By Jake Donovan
For years, the most anxious moments of any fight involving Joan Guzman were on the day of the weigh-in. The disturbing trend of whether or not he’d make weight went a long way towards squandering his prime years as well as his credibility.
These days, fears of weight have been replaced the wait itself for fight night.
“I’m feeling good. Each fight is another step towards regaining the trust of everyone in the boxing world,” admits Guzman (33-0-1, 20KO), who is well on track to make the 140 lb. limit as he continues to prepare for a November 30 showdown with Khabib Allakhverdiev.
The bout – which will air live simultaneously on Pursuit TV and Bounce TV (8:00PM ET start time) from the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Florida – comes with a vacant 140 lb. title at stake. Yet for Guzman and his remaining days as a prizefighter, there is so much more on the line.
“I took a lot for granted in the past,” Guzman acknowledges. “I had a lot of issues outside the ring and I let it affect how I train and perform my job. Those days are over.”
The first step in Guzman’s personal rehabilitation tour was relocating from Brooklyn – where trained for years away from his native Dominican Republic home land – to South Florida. The move came in conjunction with his signing Acquinity Sports, a young and rising promotional company anxious to make its mark in the boxing world.
Acquinity Sports is headed by Henry Rivalta, who has taken a personal interest in the career of Guzman as well as a host of young prospects affectionately known as ‘Dominican Dream Team.’ Included among the group are unbeaten prospects Juan Carlos Payano, Lennin Castillo, Claudio Marrero and 2008 Olympic Gold medalist Felix Diaz.
The group is managed by Jose Nunez, perhaps the one constant in Guzman’s life when everyone else turned their back on the unbeaten former two-division champ. That changed when Rivalta reached out to Nunez and agreed to bring on Guzman, as well as top 130 lb. challenger Argenis Mendez.
Nunez expressed his gratitude by bringing nearly his entire stable to the South Florida-based company.
“It’s an exciting time to have this much talent coming from the Dominican Republic and I’m honored to be trusted by all to guide their promising careers,” states Nunez. “Acquinity Sports has big plans for all of my fighters and I’m confident that all roads will lead to championships for every fighter in my stable within the next couple of years, perhaps some sooner than others.”
As the most experienced member of the crew, it’s only natural that Guzman gets first crack at becoming Acquinity’s first major titlist. The hope is that the run doesn’t end simply with a title win.
“We just hope the big names at 140 lb. will give (Guzman) the opportunity to fight him,” Rivalta stated when first signing Guzman earlier this year. “If given the chance, he beats them all.”
His first chance comes at the end of the month, against a fellow high risk, low reward opponent.
Allkahverdiev (17-0, 8KO) earned his place on stage with recent wins over Nate Campbell and Kaizer Mabuza. Both of those bouts took place in his native Russia, where this fight once threatened to land while the two sides were in negotiation. Guzman’s handlers eventually made the unbeaten southpaw an offer he couldn’t refuse in bringing the fight to the United States.
The night’s festivities hardly end with the title fight, as a concert will immediately follow. Hip hop superstar Flo Rida headlines a full roster of musical talent.
Whether or not Guzman is in a celebratory mood will largely depend on the outcome of the evening’s main event. Though what takes place in the ring is hardly of concern for an unbeaten former two-division champ with over 300 amateur bouts and a run with the 1996 Dominican Republic Olympic boxing squad.
Getting to that point has for years been the true battle. Guzman has finally exorcised those demons, which – even at age 36 and with 15 years in the pro ranks – makes him more dangerous than ever.
“What happens on November 30 isn’t the end of the journey,” Guzman acknowledges – win, lose or draw. “Winning a title in a third weight class is just the beginning of my future plans in the game.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox