By Jake Donovan
Momentum wouldn't last very long in Guzman's favor. Allakhverdiev went on a tear, taking the fight to the normally granite-chinned Guzman, resulting in a third-round knockdown courtesy of a left hand. Allakhverdiev refused to take his foot off the gas, going for the kill but settling for piling up rounds as the knockout moment never presented itself.
Blood began gushing from a cut along Guzman's nose in the fifth, prompting the former two-division champ to pick up the pace. He was still falling behind on most of the exchanges, but slowly chipped away at his opponent's dominant lead. A rally came late in the sixth and throughout the seventh, but proved to be too little too late for Guzman.
Then the fight became bizarre.
The perils of a conventional fighter facing a southpaw played out to everyone's worst nightmare in the eighth. The fighters managed to get their feet tied up on several occasions, including early into the eighth round when Guzman tripped over the right foot of Allakhverdiev. The trip to the canvas was partially aided by a push, resulting in Guzman limping around the ring.
Time was called to briefly survey the damage before action was permitted to resume, but not before the occurrence was ruled an accidental foul. Allakhverdiev went on the attack, hoping to finish off his wound before the injury produced an untimely stoppage.
The knockout moment never came for the unbeaten Russian, though he came damn close. Guzman was once again sent to the canvas, but was once again ruled a slip. This time, an extended time-out saw the ringside physician enter the ring and examine for himself after Guzman came up limping.
Not another punch was thrown, as the referee was ordered to stop the fight.
Once the bout went to the cards, the outcome never seemed in doubt. The ringside judges had a different say in the matter, as the fight was scored closer than most watching at home thought to be the case (according to social media comments).
Nevertheless, Allakhverdiev picks up the biggest win of his career, improving to 18-0 (8KO). He also picks up the vacant WBA 140 lb. title, to go with the IBO belt he already has in his possession.
Guzman's bid to become a three-division champ comes to an unsatisfactory conclusion. His record moves to 33-1-1 (20KO), suffering his first loss since his appearance in the 1996 Summer Olympics as a member of the Dominican Republic boxing squad.
The closest he ever came to losing in the pro ranks came in Nov. '09, escaping with a controversial draw in his first fight with Ali Funeka. The bout was for the vacant 135 lb. title, but Guzman was considered lucky to escape with his unbeaten record still intact after taking a beating late in the fight, including nearly being stopped late in the 10th.
It was also his last official title fight before Friday night. The rematch saw Guzman show up a whopping nine pounds heavy, thus nullifying his eligibility for the vacant belt. He won a decision, but was forced to endure the humiliation of a recurring theme in his career at the time.
The weight issues continued later in the year, showing up heavy for a Dec. '10 tune-up fight, as did opponent Jason Davis. Guzman won by 2nd round knockout, only for the result to be changed to a no-contest after testing positive for a banned diuretic.
A nine-month ban followed before he resurfaced in his native Dominican Republic last November. The bout began a three-fight win streak, as well as a newly formed relationship with promoter Acquinity Sports. The company made a considerable investment in Guzman, hoping that Friday's bout would provide the payoff.
The injury offers grounds for a rematch, though it would be up to Guzman to correct the rest should that opportunity arise. Until then, what was meant to be his coronation instead turned out to be the breakout moment for which Khabib Allakhverdiev traveled halfway around the world to secure.