Joan Guzman To Face Ali Funeka For Vacant IBF Lightweight Belt In December?

by James Slater - Unbeaten former WBO super-bantamweight and super-featherweight champion Joan Guzman of The Dominican Republic has proven to be a most inactive fighter as of late. Due largely to his to problems making weight, the 33-year-old has fought just once a year since December of 2006, and he has not fought at all this year so far. However, according to BoxRec and to whispers that have been heard for some time now, this may change in December, as "The Sycuan Warrior" is listed as facing South Africa's Ali Funeka for the vacant IBF lightweight strap..

A very good match-up, the proposed December 5th fight will pit two very talented and very durable 135-pound operators going at it for a meaningful title. 31-year-old Funeka, 30-2-2(25) is best known due to three things: his freakish height for the weight (6'1") and his last two fights. Back in July of last year, Funeka arrived on the big stage with a bang, as he took out the crafty Zahir Raheem inside just four-rounds. This win earned the South African a shot at Nate Campbell's crown, and the two fought in February of this year; with Campbell winning via a very close majority verdict. However, due to Campbell's inability to make 135-pounds (ironically, after the scheduled fight between Campbell and Guzman fell apart due to Guzman's failure to make 135), the win did not count as a defence on the part of "The Galaxxy Warrior."

Still, though he failed to take any of the belts Campbell subsequently gave up so as to move up in weight, Funeka showed once again how good he is. He now looks like getting another chance to grab a belt against Guzman. Both men may well be suffering from ring-rust by the time the fight rolls around (Guzman especially) and it will be interesting to see if making the weight will take a lot out of Guzman.

Also, Guzman, who has fought just one time at lightweight (in his last fight, back in December of last year), will be giving away a not insignificant amount of height and reach at 5'7" and 67" (compared to 72" for Funeka). A tough fight for both men, the edge, maybe only a smallish one, looks like it could go to Funeka. Has some of Guzman's desire left him? Has he peaked already?

Funeka, though only a couple of years younger, has yet to become a belt holder, and he has only relatively recently gotten a taste of the big fights and the big money that accompanies them. Guzman is (or at least was) a real rough nut, though, and if he has retained his hunger and his sharpness despite his inactivity and weight problems, he will likely have a little too much all round for Funeka, despite the South African's incredible height.

Indeed, the key to this fight (supposing it does actually take place, and we hope it does) may well be how much Guzman, 29-0(17) has left. Even if he has slipped, it will be as tough for Funeka to stop the former two-time champ as it will be for Guzman to stop Funeka though.

A hard-fought distance affair looks likely, and whoever wins, it's a good bet that he will do so by only a slim margin. Whoever wins, it will be good to see the talent from The Dominican Republic back in a top class fight after so much time away.

Article posted on 06.09.2009

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