By Terence Dooley
Kerry Kayes’ decision to help Joan Guzman make weight for a make-or-break IBF lightweight title rematch with Ali Funeka kicked-off a series of events that left Kayes questioning his future in the sport of boxing. Guzman came into camp considerably over the 135lb limit, roughly 50lb over, and this prompted new trainer, Lee Beard, to bring Kayes onboard. Kayes, who dragged Ricky Hatton down to the light-welterweight limit time and again, brought Guzman to his Denton-based gym and got Guzman’s weight down to an acceptable level before staying behind in England to fulfil his other commitments.
Upon his arrival in Vegas, Kayes was distraught to learn that Guzman was 19lb overweight, though Guzman’s manager, Jose Nunez, would later claim that Guzman was only 10lb over a week before the fight and that Kayes, Beard and a second nutritionalist, who has been brought in by Team Guzman, had only managed to reduce this weight by a single lb during fight week.
Everyone knows what happened next. Guzman missed the weight, coming in at 144lb, and the fight was left in the balance. Thankfully, the IBF rules state that a fighter can come in a maximum of 9lbs over and, should the other fighter make weight, the fight can still go ahead with the title on the line, although the only fighter who can claim the belt is the one who made weight. One proviso: both fighters have to weigh under 150lb on the morning of the fight.
When the morning of the fight rolled around Guzman weighed 148.2lb; Funeka tipped the scales at 143.2lb, showing once and for all that, in boxing, weight limits are the equivalent of Italian traffic lights, people know they are there but no one cares much about obeying them. Guzman looked rejuvenated on the night and won a morale boosting points decision.
Kayes mopped his brow before returning home to find that Jose Nunez, Guzman’s manager, had laid the blame on his shoulders. “It was one of the straws that broke the camel’s back,” confirmed Kayes when speaking exclusively to Boxingscene.
“I’m a very tolerant man. When my back is against the wall I will react but some people will voice their opinion early on in a scenario. There are a few scenarios in boxing where I feel I’ve been used and I felt that a lot of athletes, in general, they kind of abuse themselves and then turn up to you expecting to work miracles. Then if you can’t work those miracles some of them think you’re a twat, where some understand that you have tried your best.
“If I was thinking selfishly I would not have gone over to Vegas in the first place. I don’t need a particular fight as an excuse to go to Vegas. I could go to Vegas with Rampage Jackson next month. You’ve just heard someone representing Cornelius Lock asking me to go to Vegas for their fight on the next [Floyd] Mayweather bill, and they offered to pay my fare. If I was selfish I’d have taken my wife to the Bahamas and walked away from Vegas but I saw that kid (Guzman) on the scales and wanted to help him. Plus, I think the weight could have been done, which is not the right thing to do but I knew I could get a lot of weight off him.”
Kayes, often assumed to be a nutritional gun for hire within the sport, has dipped into his own pocket during his time in boxing, picking jobs on the basis of his feelings for the fighters. Recently, though, he feels that the headaches associated with our sport make it hard to justify the expenditure of time, money and energy.
“I’ve never earned a single penny out of boxing. No trainer or promoter has ever paid me anything; on many occasions I’ve paid my own expenses to go to fights. I paid my air fare to the Guzman fight, plus my wife’s airfare to the Guzman fight, and I did this because Lee Beard came to me for help after being given a great opportunity,” revealed Kayes, who went onto give his perspective on the Guzman situation.
“Guzman turned up at Betta Bodies gymnasium about two weeks later than he should have due to a Visa problem, someone in his team did not get him his Visa, and when he turned up he was well overweight, well behind schedule. I worked with him for two or three weeks and I did some strength work with him. Joan openly said he was enjoying the work and getting strong, he was getting his nutrients through CNP supplements, which meant he was having a lower calorific intake but a higher level of nutrients, which is important.
“I was supposed to fly to the States with the team ten-days before the fight but I was committed to a nutritional seminar here and was also committed to a bodybuilding show on the Sunday, six days before the fight, so I explained that I’d have to fly out on the Monday, which I did do.”
“I may as well give the full rights and wrong here,” he sighed. “I was told that someone would pick me up at the airport. Now, I’m not the type of bloke who expects that so I sent a text back telling them to give me the name of the hotel and I’d get a taxi. I was told that I must wait at the airport. When I got there, I waited for one and a half hours for someone to pick me up. His team, even though they knew I was coming from England and were given my flight number, were waiting at the internal airport so I thought, ‘This is organised well!’
“I then met Lee; he told me that everyone was in the van outside. Lee pulled me to one side and informed me that Guzman’s management had brought in a new trainer and nutritionalist. I said, ‘Lee, I’m not bothered, this is no big deal to me’, but Lee explained that the new nutritionalist wasn’t happy with me being there. I was quite happy to step aside and just have a holiday over there with my wife, at my own expense.
