By Mark Staniforth
Joan Guzman grew used to being feted as a future pound-for-pound superstar.
When he turned professional in 1997 boasting an amateur record of 310 wins in 320 fights, he was clearly something special.
With fast, hard hands and superb speed and versatility inside the ropes, Guzman won world titles at two different weights and earned favourable comparison with the likes of Marco Antonio Barrera and Manny Pacquiao.
When Guzman signed with Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions in July 2009, it was with the clear intention of turning the former Santo Domingo street fighter into the next big Las Vegas bill-topper.
"Everyone in boxing knows how good Joan Guzman is," said De La Hoya at the time. "He can box with the best of them and he can also knock you out with either hand.
"Now it's time for Joan to take things even further with super fights against the best fighters around the lightweight division has to offer. Boxing fans are going to be in for a treat when they see what Joan brings to the ring."
The promised super-fights did not happen, and now more than likely never will. Guzman, still only 34 and still unbeaten in his 32-fight career, is on the scrapheap. As career suicides go, Guzman's self-inflicted wounds have been spectacular.
It was announced this week that Guzman had tested positive for a banned diuretic after his two-round win over journeyman Jason Davis on the undercard of Amir Khan's dramatic win over Marcos Maidana in December.
The plan, clearly, had been to rehabilitate Guzman with a view to sharing the ring with Khan. Instead, he faces suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and has been released from his contract by Golden Boy.
Even for such a routine assignment as a warm-up against a nobody welterweight who had lost his last six straight, Guzman's demons got the better of him. For what was agreed as a 141lbs contest, he came in three pounds over at 144lbs.
It was far from the first time the weight had got the better of Guzman, but it ensured once and for all it will be how one of the most talented boxers of his generation is destined to be remembered.
There was a time when Guzman's career blazed with promise. Like when he won his first world title with a stunning third round knockout of previously unbeaten Fabio Daniel Olivia in Cardiff in August 2002.
Or when he leapt to super-featherweight to win the WBO title over Antonio Davis. "I think I'm as good as them [Pacquiao, Barrera and Erik Morales]" said Guzman. "I'd like to fight them one day."
But Guzman's inability to control his weight was already evident as he careered through the weight divisions. By 2008 he was up at lightweight, preparing for a shot at undisputed champion Nate Campbell.
It should have been Guzman's gateway to the glory many had predicted, and it was certainly his biggest payday. Instead it turned into an embarrassment as Guzman weighed in almost four pounds overweight.
Desperate to fight in a bid to stave off bankruptcy, champion Campbell offered to take the bout with no title on the line, but Guzman refused and was promptly admitted to hospital suffering from dehydration.
He subsequently issued a statement in which he said he was "wrong". He added: "There is no-one else to blame for me not making the lightweight limit. Put all the blame on me, because I was completely at fault."
It got worse. The single blot on Guzman's record was a draw in a fight for the vacant IBF lightweight title against Ali Funeka in November 2009. For the rematch 10 months later, Guzman weighed in a barely believable nine pounds over the limit.
Again, his opponent elected to take the fight on the understanding that he would earn the belt if victorious, while Guzman would forfeit any chance of the title as well as 25 per cent of his purse. Guzman scored a tainted win by split decision.
The Davis fight was only Guzman's latest controversy, but probably his last. The street-fighting kid from Santo Domingo had the talent to take on the world. Instead it would prove to be the scales that dealt the knockout blow.
Tags: Joan Guzman