Guinn - Toney: Last Chance for “The Southern Disaster”

13.09.05 - By Aaron King: Two years ago this month, Dominick Guinn (photo: Carlos Kalinchuk/ESB) found himself in a place where very few fighters get to be - with the chance to clutch the heavyweight division in his grasp. This distinction has lost some of its luster on account of the shallow talent pool, but that’s what made Guinn seem all the more important. He was going to be the guy that began to pull us out of the mire.

While nobody was claiming that he was the second-coming of Ali, he caught the boxing public at the right time, just when we were searching for a shimmering young hero. We were so sick of having to soak in stories about Mike Tyson and how poor the division was. So sick that all it took was a knockout of a lifeless Michael Grant for Guinn to snatch our attention. Grant did little more than submit to the ropes and take his beating. Yet, Grant was an old name, and we were eager for a new one. His next fight was against the mammoth Duncan Dokiwari. This time he went the distance and won in convincing manner. He used his superior foot speed to skirt around the daunting Nigerian, landing crisper punches as the fight progressed..

He was shortly thereafter catapulted into the top 10. He wasn’t very big, about 218 pounds, but it didn’t matter. Both Grant and Dokiwari were big men, and he chopped them down like timber. He was ferocious and hard-nosed. Best of all, he was American.

Such a meteoric rise in the heavyweight division is usually appointed to phenomenal talents like Tyson or a young George Foremen. But it was at the time, as it still is, a desert with few promises of oasis, mostly just mirages. Hence, Dominick Guinn, the most tangible of all promises in sight, drew followers from across the boxing landscape.

“The Southern Disaster” was even appealing to skeptical experts. He won National Gold Gloves Championships in 1997 and 1999 while compiling a 290-26 amateur record. During that long amateur career, he took apart another rising luminary, Joe Mesi. He had deceptively quick hands, particularly in the left hook. His money punch was short, concise and accurate. To the rest of us, he was charismatic and exciting, two things that the heavyweight division lacked.

Only two months later, Guinn put Derrick Banks down in the first, en route to another unanimous decision victory. He was as aggressive as ever and seemed ready to take the final step from contender to champion. Dominick Guinn’s coronation as the heavyweight’s brightest hope was nearly complete.

I, like many boxing fans, was so geared up to find a shimmer of heavyweight hope, that I couldn’t quite hear the alarms sounding in the background. It’s that little lever that tells us not to jump the gun when we see an unproven prospect. Wait until he’s tested. Amidst the clamor, many of us ignored that he hadn’t faced a good fighter yet. Grant was a star early in his career, but had looked as though he completely lost his will to fight. He was begging to be put away. Dokiwari was a physical specimen, however, also unproven and not so technically sound. Banks brought a record of 20-10-1 into the ring with him the night of their fight. Guinn’s chin hadn’t been tested. His punching power was suspect. But we had the blinders on. He was undefeated, he had a blistering left hook, and he was an American heavyweight, an especially important commodity as the Klitschko brothers were taking the division by storm.

Looking back at it now, Guinn was painfully close to bringing these prophecies to fruition. He was scheduled to fight Monte Barrett, who had previously been beaten by Mesi. Mesi himself seemed reluctant to fight Guinn, even after Guinn called him out on several occasions. Dominick seemed sluggish against Barrett. The edge in talent was Guinn’s, but he was repeatedly stymied by his pressing opponent. The passion and intensity that were staples of the Guinn attack were absent. He was shelving out little more effort than Michael Grant on the night Guinn made his name. Had he just tried a little harder, the split-decision loss to Barrett would have been another step toward reviving the heavyweight division. Instead, he was thoroughly beaten on a night that was supposed to be a homecoming. It was as if he had forgotten why he was fighting or even how to fight at all.

Before the bout, Guinn began to embrace the hype rested upon him, more so, because of the adoring Arkansas media. His last week of workouts were public for the local following he had established. He began to leak his future intentions. “I want to tell everyone to keep watching because I am the next world champion!” he said in an interview with Doghouse Meanwhile, he continued to call out Joe Mesi. Indeed, he never seemed to do much talking about Monte Barrett. Suffice to say that Guinn’s head wasn’t with his body that night.

