Boxing gains steam in Sin City, Guzman gains pounds
Joan Guzman may have failed to make weight for his lightweight co-feature with Ali Funeka, but Saturday's main event fighters, Marcos Maidana (left) and Victor Cayo, both weighed in at the 140-pound division limit for their junior welterweight showdown at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. Photo by Naoki Fukuda
LAS VEGAS — Being a boxing fanatic and living in Sin City has its perks, especially when four world-class fighters are engaging in two major title bouts on the same card.
On Saturday, junior welterweight contender Marcos Maidana will takes on undefeated prospect Victor Cayo in an HBO-televised main event from the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. In the co-feature of the Boxing After Dark broadcast, skyscraping lightweight contender Ali Funeka will battle former two-division titleholder Joan Guzman in a rematch of a heated encounter that ended in a controversial draw last year.
The Funeka-Guzman rematch was supposed to be for a vacant lightweight title but the bout technically became a welterweight contest on Friday when Guzman weighed in nine pounds over the 135-pound lightweight limit.
The fight could have been — and some would argue should have been — canceled, but the show will go on as scheduled. Funeka, who weighed in at 135 pounds on Friday, will receive 25 percent of Guzman’s purse per Nevada State Athletic Commission rules. While Guzman, who weighed 144 pounds, was not permitted to weigh more than 150 pounds by Saturday morning, when the two were weighed again. Funeka, who put on a considerable amount of weight overnight after the weighin for their first fight, was told to weigh no more than 145 pounds.
Both fighters came through to keep the bout alive. Guzman weighed 148.2 pounds at the Saturday morning weighin. Funeka weighed 143.2 pounds.
The weighin controversy aside, this should be a good show for fans watching on HBO and those who are lucky enough to attend the card live.
The 2,000 capacity at The Joint, where the card will take place in the Hard Rock Hotel, means there’s hardly a bad seat in the house. The reasonable ticket prices, $40 to $250, will ensure that fans get their money’s worth.
Golden Boy Promotions did well to stack six other fights underneath the two marquee bouts to showcase their upcoming talent. However, most fans are focused on the main event bouts, which should deliver.
The main event fighters took part in a media workout at Extreme Couture Gym on Wednesday and all four made an impression on those who attended.
Maidana (27-1, 26 knockouts), looks like a serial killer with his dark eyes, shaven skull and tattoos, but the 26-year-old Argentine is actually a soft-spoken and thoughtful character. He's well aware of what his opponent brings to the table and how much this fight means in further propelling him up one of the hottest divisions in boxing.
The fan friendly fighter appeared to do enough to at least earn a draw in his only loss, a split decision to then-titleholder Andriy Kotelnik in the Ukrainian’s adopted residence of Germany back in February of 2009. After that fight, Maidana’s camp felt he had gone as far as he could with his previous trainer and hooked him up with fellow Argentine and veteran trainer Miguel Diaz, who guided the slugger to his best victory in his very next bout, a five-knockdown shoot out with ballyhooed Victor Ortiz.
If you haven’t seen the fight, be sure to have a look at Maidana’s composure in the face of adversity from the very heavy handed Ortiz on Youtube.com. He’ll have to deal with a very different style from Cayo, however.
The unknown in this puncher-versus-boxer matchup is just how good or how slick the undefeated Cayo (24-0, 16 KOs) really is. The most recognizable name on his ledger is fading former lightweight titleholder Julio Diaz, who was able to take three of 10 rounds from Cayo in July of 2009 after suffering a tough knockout loss a few months earlier to Rolando Reyes.
Cayo, a native of the Dominican Republic who trains in Southern California, fights in a confident, hands-down Roy Jones Jr.-type of style with angles and movement that he’s counting on to befuddle his hard-charging opponent.
Known as “Mermelada”, Cayo was ringside for Maidana’s fight of the year candidate with Ortiz and felt he saw numerous flaws in the puncher’s style to exploit.
Cayo does bring a style that Maidana probably hasn’t seen much as a professional and you never know how high an undefeated, skillful fighter can rise but most suspect Maidana’s steady pressure, body punching, and heavy hands will slow Cayo down and catch up to him sometime after the seventh round.
