When Joan Guzman said he was moving up in weight he wasn’t kidding.
Guzman’s unconscionable actions both in the days leading up to last Saturday’s debacle in Biloxi and during the months before it, when he obviously was eating more than he was training, cost him a shot at the lightweight title, cost WBA-WBO-IBF champion Nate Campbell a $300,000 payday and left him without any income for the rest of the year, cost SHOWTIME and promoter Don King both money and credibility and cost fight fans who were looking forward to what seemed an interesting match a bit more faith in a sport that so often seems to let them down.
The latter may be the most corrosive result of Guzman weighing 138 ½ for a lightweight title fight and then refusing to make any effort to lose those 3 ½ pounds, but the saddest thing is the guy who will pay the least for it is the guy who caused the problem. The undefeated former two-time world champion reportedly arrived at training camp well in excess of 170 pounds for a fight he’d contracted to make at 135. At that moment his utter lack of professionalism was obvious, although kept hidden by trainer Floyd Mayweather and Guzman’s handlers.
When he got to Biloxi nearly four pounds over the lightweight limit and then made no effort to get down, it went from a lack of professionalism to criminal behavior. What was the crime? Joan Guzman stole opportunity away from a 35-year-old champion whose fighting days are now short.
Nate Campbell can never get back that $300,000 he lost because Guzman chose to show up for a lightweight championship in the body of a junior welterweight. He can’t get back the next 3 ½ or four months without work either because the television network dates are all taken until early 2009 and so he is without a place to showcase his skills.
So while Guzman can apologize all he wants, as some member of his staff did Wednesday in a press release under Guzman’s name, it is really only empty words. One can talk of lawsuits if you are Campbell, SHOWTIME or King but what will that bring them beyond legal fees? Guzman may have a full pantry and a fuller belly but despite his success in boxing it is unlikely he has the kind of cash it would take to pay back Campbell for what he has lost.
In a written statement that is not likely to have come from Guzman’s laptop some PR guy wrote in his name, “I was wrong and I apologize. There is no one else to blame for me not making the lightweight division weight limit of 135 pounds for my WBO, WBA and IBF title bout against Nate Campbell this past weekend. No trainer is to blame. No nutritionist is to blame. No manager is to blame. No promoter is to blame. Put the blame on me, Joan Guzman, because I was completely at fault. My conduct in this important matter was unprofessional.’’
To this one can only add, “Duh!!’’
But what are the consequences of Guzman’s actions? There are none really, which is the problem with boxing. This has begun to happen more and more (remember Diego Corrales twice being stood up by an overweight Jose Luis Castillo and being knocked out once and losing a big payday the next time because of it only to turn around and do it himself not long after?) and the only way it will stop is if the penalties for such a lack of professionalism become far more rigorous.
If Guzman was facing a year’s suspension of his license to box in the United States plus a fine equal to Campbell’s lost pay, instead of the paltry $500 fine and the administrative suspension that doesn’t even have to be honored in other states that were leveled by the Mississippi Athletic Commission, Joan Guzman’s handlers would be doing more than issuing a press release that he probably didn’t even know exists. More importantly, they would have done more to monitor Guzman’s preparation before he even got to the gym with Mayweather.
If fighters and the people around them knew such heavy sanctions would be the automatic result of a failure to make your contracted weight there’d be a lot less suet around boxing. Even Ricky Hatton might stay sober a bit more often, something he seldom was when spotted around Vegas last weekend at various late-night spots wearing a blotted face that carried with it the tell tale sign of personal debauchery.
“I did all that I could to make it happen,’’ Campbell lamented after the fight was cancelled. “I said I’d fight him no matter what he weighed in at. At the end of the day, I thought it was important to me to make the fight stay together.’’
The odd thing is Guzman (28-0, 17 KO) had given up the WBO junior lightweight title to move up and challenge Campbell, who unified all but the WBC belt when he beat up Juan Diaz to those belts in his last outing. Why do that if you don’t intend to get even close to making weight?
“I rolled the dice by coming in too heavy at the start of my training camp,’’ Guzman’s statement explained. “I was able to get away with this many times before but, at age 32, my body shut down on me with 3.5 pounds to go. My metabolism rejected taking off so many pounds in a short period.
“I apologize, first and foremost, to Campbell. I hope he accepts my sincere apology. I apologize to all the boxing fans, his, mine and fans who just wanted to see two accomplished fighters compete. I apologize to everyone in my native country, the Dominican Republic, and I am sorry I let you all down after you have given me years of great support. I apologize to the Showtime network and hope I can earn their forgiveness over time. I apologize to the Beau Rivage Resort & Casino and to all the great people of the Biloxi area. I apologize to Campbell's entire team from co-promoters Don King and Terry Trekas on down.