“I then find out that they’ve been giving Joan all sorts of spices and all sorts of soups, I then found out that there were cans of 7-Up found in his bedroom. I can’t comment on what went on in Vegas but I can tell you that I had him on schedule when he left the UK and had word from Lee that, initially, the diet was coming on and he should be 10lb over by the time I arrived, that is how things should have worked out.”
Indeed, Nunez would later claim that Guzman had only been 10lbs out a week before the fight yet this flies in the face of everything we know about weight making. Guzman’s body would have been in a state of seizure if it could not spare anything other than a single 1lb and we could reasonably have expected to see him retching, rather than laughing, when he stepped onto the scales had they spent a week draining out that single, elusive pound.
Kayes strongly disputes Nunez’s take on the events; he told me that Guzman’s weight had reached a critical point before Kayes’s arrival in Vegas. “Joan wanted to see me alone at his Vegas home so I said, ‘Ok’. I stood him on the scales and found that he was 154.8lb [nearly 20lb over the stipulated weight limit],” continued Kayes. “I said, ‘What the fuck have you been doing?’ Joan looked very shy and sheepish, he was like a little boy and I’ve got to be honest here in saying that he is a lovely man and I really felt for him.
“My initial reaction was to ask how we could fix this, I then realised that we couldn’t fix it but I knew that I couldn’t abandon this kid. Maybe it is also down to the fact that people like myself like challenges. I thought, ‘You can’t always get over that mountain or jump that lake, but it is always worth a try’. That led to the thought that this was still doable, it was just a very, very big job and one that shouldn’t have been done, and it was wrong to try and do it if we’re being honest.
“I got hold of this other nutritionalist and whenever I asked him questions he just shied away from them. I don’t actually blame him if he didn’t like me because he was the nutritionalist for the fight before [Guzman’s torrid majority draw with Funeka] and they’ve suddenly brought over this bloke from England so that could have been a kick in the teeth for him, but that wasn’t my doing.
“I set up a new diet, did what I could, and the night before the weigh in I set out a programme for Joan. I had brought a mini-sauna with me from England and had hoped that the 110 voltage would be enough to heat it, people may think that is a bit silly but I am an electrician by trade and do understand the difference between 110 and 220 volts, the difference is that the if you bring an electric kettle over from England and plug it into an American mains it will still boil water, it just takes twice as long, but if you bring an American kettle to the UK and try to boil it then it will just blow up. You can put 110 through 220, it just takes longer, I set the sauna up the night before and it did come to the boil, it just took a hour longer than usual.
“I told Guzman that I would be in his room at 5am and we set the sauna up, it just couldn’t get hot enough for the weight that we needed to take off. We went to the sauna in the hotel so it worked out for us. We did this, that and the other, and I got him down to 144 and spoke to the people around him, who told me that there is a ruling in the IBF that if an opponent makes 135 and the other makes no more than 9lb over then the fight can go on. This caused a lot of embarrassment and problems, in hindsight I should have walked away earlier in the week.
“If you read the statement by Jose he blames me for the weight but says they’ll be at 140lb for the next fight. I won’t be there for the next fight so if I messed it up why go up in weight? They’ve used me as an excuse and admitted openly that they are moving up in weight. I believe that Guzman won the fight quite well at 144 and the last time he made 135 he could only get a draw. He is obviously not comfortable at 135.”
Kayes scoffed at suggestions that the IBF’s check weigh-ins should have highlighted the problem. “I got there on the Tuesday and weighed him about 5 or 6 o’clock in the evening. At no other stage did anyone weigh him. Well, they couldn’t have done could they or it would have been flagged. So they blamed me for it all in the end.”
Guzman’s weight problems have been well documented over the last few years. The Dominican came in overweight for his proposed undisputed lightweight title fight with Nate Campbell in September of 2008; Floyd Mayweather Senior, Guzman’s then-trainer, copped the blame for that one. Sure, Joan did make weight for the first Funeka fight but he looked physically shot come the first bell.
Kayes believes that he was given the job of bringing Guzman down in weight and ensuring he could operate as a fighter come fight night, the weight-making had gone beyond them but, in the opinion of Kayes, he helped ensure that Joan was in fine fighting fettle come the night, though he had to fight every step of the way.
He stated: “A couple of times, Guzman prematurely came out off the sauna because he said he couldn’t do it, me and Lee looked at one another and wondered why he did this. It wasn’t ideal to use the sauna but we needed to get him from A to B and at one stage Lee got into the sauna with him, to show it can be done, and I got into the sauna with him. It was crazy. I’ve not seen my wife, I’m coming up on my 60th birthday and I’m sat in the sauna again – I lost 4lb myself!