The Funeka-Guzman rematch has lost some of it’s luster with Guzman’s failure at the scales but it’s still an interesting matchup. One of the points of interest, ironically, is how his failure to make the contracted weight will effect his performance.
Often when fighters come in a few pounds over the limit it’s simply an indication that their bodies have outgrown that weight class but this is a horse of a different color. The question is whether or not Guzman decided to give himself an unfair advantage against his towering opponent. Let’s start with the history of these two fighters and theorize from there.
Guzman and Funeka fought to a much disputed draw in Quebec City, Canada back in November of last year. Two judges had the bout even, while most observers agreed with the third judge who scored the bout eight rounds to four in Funeka’s favor.
Thirty-three year old former amateur standout Guzman (29-0-1, 17 KOs) is an exceptionally talented boxer who employs the hit and don’t get hit style but seeing Funeka (30-2-3, 25 KOs) fluidly hit the mitts this week with his 6-foot-1 frame confirms that he’s just a freak of nature who is going to give any lightweight in the world difficulty. (Maybe that’s why Guzman decided to come in two weight classes higher as a welterweight?)
In their first bout, the 5-foot-7 Guzman boxed well early, taking the opening two rounds before Funeka started to find his range, bloodying the nose of Guzman in the third. A clash of heads in round four left Guzman with a gash on his forehead and more blood to contend with for the remainder of the bout.
The Dominican Republic native was having a nice eighth round before running into a beautifully thrown, short, compact right hand that hurt Guzman more than anytime in his professional career. Only his world-class chin and heart saved him from further damage.
On Wednesday, Guzman said that he didn’t have the best training camp for his first bout with Funeka, which occurred not long after he lost his mother and following his manager and close friend Jose Nunez losing a son. However, despite what he called a chaotic camp he still made lightweight without any difficulty back then.
Changes were made for this bout. Guzman employed British trainer Lee Beard along with nutritionist Kerry Kayes and spent four weeks in England to fully focus on boxing, away from any potential distractions in his adopted hometown of Brooklyn, N.Y.
Given what occurred at the scales on Friday, Kayes’ Wednesday comment that he wished he had Guzman for a full 10-12 week camp makes more sense. What is not understood is how Guzman and his team were acting like everything was fine and dandy at Wednesday's workout. They had to have known he wasn’t anywhere near the weight and which makes you wonder if Guzman ever had any intention of making the weight.
This isn’t his first time with weight issues. Guzman forced a world title bout cancellation on the day before his fight with Nate Campbell in September of 2008. Guzman said he was too dehydrated to get down to 135 after coming in at 138 and the bout was scrapped. Guzman may have partied it up over the holidays after November’s bout with Funeka. According to Kayes he showed up in England at nearly 175 pounds. Having to lose eight pounds a week for five weeks up until fight time is asking far too much for a fighter his age.
Fighters often shrink themselves down to the lowest weight class possible on the day of the weigh in, followed by a 24-30 hour re-hydration period, hoping to not compromise their bodies too much and gain back their strength by fight time. Some are better at this weight manipulation game than others and enter the ring at a higher weight and what appears to be an unfair advantage in size and strength. Many thought this was the case late in 2007 when Guzman got down to 130 pounds for his bout with Humberto Soto but entered the ring the next day at 149 pounds while Soto weighed 135 pounds.
Guzman dominated Soto. Funeka, who has a 6-inch height advantage and 5-inch reach advantage, won’t be so easy.
This bout has a potential third time’s the charm story for Funeka, who prior to the draw with Guzman had a heartbreaking majority decision loss to Nate Campbell in his first attempt at capturing a lightweight title during his first visit to the United States. Funeka is only getting better, having raised his level of competition the past couple years and working under the tutelage of fellow South African Vuyani Bungu, an accomplished former 122-pound titleholder.
If justice is served and there’s any karma here Funeka will be celebrating his 32nd birthday with a world title belt around his waist, something that probably should have happened in back in November.