“I certainly apologize to my team starting with Sycuan Ringside Promotions, the entire Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation and to my manager, Jose Nunez. I apologize to other members of my own team all of whom worked so hard.
“I apologize to the WBO, to the WBA, to the IBF and to the Mississippi athletic commission. I learned a lesson, a hard lesson, and I just hope that, in time, I can regain the trust and the confidence of all concerned.
About the only people he didn’t apologize to was the IRS, which missed out on a chance to lower the national debt by taxing everyone involved. But reading that one does not exactly feel sincerity dripping with every word. In fact, that is all that statement was. It was words that came long after deeds had failed.
Guzman’s people claim he was throwing up blood at the end because of his failed efforts to get down to 135, which is when they called for a commission doctor to examine him. Whether that’s true or not it’s irrelevant. There is no sympathy in the boxing world today for Joan Guzman. He failed himself, his sport and his opponent by his actions…although in this case it was more inaction.
This led Campbell to issue a statement of his own that read in part, “”I can't begin to tell you how disappointed I am in Joan Guzman. So much went into this fight. My preparation, my time away from my family. So much. And for him to pull this stunt shows a complete lack of respect for the sport, the fans, the network, and myself. I wanted my pound of flesh. I wanted his “0”.
“I found out he had pulled out of the fight while on my way to the dressing room. I found out later that this nonsense had been going back and forth all day. He was gonna fight, he wasnt gonna fight, he was gonna fight, etc. Terry had kept me pretty insulated from most of it though, so I didn’t know until on my way to the dressing room what was up. I really feel bad for the fans who came out, and for DKP, Showtime, and the Beau Rivage, who put so much effort into making this fight happen. Alot of money and effort went down the drain due to the unprofessional conduct of this idiot.
“One other thing that makes me laugh too is that throughout this entire promotion, Guzman and his people made allegations against me regarding steroid use, yet it is Guzman who bulked up so much mass that he couldn’t even make 135. And to get sympathy, they are claiming that he was throwing up blood. This is not a symptom of dehydration to make weight. Throwing up blood is a symptom of using too much diuretics. He didn't even try to lose any weight after weighing 138.5 on his first try. He went back to his room and watched TV. And all this “rushed to the hospital” nonsense is just bullshit spin from his people. They only took him to the hospital after the weigh-in because getting an IV is a quicker way to re-hydrate than naturally taking in fluids.
“That’s besides the point. This wasn’t a case of someone getting the flu, or an injury during fight week. Those things legitimately happen sometimes. They knew at least 3 or 4 days ago that the weight was gonna be a problem but instead of letting people know, and making another deal or something for the fight to move forward, they pulled this crap at the last second. I've also heard a few stories saying that it was the doctor that pulled the plug on the fight. I don't believe that is true. Terry asked the commissioner what his ruling was, and if it was medical related, or what. The commissioner told him “I advised the fighter of the consequences of not participating in the fight, and the fighter elected not to participate”. I even told them I didn't care what he weighed. He could have came in at 160 for all I care. I just wanted that ass and that “0”. I'm very disappointed.
“As for what's next, I really don't know. Obviously Terry will meet with our attorneys and DKP this week to see what our options are. I truly hope the commission suspends this clown for at least a year. This wasn't a sudden injury, or sickness or something. They knew damn well they had a weight issue. And if his own weight mis-management caused him to be weak, or sick or whatever, then that's on him. I don’t feel sorry for him one bit. Maybe if his fat ass didn’t blow up to 170+ in between fights, this wouldn’t happen. At least I was assured by the WBO that since I made weight, and was ready and willing to fight even though he wasn't, that I have fulfilled my mandatory obligation, and can move on in another direction. We do have an IBF mandatory to do with the (Ali) Funeka kid that knocked out Raheem, so maybe Don can work to get that done right away. We'll just have to see what Don has in mind.’’
What Campbell would like is a shot at newly crowned RING magazine lightweight champion, Juan Manuel Marquez, who stopped champion Joel Casmayaor in the 11th round last weekend in La Vegas. The problem there is the networks need too long to promote such a bout and have no available date any way.
So whatever Don King may have in mind, the fact is there’s no television date for Nate Campbell for the rest of the year unless a major show falls out. This was to be his second payday this year and now he’s without it.
What Joan Guzman is without, we would hope, is a fork, knife and spoon.