By Jake Donovan
The concern for Joan Guzman was never whether or not he'd beat 44-year old Kevin Carter - a career clubfighter with just 11 wins in 83 career fights - but if he would actually get to step into the ring.
An outdoor show held Friday evening in the parking lot of San Jose Fiesta restaurant in Nashville was threatened by unseasonably cold weather, as temps dipped below 40 degrees once the sun went down in the Mid-South. Once Guzman was given the green light to fight, it was all academic as he cruised to a 5th round knockout in a show that was eventually moved indoors, crammed into the back section of the restaurant.
The win was Guzman's first since July '12, and his first time back in the ring since his Nov. '12 title fight loss to Khabib Allakhverdiev, the lone loss of his 17-year career.
Plans called for a comeback last summer, but old habits managed to haunt Guzman. Infamous for missing weight, the former two-division champ was off by more than a full division for his eventually canceled 140 lb. showdown with Vicente Mosquera last June.
The scheduled bout was his last piece of business with Acquinity Sports (now Iron Mike Productions), who dropped the fallen Dominican star from its roster soon thereafter. Guzman was also released by longtime manager and close friend Jose Nunez, ending a manager/fighter relationship that dated back to 2004, and a friendship that extends even further.
Though now 38 years old, Guzman believes he still has a lot left to offer the sport. His accolades and his renewed promises were enough to convince Ramon Arellano - a former fighter who now manages and promotes fighters, in addition to his life as a local (Nashville) entrepreneur and a pillar of the Mexican-American community - to take a shot and add some much needed muscle to Guzman's career.
"He had a lot of problems outside the ring in the past that caused the way his career went," recognizes Arellano, who also owns the San Jose Fiesta restaurant grounds where Friday's fight was held. "But in the ring, he's still a young 38. He never took a lot of punishment, and - when he's in shape and dedicated - is still one of the best pure boxers in the game."
Dedication and conditioning were all that ever held back Guzman, who is now 34-1-1 (21KOs). The veteran boxer - who also served on the Dominican Republic Boxing squad in the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta - plans an active 2015 campaign, including more fights in Nashville (which has become a ghost town in terms of boxing action) and wherever else he can pick up the opportunity to show what he still has left.
"If I didn't see anything in him, if I didn't believe he could put in the work to make something happen in his career, I would have never taken a chance on him, believe me," insists Arellano, whose personal time is spread extremely thin with his day-to-day schedule. "But I know that Joan has a lot left.
"It's been a long time since we've seen the best Joan Guzman, that hungry fighter who can beat any fighter on any given night. That's the Joan Guzman we're bringing back. He will win his third title and make history for the Dominican Republic."
Guzman's comeback is targeted for the welterweight division for the foreseeable future, with hopes of getting down to 140 if the right opportunity arises.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox