By Jake Donovan
The handlers for former two-division champion Joan Guzman aren’t wasting any time in attempting to secure a rematch with newly crowned 140 lb. titlist Khabib Allakhverdiev.
Guzman’s dream of winning a major title in a third weight class ended in disappointment Friday evening at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida. An injured knee suffered in round eight left him hobbled and unable to continue, prompting the fight to go to the scorecards.
Allakhverdiev did enough damage early – including a third round knockdown – as well as in the abridged round against a one-legged Guzman to eke out a split decision in hostile territory.
The loss was the first of Guzman’s 15-year pro career, with his last defeat coming in the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. That his undefeated record is gone isn’t as upsetting to his team as the manner in which it occurred.
The hope now is for Allakhverdiev to grant Guzman a shot at redemption, if only to produce a more conclusive ending.
“We respect Khabib. I’ve known him a long time. He fought a great fight, but the way it ended is no way for a championship fight to be decided. It left a sour taste in everyone's mouth. If not for the foul, it doesn't end that way. He cut ‘Guz’ on the bridge of the nose with an elbow. It was a street fight. Guzman was game, but came around and began to fight his own fight by the sixth round. He was getting his groove back and frustrating Khabib. He was still in there. Nobody can question his heart.”
The greatest disappointment regarding the ending to the promoters is that its inconclusive manner dulled what was otherwise a lively night of boxing at a venue that has proven to be a tough sell in the past.
Acquinity Sports was creative in the promotion, offering a hybrid show of boxing and hip-hop, on an evening dedicated to the WBA’s “KO Drugs” program. Flo Rida topped an all-star lineup of hip hop artists who performed in concert immediately after the boxing portion of the evening was done.
Included in both parts of the evening was rapper DMX, who performed later in the evening hours after physically and musically escorting Guzman into the ring in front of a hyped crowd.
“The crowd was electrifying,” Rivalta recalls of the evening. “It was a high quality atmosphere. The Russians came out with their music for Khabib when he came to the ring. Guzman came out with DMX. The fans were into it all of the way. That’s what makes the ending such a letdown. We can’t leave it like this.”
Acquinity dug deep into its pockets in order to bring the fight to the U.S., particularly to South Florida, where they have become the region’s leading promoter ever since they hit the ground running this year. The newly formed company presented shows on five separate networks in its first full year as a boxing promoter, including Friday’s show airing simultaneously on Pursuit TV and Bounce TV.
Gratitude was expressed for the willingness of Allakhverdiev and his team to come to Florida for this fight. The matchup was once destined for Russia, but Guzman’s side was displeased with the amount put up in order to travel halfway around the world. A better deal was offered in the opposite direction to bring the fight closer to home.
The next step for Guzman and his team will be to sit back down at the negotiating table. Given the history of the two sides, the hope is that all parties are on the same page regarding the future.
“The feedback we’re getting from the fans is everyone requesting a rematch,” Rivalta states. “The way that it ended was inconclusive. It's not how you win a title. We would like a rematch once Guzman is healed and ready to return… do it again around May ’13. We will fight him in Russia. We’ll walk to the end of the world to fight him again. There has to be a rematch.”
Guzman will be resting and rehabilitating two separate injuries – his left knee, which is broken in two places and his right hand - before returning to the gym sometime early next year. The Dominican star had won three straight since returning to the ring just over a year ago.
His first fight back took place in his native Dominican Republic while the last three – including Friday’s bout – were staged in his new home region in South Florida.
Once he’s ready to return to the ring, Guzman will prepare for the possibility of being far away from home should all talks go well.
“Hopefully they will give us a rematch. It would be nice if they say, "The fight ended crappy. It's not right for the fans to get an ending like that. Let's fight five months again in Russia.’ That would be the right thing to do. I’ve known Vlad (Hrunov) a long time and have known Khabib even longer. I’m sure we can sit down and work this out,” Rivalta says.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox