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The ESPN2 Friday Night Fights TV Cheat Sheet-Mar. 2, 2012

Who would have thought as Joan Guzman was fighting his way up the boxing ladder, appearing on HBO repeatedly, that he would slip to ESPN2-level events without ever losing? It looks like a wasted career but until someone beats Guzman, he has a unique place in boxing beside the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Rocky Marciano if he retires an unbeaten world champion. With the exception of Guzman, if he is in shape (not a given), this card is missing that dash of flash. Instead, it draws on solid blue-collar performers. Don’t confuse the absence of a flashy fighter with lack of action; the fighters on this card are capable performers who have had exciting fights in their pasts. Still, this card does not measure up to other “Friday Night Fights” cards of recent vintage, especially last year’s matchmaking run, lacking a certain joie de vivre.

At the Westin Diplomat Resort, Hollywood, FL
(ESPN2) Joan Guzman (31-0-1) vs. Jesus Pabon (17-2)
(ESPN2) Ed Paredes (29-3-1) vs. Manuel Leyva (21-4)
Manuel Leyva – Mexican southpaw replaces veteran Cosme Rivera but Leyva brings some experience and tricks of his own to the ring. The 29-year-old has mixed with good company, one former champion and two solid prospects, but did not fare well, losing to all three. The losses ranged from a one-round blowout against Dannie Williams to a contested split decision to Joel Casamayor. Went ten rounds with John Molina but the Williams loss showed that Leyva cannot deal with speed. Same with Casamayor where, early on, Leyva had trouble picking up Casamayor’s punches, doing better as Casamayor slowed. Not sure about Leyva’s amateur pedigree but he looks solid in style and throws everything correctly. Balance is not optimal, leaning in with punches and not nimble laterally with his punches of the arm variety, favoring accuracy over power. Like many boxers from Mexico, Leyva came up the hard way, matched hard and fighting a 10 rounder in only his eighth pro fight. Stopped 12 of 21 victims but only one had a winning record (25-24-1) and Leyva has only beaten eight foes with winning records. Leyva’s latest win came against a 1-0 boxer in his last fight. Gave former champion Casamayor a tough fight, losing a split decision but rallied aggressively in the final three rounds after an early jab-fest. Showed toughness and conditioning in the Casamayor bout, getting up and surviving a vicious body shot in the fifth round. Despite being in shape, Leyva does not sport a great physique with little muscle definition in the chest area and is not very sculpted, carrying four or five extra pounds. Leyva’s chin is not sound, dropped by ordinary punchers at least five times, and he negates left-handed stance by squaring up wide to throw hooks. Not on a strong run of form, losing three of his last four bouts, but in his defense, Leyva has faced tough opposition in the setbacks. Is a natural lightweight or junior welterweight, this fight is at welterweight, weighing 148¾ pounds for his last fight two weeks ago. Lives and gets quality sparring in Los Angeles but needs to beat a sound opponent to earn another spot on television.
Ed Paredes – Florida-based banger is on an excellent run of form over the last three years, stopping six of his last seven opponents, fashioning himself into a fringe contender at welterweight. Two of his three losses came early in Paredes’ career (the other to top ten-ranked Carlos Molina) before his 13th fight but he worked hard to correct flaws and turned the corner after a contentious draw with undefeated prospect Joey Hernandez. Displayed improvement scoring a second round knockout of Hernandez in a rematch, worthy of “Kayo of the Year” consideration, reinforcing his claim to legitimacy by going 12 rounds with thunderous punching Antonio Pitalua. I could find amateur statistics for Paredes, grew up in good New England amateur boxing environment, but he gives up his size advantage to bang which is not conducive to accuracy-based scoring system of amateurs. Paredes’ father still works his corner and he stays sharp with quality sparring sessions against many of the Cubans defectors who train in Florida. At 5’10”, Paredes is a tall welterweight, taking charge behind a menacing wingspan and big right hand that reminds one of the late Diego Corrales because of his height. Like many power punchers, Paredes is sometimes fixated on his strongest weapon thus neglecting to set it up properly with movement or jabs. When Paredes misses, he does so by a mile and leaves himself open for counters and turning into punches. Despite that flaw, has only been knocked down once by Pitalua, is a testament to his chin and good reflexes. Defense needs to improve, which is a double problem because Paredes has gotten cut because of the holes in his defense. Does hold his hands pretty high and swipes away incoming punches well with the gloves against slower opponents. At times, Paredes looks mentally disengaged, fighting to the level of his opposition, but when focused, seems to bring forth venomous punches. At age 26, Paredes’ weight has not been a problem; turning pro at 154 pounds and holding at 147 could be problematic down the road. Should be more active, two fights in 2010 and 2011, but is on road to fixing that with this already being Paredes’ second bout in 2012. A humble and religious man outside the ring, like other boxers, Paredes turns to an alter-ego inside the ring, morphing into a seek-and-destroy warrior. Paredes has a solid following because of his offensive style (predicting a third round kayo), so if this fight turns out to be a snoozer, it won’t be Paredes’ fault.
