Joan Guzman and all that is wrong with boxing

guzman13.09.08 - by Mark Gregory, photo by Tom Casino / Showtime - When Joan Guzman enters the ring to take on three-belt lightweight champion Nate Campbell later today, the fans will not be witnessing a championship fight. This is because Joan Guzman yesterday failed to make weight by the not insignificant margin of three and a half pounds.

Campbell deserves credit for still going ahead with the fight, as he would have been well within his rights to pull out, just as Diego Corrales did when Jose Luis Castillo failed to make weight for their rubber match in the great lightweight trilogy that never was. Whilst Castillo had been struggling to make 135lbs for year, the fact is that in this case there can be little excuse for Guzman failing to make the weight. In the modern era, a fighter’s weight is constantly monitored throughout the training camp to ensure that the pounds are being shed at the right rate so as to not drain strength and endurance. Fighters are also weighed periodically right up to seven days prior to the fight to gauge whether or not it is feasible for them to make weight. In short, then, Joan Guzman would have been well aware that he was over the limit in the lead up to the fight and will have known that those extra pounds needed to be shed..

Quite why Guzman failed to lose the extra weight is open to speculation. Perhaps he came into his camp just too heavy to make the weight; his struggles to stay in shape between fights are well-documented. However, if a fighter like Ricky Hatton – who balloons to well over his 140lb limit when out of the gym – can consistently boil down to make weight with relatively few problems, then one would have to question quite why Guzman could not do the same. It seems even more implausible that Guzman could not physically make the limit when you consider that he is stepping up in weight for this fight, and that just a few years ago he was fighting at 122lbs. With his frame, there is no good reason why he cannot make 135lbs comfortably.

Another possible explanation is that Guzman simply did not have the motivation or desire to shed those extra few pounds, knowing that in so doing it would weaken him going into the fight. Given that he would have known how much weight needed shedding with a week to go to the fight, and given that there seems no physical reason why he could not make the higher weight, this explanation seems fairly plausible. It seems even more likely when past lapses in Guzman’s professionalism are noted, such as his failure to secure a visa in time ahead of the mandatory defence of his WBO 130lb belt against Alex Arthur earlier in the year. That he did not want to fight Arthur is understandable, however he had a contractual agreement to do so and that he did not fulfil this obligation is solely down to him. Was the whole visa farce a way of masking difficulty making the weight? It certainly seems a possibility. Either way, if he has not really tried to shed those pounds then he is, to be blunt, a cheat.

The question has to be asked, then, why could Guzman not motivate himself to make the weight for the most important fight of his career? Why did he not bust a gut in the last week of his camp to make sure he came in at 135lbs so that he could fight for the belts? It seems mystifying, especially when we constantly hear Guzman – and his legion of die-hard fans – calling out the likes of Manny Pacquiao and Juan Diaz, and claiming that the aforementioned fighters are avoiding him. Well Mr. Guzman, if you want to earn the right to fight the likes of Pacquiao and Diaz you have to do it by getting in the ring, winning titles and fighting the best. There is no such thing as a God-given right to fight the best out there; that is a right that must be won through letting your fists do the talking.

And all of this leads on to another issue surrounding the career of Joan Guzman that may shed further light on his failure to make the weight for tonight’s superfight. In the last 5 years Guzman has racked up a total of 8 fights. That is a whole 4 fights less over the same period than the man Guzman and his fans seem to be obsessed with, Manny Pacquiao. Given that Pacquiao’s fights have been against the likes of Barrera, Morales and Marquez whilst the standout names on Guzman’s ledger are Barrios and Soto – good fighters, but at least one level below Pacman’s opposition – then you have to admire the temerity of Guzman in accusing the more active, better matched Pacquiao of ducking him. Isn’t it meant to be the up and coming challenger who matches himself tough and fights regularly in order to get a shot at the number one? Perhaps I am just being old-fashioned.

The fact of the matter is that over the past few years, Guzman has shown himself to be both unprofessional and lazy. In addition to never fighting anyone who could be considered top 25 p4p, let alone top 10, Guzman has only ever held the least highly regarded of the four major belts, the WBO, in his two-weight championship reigns. He has never shown any genuine ambition to unify and has never defended for long enough to really stake a claim for being the best in any division he has fought in. And yet some of his fans, and he himself, will tell you that he is one of the best fighters in the world right now. But whilst he runs his mouth, he has done little to back up his words in the ring. His ambition clearly only stretches so far as calling out the best, not actually forcing them to take notice of him.

Of course Guzman is a very talented fighter. He is quick, defensively excellent and has good skills. But for the casual fan he is not particularly exciting to watch, and he is no KO artist. Ordinarily this would mean that he would be working harder to force himself into the consciousness of both the public and those fighters that he so desperately claims to want to fight. Instead he has been content to sit on a paper title, fighting B and C class opposition, and doing so only one or two times a year.

In Joan Guzman we have a perfect example of some of the problems of modern boxing. Here we have a fighter who claims to be amongst the elite, who claims to deserve to be in the ring with the very best fighters in the world, and who may well have the talent to be correct in his claims. However, we also have a fighter who has yet to face an elite boxer in some 28 fights; who has pulled out of fights at late notice; who fails to keep himself in shape between fights; who has shown no ambition to unify or establish himself as a force at any weight; who has fought at a pitiful rate for the past five years; and who, on the eve of the most important fight of his life, a fighter who failed to make weight by a whole three and a half pounds.

For the sake of boxing, we can only hope that Nate Campbell does the business in the ring tonight and sends Guzman’s career into the obscurity it merits.

Article posted on 13.09.2008

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