’m going to remain active, remain ready,” Guzman insists. “Acquinity Sports (with whom he recently signed a promotional agreement) put a lot of trust in me and promised me a certain amount of fights per year. It’s great to be with a promoter that already has my future in mind the moment I walk in the office. It’s up to me to deliver.”
There were hopes of Guzman facing Cayo in what would’ve been arguably the biggest fight in the history of their nation. However, there were two roadblocks that prevented the fight from happening: Cayo’s unwillingness to leave D.R. and ESPN2’s reluctance to have its Friday Night Fights crew make such a costly road trip.
Other lingering details also existed, and while were eventually wrapped up, didn’t leave very much time to build up what should’ve been treated as an event rather than just a cable headliner.
“We tried to make the fight with Cayo, but it just didn’t happen,” explains Jose Nunez, Guzman’s longtime close friend who took over in late 2004 as his manager. “We’re hoping to revisit down the road. For now, Guzman has to stay active.
“ESPN2 wasn’t excited about traveling to Dominican Republic, so the fight would have to take place in the states. (Cayo’s handlers) eventually got the money together for the fight, but it was too late and after we already had the ESPN2 date locked in.”
The selling point of a Cayo showdown – in addition to D.R. bragging rights – was that the winner would’ve been one step closer towards a title shot. A separate 140 lb. eliminator takes place in late March, when former titlist Zab Judah takes on unbeaten Vernon Paris, with the winner guaranteed a title shot at Lamont Peterson, or first in line for a vacant title fight should he elect to give up the belt.
The #2 spot in those rankings remain open, as does the frame of mind for Guzman to revisit a Cayo showdown assuming he gets past Pabon in March.
“Hopefully after March 2, we can pick up where we left off, and none of those factors will be an issue,” Nunez suggested. “Then we can have enough time to properly promote an event of this caliber, the biggest in the history of Dominican Republic. The winner will be in line for a title shot – there’s a lot at stake in this fight, and one that we want. First we have to take care of business here.”
Pabon (17-2, 11KO) enters the fight on the heels of a shocking 2nd round knockout loss at the hands of Javier Castro last June. The Puerto Rican southpaw has been a fixture on the Telemundo circuit and often in highlight reel fashion, with his last three wins (as well as his most recent loss) coming well inside the distance.
Also slated to appear on the show is Dominican welterweight contender Ed Paredes, who is based out of south Florida.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]