29.03.04 – By Matthew Hurley – So now we write him off as a “never was”, right? Going into his fight against the tough Monte Barrett highly touted prospect Dominick Guinn had already been crowned the best prospect in the heavyweight division by numerous boxing writers. The HBO broadcasting team of Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Emmanuel Steward even harped on this before the fight. Guinn, apparently, had all the potential to be the next star in boxing’s glamour division and HBO was pushing him hard. And then something disastrous happened. He lost.
Dominick Guinn, a young fighter, still learning his craft, lost a tough fight to a tough fighter. Damn him. One loss and now he’s no good. He never deserved all the praised that had been heaped upon him (something Guinn had seemed uncomfortable with to begin with). He embarrassed all the pundits who backed him so now he’s been tossed aside, waved off as an aberration. An overrated young kid who let everybody down.
I say, “bulls**t”. When did this mentality come into play? When did one loss on a rising prospects record destroy a career? When did a learning experience become indicative of how far you can actually go in boxing? And why are boxing writers and broadcasters such as Larry Merchant so quick to jump ship when a young, talented kid runs into a more seasoned pro and loses a close decision? Isn’t losing tough fights what separates the men from the boys? Don’t we want fighters to accept challenges and prove their worth by coming back? Isn’t that what makes a true champion?
I honestly thought, going into this fight, that Guinn was going to have problems. He has excellent skills and steps into his jab, increasing it’s power and effectiveness, but Barrett has always been one of those “sleeper” fighters. A tough sonofabitch who can compete with anyone if he trains properly and is focused. It was a good, tough boxing match that, in my opinion, elevated both men. Guinn doesn’t have anything to be ashamed of. He stepped up, he never quit and I’m certain he learned from this loss. And I’m very happy for Barrett. It’s always nice to see a journeyman who has skills achieve his potential. Both have futures in the wide open heavyweight division.
Having said all that, my waning respect for Larry Merchant continues. Disagreeing with a writer or a broadcaster is inevitable. But it seems to me that Merchant has, in recent years, become more and more of a corporate shill. When the fight was over and Guinn had seemingly made Merchant’s pre-fight accolades seem like so much hyperbole Larry was quick to remark that he thought Joe Mesi would knock Guinn out. Mesi, a nice guy but a limited fighter with a big heart, is an HBO money maker. I may be reading too much into this, and I’ve certainly been guilty of that before, but Merchant has jumped on the bandwagon of so many HBO fighters recently and allowed that to color his commentary. It’s become annoying. At least Emmanuel Steward, who has touted Dominck Guinn as the up and comer of the division, admitted he was wrong and praised Monte Barrett’s performance. I’ve been highly critical of Larry Merchant these days, and the HBO team in general, and maybe I’ve been overly critical but the proof is in the broadcasting pudding. One only has to go back to the Oscar De La Hoya versus Shane Mosley fight to see how tainted this crew can be – regardless of who you thought won that fight.
But that’s all peripheral harping in regards to what happened in the ring on Saturday night. Dominick Guinn was not embarrassed by what happened against Monte Barrett. He lost to a tough guy and it’s here, right now, where he can truly prove his worth. I hope, as a young kid with worlds of potential, he learned from this experience and comes back a better man for it. In my heart I’m certain he will. He’s too talented to do otherwise. And as for Monte Barrett, I hope he gets a rematch with Joe Mesi, a big payday and a round of applause from boxing fans in recognition of his never giving up and proving that with perseverance, courage and motivation that a fighter so many wrote off can achieve all he dreamed of as he lay half awake wondering if all the sacrifice and heartbreak was worth it. As he proved Saturday night, it was.