Ali Funeka vs. Joan Guzman II: An Early Birthday Present for Funeka

joan guzmanBy John G. Thompson - The day before he turns thirty-two Ali Funeka 30-2-3 (25 KO’s) gets an early birthday present by way of a rematch with Joan Guzman 29-0-1 (17 KO’s) for the vacant IBF Lightweight Title this Saturday night. Judges Alan Davis and Benoit Roussell both scored the first bout 114-114 (resulting in a majority draw), while Judge Joseph Pasquale scored the bout a little more accurately at 116-112 for Funeka. However, while many (including this writer) felt that Funeka had done more than enough to earn the win, several rounds were close and tough to score.

Joan Guzman fought extremely well early in the bout, winning the first four or five rounds. He consistently threw the harder and cleaner punches, showed good aggression and ring generalship, despite suffering a cut over his right eye after an accidental head but in the second round. Guzman also countered well against Funeka, which became his primary tactic as the fight continued.

Ali Funeka came on stronger in round five and the momentum seemed to shift by the sixth.. In the eighth, Guzman had started to regain the momentum, moving well and countering effectively; however, Funeka may have stolen the round by landing some good blows in the final seconds and hurting Guzman with a right. Guzman was still shaking off the cobwebs in the ninth round and looked very tired in the tenth. Guzman seemed back to form in the eleventh round, relying heavily on counter punching, though Funeka probably still took the round by maintaining his distance and out-throwing his opponent. Guzman actually came out in the twelfth as the aggressor, perhaps acknowledging that he was behind in the fight, though Funeka got the better of Guzman in several exchanges.

Whether you believed Funeka won the fight or Guzman earned the draw probably comes down to a matter of taste. Guzman’s counter shots were cleaner and he often made Funeka miss with shoulder rolls and ring movement. On the other hand, Funeka pressed the action for most of the bout, threw far more punches, and appeared to hurt Guzman on at least one occasion.

For Joan Guzman to maintain his undefeated record, he will need to keep Ali Funeka from using his six inch (15cm) height and five inch (13cm) reach advantages, which means he needs to stay inside. This is something he failed to do enough of in the first fight, allowing Funeka to back him into the ropes and maintain distance. He also needs to stay active against the high volume puncher. With only seventeen of thirty fights won by knockout, Guzman does not appear to be a monstrous puncher, yet in the first fight he was able to land cleanly. If Funeka’s defense does not improve, Guzman may well be able to take a good enough lead early on, and Funeka will have problems trying to pin down the wily Guzman later in the fight.

For Ali Funeka to add a second “1” to the record of his opponent, this time in the loss category, he must begin as if he were already six rounds into the fight. He needs to swarm Guzman with punches and keep his distance so as not to get tagged with Guzman’s counters. Funeka does possess some power and clearly had Guzman hurt in the first match. If Funeka is able to push Guzman back into the ropes and unload as he did before, he may well become not just the first man to beat Guzman, but the first to stop him.

This may not be the most tantalizing fight of the weekend with Arthur Abraham and Andre Dirrell competing in the next stage of the Showtime Super Six Tournament. It may not even be the most anticipated fight of the HBO card, featuring the extremely rugged Marcos Rene Maidana facing the undefeated up and coming Victor Cayo in the main event. Regardless, when a world title and an undefeated record are both on the line in a rematch of a controversial decision, the fans generally win.

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Article posted on 26.03.2010

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