“I also went to the rules meeting with the Nevada State Athletic Commission and they have a rule that you can give the boxer an hydration drink between rounds, which is very important rule as it beneficial for the boxer. The rule states that the drink must be sealed so the inspector can see it in its sealed state. I brought one that was sealed, showed it the state commission and put it into a bottle. In the corner, the other trainer told me to stay out of the way, they did not give the drink to Joan Guzman until the sixth round and there was conflict in the corner over it.
“I went to give him another hydration drink after the fight, it was also designed to bring his blood glucose levels back up, but was told I wasn’t allowed too. I later got a text saying that Guzman was shaking and not doing well. I was out with my wife and read the text the next morning and replied to Lee saying that I’d tried to hydrate him after the fight but hadn’t been allowed to do so and he was feeling the effects of this. The entire trip left a bad taste in the mouth.”
“Guzman makes the weight needed to make the fight, the fight goes on and he wins the fight and looks good, that is the fact,” blasted Kayes. “What upset me a little bit, or a lot to be honest, was that I did everything I could in carbing him up to make him the best fighter he could be on the night but I was still criticised by the management.
“I’d never met Joan’s team before, Lee brought him over to England, and when I got to Vegas they’d brought in the new trainer and nutritionalist. When you work with a fighter the ultimate goal is to make sure he’s on the weight that you’ve agreed on. What a luxury for a nutritionist to be able to walk away before the weigh-in, especially when I heard about the spices and the 7-Up. Someone told me that Guzman was using these things because, ‘He likes them’. Ricky Hatton liked pie and chips but we didn’t give him them when he was getting ready for a fight.
“Lee Beard had warned me about what had gone wrong, instead of hiding it, and he also stood up to Jose and told him that there shouldn’t have been another nutritionalist there. Lee was also there with me in the hotel room at 5am. Lee did everything he could have done.
“Everyone was happy with the performance, the manager came up afterwards and said it (the failure to make weight) didn’t matter as they’d won the fight, what he didn’t tell me was that he’d released a statement after the weigh-in saying that he regretted ‘hiring’ Kerry Kayes, well he didn’t hire me for starters as I didn’t get paid! I volunteered, foolishly, to stay onboard. Jose also said Guzman was only 10lbs out when I got there and that I only got a 1lb off him. If anyone thinks that I’m that incompetent to the point where I can’t shift a 1lb in the space of several days then they have to ask how I operated for so long in this sport.
“If I was a 25-year-old man trying to make my way then I might be concerned about the bad press but I wasn’t, the only thing I was concerned about was Guzman, as he’s a lovely, lovely person. I know there is no way I could be that incompetent as to not get anymore than a 1lb off him and a lot of the Internet threads back that up.”
“Yeah”, answered Kayes when asked if he would have worked with Joan again if push came to shove, “I thought he was a great kid and enjoyed his company. He’s got a family and they rely on him so I really felt for the lad.”
Still, Kayes feels that the debacle had cast the sport in a fresh light, what was once a hobby was now an all-consuming albatross around his neck. “I came back to England on the Wednesday to work with the kids who were preparing for appearances on the David Haye bill, and particularly to work the corner for Danny Randell, who is a lovely kid; he was doing a four rounder. Danny’s fight was the floater so I was there from around 4pm to 1am the next morning, it is also my sixtieth birthday and my wife is sat at home alone! I thought to myself, ‘What am I doing?’ asked Kayes.
“People go to work to make a living. I’m not getting paid, and I’m Ok with that, but I’m also getting a lot of pressure put on me. As someone said to me the other night: a hobby is a thing you should be able to pick up and put down. The only way I can put this one down is by saying that I’m done with boxing. My wife turns 55 later this year and she was asking me what we should do for her birthday. I told her, ‘I don’t know, love, I’ll have to see what happens with the boxing!’
“I sat down with Anthony Crolla, who fights on Saturday night, and told him that I’d work with him for the weight but wouldn’t work the corner for him. I told him that I’d be there in the crowd with my wife and just wanted to enjoy my life from now on. I’ve spent a lot of years in boxing, CNP pays my expenses for me and I admit that the exposure has done well for CNP, I’ll never deny that, but my other sports have looked at my involvement in boxing as an abandonment, especially bodybuilding, which is my core base. Any gains I’ve made in boxing has seen me make losses in bodybuilding, so I’m done with my hands-on role in boxing but will always help the boxers.”
Kayes talks about Hatton, Graham, and Pacquiao then bids ‘adieu’ to boxing in part II.