Dominick Guinn said in a subsequent interview with Doghouse Boxing: “I promise I will be back, and you will not see another night like that Barrett fight. That I can guarantee.”

At first, he seemed right. He knocked out journeyman Phil Jackson just 23 seconds into the fight. However, this time, the victory was met with more uncertainty. Jackson had 12 losses on his résumé, discrediting the claim that it was a truly solid win for Guinn. It was a confidence fight to help him regain whatever he lost against Barrett. One round isn’t much of an indicator of this. Still, many were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and call the Barrett debacle an anomaly. We had to. Who else was there to look toward?

Dominick came into the next fight with the up and coming German fighter Serguei Lyakhovich. Guinn, heavily favored, appeared more weary than he did against Barrett. He listlessly plodded through 10 rounds and was soundly outpointed. Lyakhovich completely outworked him, making Dominick look like the additional ten pounds went right to his feet. For those who believed Guinn was blazing the trail to heavyweight supremacy, the flame was all but distinguished that night in Atlantic City.

Despite the overwhelmingly poor performance against Lyakhovich, Guinn was again the favorite in his next fight with Friday Ahunanya. Dominick’s telecasts had been relegated to ESPN 2, not a shameful contention, but a downfall from HBO just a little over a year before. Guinn repeated the same uninspired performance that we had grown accustomed to over his last few fights. This one ended in a draw, and that was a generous outcome for Guinn. The distinctive qualities that marked his swift attacks of the past seemed much more distant than two years gone.

Meanwhile, at the beginning of 2005, Monte Barrett knocked out Owen Beck in the ninth to get a shot at the WBC heavyweight title. The title match took place a little less than a month ago in August, against former champion, Hasim Rahman. The fight lacked scores of excitement, but this much was expected. Rahman and Barrett are very good friends. However, Barrett was less effective during the spurts of action, and lost a unanimous decision. Rahman now has a date with Vitali Klitschko in November.

It seems arbitrary to say now, but it could very well be Dominick Guinn in that fight. It’s fascinating to think about how or if the face of the heavyweight division might look differently if that were the case. Guinn had something that Hasim Rahman and Vitali Klitschko just don’t have. Not to infer that they’re not very able fighters. But, there is something missing. Call it charisma, if you like. Regardless of label, it was something that separates pronounced stars from unheralded talents. Now, a couple of other young men claim the throne that once belonged to Guinn. The powerful Samuel Peter is the most prevalent of the two; The other being Calvin Brock. Peter’s test is right around the corner as he prepares to fight Wladimir Klitschko, who has established himself as a very strong offensive fighter, albeit having been knocked out in his preceding bouts. Klitschko will ask the questions that need to be asked of Peter.

Oddly, it seemed as though Dominick Guinn had begun to answer those questions, only to stop in mid-sentence.

So now, Guinn once again finds himself in a position very few fighters ever come across - with a chance at redemption. He was once more in the right place at the right time. James Toney (68-4-2, 43 KOs) is following a similar path as Guinn (25-2-1, 18 KOs) after testing positive for steroids, thus stripping him of the belt he had just won from John Ruiz. Toney (68-4-2, 43 KOs) can’t get the fights he wants, nor can Guinn, whose contract with Main Events has just run out. Both men see this as a last chance. Whoever loses the fight, also loses the prospect of a future as a heavyweight champion. Whoever wins is right back in the title scene. Surely, both men understand that.

Second chances are a rare occurrence, but Dominick Guinn has been granted one. He needs to cash in now. Time is running out for the 30 year old. Perhaps, he hasn’t finished his test yet. If so, October 1 is certainly the day of the final question. Dominick Guinn has something that the heavyweight division doesn’t have. It’s time for him to show us what that is.

Article posted on 13.09.2005

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