By Jake Donovan
On a night when both fighters desperately needed a win worth talking about, Joan Guzman and Argenis Mendez both delivered in uncharacteristically quick fashion Friday evening in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.
Former two-division champion Guzman needed less than a round to dispose of Florencio Castellano in the evening’s main event, while Mendez blasted out late replacement Alex Perez of Cuba in just two rounds.
It’s been nearly eight years since Guzman scored a stoppage win, with a string of 10 straight decision wins serving in stark contrast to his ‘Little Tyson’ nickname. A knockout was thought to be had in his last fight, stopping Jason Davis in the second round on the non-televised undercard of Amir Khan’s thrilling points win over Marcos Maidana.
The bout was added to the card as an attempt to sell Guzman as a future opponent for Khan, but the unbeaten Dominican blew that chance after showing up heavy and also testing positive for a banned substance, changing the verdict to a no-contest.
Eleven months later, Guzman returned home to his native Santo Domingo, thrilling the crowd on hand at Hotel Jaragua with a quick blitzing of Castellano. The 28-year old Colombian opponent proved to be the perfect cannon fodder, having been stretched in four rounds by Lucas Matthysse two years ago in his only fight of note.
Guzman one-upped the free swinging Argentinean, flattening Castellano towards the end of the opening round. It was all Guzman from the opening bell, though the round began as a tactical affair. Having been out of the ring for nearly a year, the unbeaten contender chose to box in the early moments of the bout.
Things picked up midway through when Guzman connected on an overhand right. Castellano went into a defensive shell from that point onward, which meant it would either be a long, tedious affair or the fight would end at Guzman's choosing.
Fortunately for the partisan crowd on hand, the house favorite chose the latter. The fight came to an end when Guzman connected on a perfectly placed right uppercut, which put Castellano down and out for the full ten count.
The official time was 2:59 of the opening round.
The fight marks Guzman’s first official win in 20 months as he improves to 31-0-1 (18KO). Perhaps an even bigger victory was the fact that he came into the fight at a svelte 139 lb – a remarkable achievement, especially when considering the bout was contracted to take place at the 147 lb. welterweight limit.
Castellano has now dropped two of his last three as he falls to 17-5 (13KO).
The co-feature saw Mendez bounce back from his heartbreaking title fight loss two months ago at the hands of Juan Carlos Salgado, with a stirring second round knockout of journeyman Alex Perez.
Mendez was forced to contend with the politics of the sport in his last ring appearance, outfighting Salgado over the second half of their fight in his opponent’s native Mexico. A final round knockdown should’ve netted the Dominican his first major title, but still came up short on the scorecards at fight’s end for the second loss of his young career.
A homecoming was just what the doctor ordered, as Mendez tore through the sub .500 Perez, who was brought in as a late replacement after two other opponents fell through over the course of the past month. It was clear from the opening bell that Mendez – notoriously a slow starter – didn’t care who he was fighting; that he was in the ring was more than enough to please the string-bean Dominican.
Perez never stood a chance even with a full training camp and plenty of notice. The last-minute replacement version that instead showed up was outgunned rom the opening bell, and floored early in the second round before being put away for good in the very same round.
The 25-year old Mendez scored his first stoppage win since August ’09, a night that served as his debut with New York-based company DiBella Entertainment. In knocking out Perez on Friday night, Mendez improves to 19-2 (10KO) with the win, his first since scoring a dominating points win over former titlist Cassius Baloyi in his opponent’s native South Africa earlier this year.
Perez has now lost a staggering 18 straight – including eight in a row inside the distance – as he falls to 23-43-4 (18KO). The Florida-based Cuban was brought in as a late replacement for Jose Palma, who himself was secured as a substitute on Halloween after Samir Torres was unable to participate on the card.
The evening served as the first fight in the Dominican Republic for both Guzman and Mendez since they appeared together on the same card in December ’08.
The show aired live on ESPN Deportes.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com.