By Terence Dooley [Click Here For Part 1]
Many Joan Guzman fans felt that the proposed 2008 fight with Nate Campbell, who was riding high after a points win over Juan Diaz, would be Guzman’s coming out party. Unfortunately, it became a nightmare from which Guzman could not escape; his body shut down in the days before the fight and he was unable to shift the final 3.5lb needed to make the 135lb lightweight limit.
Chaos reigned, Guzman was taken to the hospital after vomiting blood and the fans, who detest seeing a fighter fail to make weight, placed the blame on his weakened shoulders. Campbell, who saw a big payday go down the drain, slammed Guzman, who issued a public apology. Joan is still hurting and tapped his heart when declaring that he could not have gone through with that fight without putting his health at risk.
“The problem with that fight was that I moved to 135 and had good physical training with the weight machines and running, my body looked good, but the fat wouldn’t come off,” admitted Guzman.
“Boom, body shuts down, no more pounds come off - I’m training just to move that weight. No water, no food. We go to Mississippi one week before the fight. I’m only about 138lb so eat chicken and broccoli, and then go running, but I lose nothing. Then more running, I lose nothing. The food stays in my body. Training doesn’t help; there is no sweat, twenty minutes in the sauna, no sweat. I feel bad and work for two days without any sweat. The day of the weigh in, I’m throwing up blood so the doctor checks me and says I cannot fight.
“Those last pounds would not come off, I swear this to you and the fans. They put me in hospital and put three IV drips in me. Don King comes to my room and the doctor checks on me, he tells Don King that I’m no good for the fight.”
“I feel bad because people think Guzman has no respect for the fans”, he said with a hint of sadness, “I worked hard to lose weight but it was getting me nowhere. I trained three times a day. I die in the gym. When sparring people, they are hitting me boom, bam, boom. People say, ‘We see him coming’.
“My life was on the line for this fight but I’d still fight if I can. I don’t just fight for the money. I fight to get money for Guzman family but lose money for this fight [when fined for not making weight] and think, ‘Ok, I lose that, but I still want to fight’. I fight for respect. I fight for respect in the Dominican Republic. I like to win. I fail the weight and people think I’m finished and I don’t try. My only problem is food. I don’t smoke, I don’t drink - I like food. I am a family man and we eat as a family.”
Indeed, Guzman believes that the rot set after this turn of events; he was out for eleven months prior to the vacant IBF lightweight title fight with Ali Funeka. James Toney, who also likes his food, used to be kept busy in a bid to keep his weight down, when Toney’s activity dropped even slightly he’d blow up in weight, Guzman believes that the wait between fights weighed heavily on him.
“Funeka gets the rewards of the Campbell fight as I’m not the same Joan Guzman,” stated Guzman. “In 2006 I fight for Golden Boy 3 times, it is a very good year with a good promoter. My best year, yeah. I fight Javier Jauregui at, then Jorge Barrios, and go to the Dominican to fight Antonio Davis. Three fights in one year! Nice year, activity for me makes it easy, no problem. Then I was supposed to fight Scott Harrison in 2007 but every time fight time comes through it moves again so I get delayed.”
“Remember this, Barrio no make the weight in 2006 [for their WBO super-featherweight title fight] but I’m 129lb!” laughed Guzman, the irony not lost on him. “Then I have to wait for fights after that year. Then it is very tough to make the weight. I have one year away then fight Humberto Soto. So I move to 135lb and do not get to fight Campbell. Then I get big Funeka a year later, this is no good for a boxer, for any sportsman. Manny Pacquiao fights every three, four months and look at him. I would be very comfortable like that. I fight in November, tough fight, and then fight now, it is good for me, I’ll maybe fight June or July so my body is good and I’m training just for the boxing.
“I was a little lazy before. Lee [Beard] says, ‘Work, work, work’ and tells me to push myself. I am different in sparring, though. I like to learn in sparring and move. Michael comes here, I have a couple of rounds with Dean [Harrison] and Adrian [Gonzalez], they are in good shape and push Guzman.”