Verdict – Jab/right hand of Paredes will dominate the action early and often, especially since Leyva is not a lefty of elusive abilities. Leyva has the survival skills to cope with slower guys but Paredes should have just enough speed to catch Levya pulling straight back or while squaring up on the way in. Either way, Leyva does not have the chin to stand up to Paredes’ power. I do expect Leyva to get off the canvas the first two times but recognize the folly of his ways and stay down in the fourth round when it happens a third time.
Jesus Pabon – Shaven-headed slickster was tricky at lightweight because he looked bigger than he was, with a stocky frame obscuring quick fists and nimble feet. Now the 5’6" southpaw is fighting at junior welterweight, where he is a tick slower and trying to make up for it with accuracy. Those fractions of a second are hurting Pabon on defense, stopped in his last fight and dropped six times in last four bouts since moving to 147 pounds. The Puerto Rican showed the heart to hang in there, forcing Ernesto Zepeda to quit on his stool in a seven-round war two years ago. When Pabon turned pro after a short amateur career (beaten by Breidis Prescott in Pan Am Games) of only 15 bouts, Florida-based Warrior Promotions snapped him up. Still fights in a bit of an amateur fashion, moving and hitting instead of sitting down on punches. A counterpuncher by nature, Pabon prefers his opponents’ lead while he works off holes he spots from the outside. Still managed to stop 11 of 17 victims but does so on the strength of quick punches from sharp angles, catching foes off-balance or out of normal sightlines. Despite a tricky offense, the defense is not very good because of awkward footwork and his chin is unreliable when a punch lands flush. Pabon does not move his head, relying too much on reflexes instead of sound technique on defense- and offense, for that matter. Only fought 19 times in an eight-year career, going 69 pro rounds, fighting twice a year the last two years and only once in 2009. Has never been past eight rounds but has not shown signs of fading against credible Lenin Arroyo, Bulmaro Solis and Ernesto Zepeda either. Despite status of underdog, 15 of Pabon’s last 16 bouts took place in Florida and the judges are aware of his abilities and style. Has been stopped twice, in the second round, when Luis Hernandez and Javier Castro caught Pabon cold before he could find a rhythm. It’s been eight months since Pabon fought, perhaps increasing the chance of an early stoppage again. At 31 years of age, Pabon has slipped from prospect to question mark and needs this win to maintain any kind of career momentum.
Joan Guzman – I have been waiting for more than a decade for Guzman to become a breakout star and frankly think he squandered Hall of Fame-type abilities. Now, at age 35 and despite an undefeated record, most see Guzman as a disappointment who never delivered on vast potential. Guzman was a spectacular amateur, establishing a 310-10 record for the Dominican Republic, but lost to current WBO flyweight champion Omar Narvaez in the first round of the 1996 Olympics. As a professional, won two WBO belts (both vacancies) at junior feather and junior lightweight but gave up both because of difficulties making weight. Most cite bad work habits instead of getting bigger or older for the decisions to vacate the titles. Guzman gave a glimpse of how good he can be, easily outpointing future lightweight champion Humberto Soto, using his speed and counterpunching instincts to breeze to a victory. At his best, Guzman fuses speed, power, movement and ring generalship into an explosive package that pleases the eye. It seemed that, at times, he could wake up the morning of a fight and choose a singular weapon to win on the day. If he felt like using more, a knockout was virtually assured. At his worst, Guzman is unfocused and disinterested in the task at hand, almost as if the opponent was beneath him. Only on fight night do we know which Guzman will enter the ring: a focused destroyer or uninterested bystander. Puts on too much weight between bouts and, despite testing positive for a diuretic, showed up nine pounds over the weight in rematch with Ali Funeka for the IBF lightweight title. It caused Guzman’s release by Golden Boy Promotions and since then, has only fought once since 2010. Inactivity always plagued Guzman, fighting once a year in 2007, 2008, 2009 and only twice in 2010. In his last fight, Guzman landed what can only be called a phantom punch knockout of Florencio Castellano and has only been three rounds against weak foes in last 13 months. Given Guzman’s age and current weight class he fights in, his run as a top-notch performer is probably over. Sadly, boxing fans might have never seen the best of Guzman despite appearances on HBO. Against Funeka, Guzman was even in danger of losing, only showing professionalism by battling cuts and incredible height difference in that performance. In recent interviews, Guzman says he is in shape, in the gym and reborn as a boxer but in last appearance at junior welterweight, looked pudgy. Guzman is a frustrating diva of a boxer who can enthrall when on his game or infuriate with lackadaisical attitude.
Verdict – The gulf in class between Guzman and Pabon is too wide for a seven-year age difference to gap, maybe even a 20-year difference (although some claim Guzman is only 33 years old)! Even an out-of-shape, unfocused Guzman will pivot and walk Pabon into punches, beating the unorthodox lefty on muscle memory and instincts alone. Guzman, given those advantages, can choose to lead or counter because of an edge in hand speed. I think Guzman understands this could be his last chance to impress and given that, will try hard for a knockout. This is why despite only stopping one opponent in last 12 bouts, I like Guzman by third round kayo.
Prediction record for 2012: 86% (19-3)
Prediction record in 2011: 88% (138-19)
Prediction record in 2010: 85% (218-40)
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