By Ryan Songalia
Trainer Don Saxby acknowledges the difficult task he has ahead of him with pupil Joan Guzman.
Guzman, a 35-year-old former three division champ with an undefeated record of 30-0-1 (17 KO), has been inactive since serving an eight month suspension for testing positive for the banned diuretic Furosemide following his match with Jason Davis in December of last year. Originally a second round stoppage win for Guzman, the bout was changed to a no contest. To further exacerbate the situation, Guzman missed the contracted weight by two and a half pounds, which was Guzman's third such incident since 2008.
Had Guzman come out incident free, he would have been in line for a shot at junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan. Instead, he was released from his promotional contract with Golden Boy Promotions.
It's understandable that many are leery of Guzman's return, slated for October 15 in his hometown of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic against Diego Jesus Ponce 22-6-3 (5 KO) of Palmira, Mendoza, Argentina. The fight will be the initial endeavor of JG Boxing Entertainment, which Guzman operates alongside his manager Jose Nunez.
"I told Joan, 'You're not going to fight the scales this time," said Saxby, Guzman's 48-year-old trainer who works with him out of Gleason's Gym in Guzman's adopted hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y. "The scale is not your problem, your opponent is."
Saxby can recall almost moment to moment what had transpired prior to Guzman's ill-fated last assignment in Las Vegas. Originally scheduled to fight the following week (December 18) in Canada, the fight was moved to a week earlier to help build hype with a fight between Guzman and Khan, who fought Marcos Maidana in the main event.
"I sort of panicked a little bit, but I knew we could make the weight," admitted Saxby, who had a brief professional career after 80 amateur bouts during the 1980s.
"I had him on weight the night before, he weighed 142. The day of the weigh-in, he woke up and screamed like a madman. I said, 'What's wrong?'"
Guzman had just stepped on the scale; it read 144 pounds.
"That's when I knew it, that he must have had a thyroid problem," Saxby said. "He had to come past me to get water, so he couldn't drink anything if he wanted to.
"What I did to him in Vegas would have killed another fighter. He ran almost three times the day of the weigh-in. I made him shadowbox in the bathroom. A lesser man would have passed out."
Unbeknownst to Saxby, Guzman had been taking the aforementioned diuretic to assist in losing weight, which ultimately led to the suspension.
"We were on course, but he must have panicked," Saxby said. "I wish I had known he had taken it, because I wouldn't have let him take it."
Saxby is unsure if Guzman has sought treatment for a thyroid imbalance, but Guzman insists that he had been to the doctor to get his hormone levels checked and that he was perfectly healthy.
"I just started working with him, but I heard in the past...," said Anthony Terranova, Guzman's strength and conditioning coach, who trains with Guzman three times a week out of his Ridgewood, N.Y. gym, of the rumored thyroid issue. "I don't think we're gonna have that problem in the future."
Saxby says this training camp has been less eventful. Though the weight limit for the fight will be 145 pounds, Saxby has set the target for Guzman well below that.
"What I told him was, 'I want you to think 135, that's what the ultimate goal is. If you don't make it there and we make 139, I'm happy with you.'"
Saxby said Guzman left the gym Tuesday afternoon at 153 pounds and will likely be in the 140s by October 1.
"He's eating healthy, he's eating correct. Guzman did about ten hard rounds like a fight in sparring today. He probably left at 152. He looked at me and smiled because he's happy how the weight is coming off easy."
Saxby is confident that if Guzman can keep a steady ship, make weight and win two easy fights, Guzman will once again be back in the mix for big fights. But it all begins with scale.
"Once he makes the weight, watch how his name is thrown out there in the market just that quick. We're calling out everybody."
Danny Jacobs Update
I briefly spoke with middleweight contender Danny Jacobs (22-1, 19 KO) of Brownsville, Brooklyn, N.Y., who has been inactive since scoring a first round knockout of Robert Kliewer in March. Jacobs, who trains out of the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, has been back in Brooklyn nursing a back injury. Jacobs said he will likely return next year.
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.