In a tragic foot race with a just result, Joan Guzman’s lack of professionalism caught up with and passed his tremendous talent yesterday. The junior featherweight turned featherweight turned junior lightweight turned lightweight turned junior welterweight — with a lot of “overweight” thrown in to the mix for all the times he came up extra large on the scale — got busted for using a banned substance, prompting his fed-up promoter, Golden Boy, to drop him. (The banned substance was, fittingly, a diuretic.) Already, HBO had made clear that Guzman was persona non grata for his repeated trespasses. Now without a promoter, without a television outlet, with a likely suspension and without any reason for anyone else to take a chance on him at age 34 — as good as he is — Guzman’s career is, most likely, effectively over.
It is a steep fall. Once upon a time, Guzman got some pound-for-pound love. He once was a candidate to face current pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao. At the lighter weights, he was a knockout artist; at the higher weights, he was too fast and too skilled for most everyone. But then he kept not bothering to make weight, and it never even helped matters for him to move up a new division because he would fail to make weight there, too, such as in his last bout at 141 where he came in at 144.
Guzman’s professional demise fills me with both remorse and satisfaction. His lack of dedication robbed us of the chance to see how good he could really be. There’s little more frustrating in the sports world than to see an athlete with all the gifts in the world take them for granted, especially when there are so many lesser-talented men out there overachieving because they burn with desire for boxing; even if Guzman never maximized his talent, he’d still be better than all of those men. But Guzman went one worse than “never maximized his talent” — he flat-out sabotaged it. That talent kept getting him chances that others wouldn’t have, and every chance he got for the last several years, he blew it.
There has finally been some cosmic retribution for the people Guzman screwed over along the way. When Guzman showed up overweight for his bout with Nate Campbell and refused to fight on despite Campbell’s willingness to do so in order to get a paycheck, it was the final straw that forced Campbell to file for bankruptcy. When Guzman showed up a whopping nine pounds overweight for his rematch with Ali Funeka, it helped Guzman absorb the blows that hurt him the first time around and triggered a tailspin for Funeka’s career. Guzman can’t undo the damage he did to those men, both of whom showed more bravery and dedication than Guzman ever did by a long shot. But at least he doesn’t get to flourish while they suffer as a result of his misdeeds.
Wasted talent isn’t original to boxing. Who among us really is living up to their full potential? But Guzman was a special case. He had so much and he gave so little, and what’s worse, took plenty away from others. It’s good that he has most likely run out of chances. But it’s also rather sad.