Budding pro Adrian Gonzalez told me that landing a punch was cause for celebration when facing Guzman in the sparring ring. Joan, who used to be incorrectly marketed as a come forward slugger, reminded me of his earlier nickname.
“They used to call me ‘Invisible Man’ because I like to move a lot and they could not see me,” revealed Guzman. “In sparring, I like to move and play. Guzman no try to hurt people in sparring. Lee tells me not to play in sparring and I think, ‘Ok’, but it is hard. Since I was a kid I don’t like to hurt people in sparring – I like to enjoy!”
So, what can we expect from Guzman in the Funeka rematch? Many people, this writer included, feel that Guzman needs to find a little bit of aggression in order to force Funeka onto the back foot, where he is relatively ineffective. Indeed, Funeka’s frame and style evokes thoughts of Marvin Hagler going at Thomas Hearns or Aaron Davis dragging Mark Breland into a war. However, Guzman will also need to be on his defensive game, discretion will be the better part of valour at times lest Guzman cop another one of those big right hands when coming forward.
Enigmatically, the 29-0-1 (17) fighter revealed that we may have to keep our eyes peeled come fight night as the ‘Invisible’ Joan will be back on the scene. “You will see the new Joan Guzman, just like the old one!” he smiled.
“I will do something more for this fight without changing everything. I don’t know how to say it in English – you buy house and put new stuff into it. You will see the old and new Guzman!
“Power, speed, the power will come off the speed. I’m working on my power. Before, I couldn’t let the punches go. I feared for my hands because I wasn’t punching correctly. I am now, pop, pop, pop, and, maybe, my power comes again. I will use good punch mechanics in this fight. Before, I throw a punch and it was not correct on the right hand, now you will see the correct punching from Guzman, a big, strong Guzman.”
Perhaps we will see a return of the ‘Little Tyson’, though the nickname never really suited Joan he could arguably do with a bit of Mike’s dynamic aggression. “No, no more little Tyson, my style is different”, chided Guzman when reminded of his former nom de guerre, “maybe people will put a new name on me.
“No more ‘Sycuan Warrior’ or ‘Little Tyson’, the fans will call me a ‘new’ Guzman, whatever name they like. There are a lot of Tyson’s: ‘Little Tyson’, ‘White Tyson’ – there are too many Tysons and only one Mike Tyson! Other people put that name on me, not me, let them call me the ‘real Joan Guzman’ again. I box like Pernell Whittaker, Leonard and Floyd, that is my style.”
Before inactivity, before the Campbell debacle, there was talk of Guzman matching off against Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. Floyd, of course, was due to meet Manny only for the negotiations to be hit by more cock-ups than Traci Lords. Consequently, a superfight of epic proportions became a showcase, Manny versus Joshua Clottey, and an increasingly rare all-US P4P showdown, Floyd versus Sugar Shane Mosley. Still, a ‘W’ apiece for Floyd and Manny should see them finally settle their difference in the only place it matters – the boxing ring.
Guzman, though, believes that he is a match for either man and that a win over Funeka will put his name back into the mix. “I don’t know”, answered Guzman when asked if he hankers after a particular superfight, “I’m here for anybody.”
“Manny wants Floyd because Floyd is the top man. I like Floyd’s style but I’ll fight him. Everyone needs those good fights. If Floyd calls me then I’ll fight him. I’ve called for Manny a couple of times. Why doesn’t Guzman get these fights? People who know boxing want those fights,” roared Guzman.
“Pacquiao is a good fighter, one of the best in the world but Manny never picks anyone who can move - he never fights that type of man. He fought [Juan Manuel] Marquez and when Marquez moved, you saw the difference in Manny. Look at the first Erik Morales fight. Morales moved when he fought Manny the first time and Manny could not beat him.
“For now, I have drawn a line at Ali Funeka. People in the world, on TV, they saw the Funeka fight and thought I lost. I need to clear my name, prove my quality, and show that I’ll fight anybody - then I want to fight everybody. I need a big name to get me to the top,” he declared.
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