Guzman better not rely on hunger

Joan Guzman doesn’t strike me as a fighter who bases his strategy on assumption. He’s played the sanctioning body game shrewdly, most recently choosing to abdicate the WBO Super-Featherweight belt to earn a #1 ranking with the same body at 135 pounds. Placing him firmly in the sight-line of Nate Campbell, a fighter with a brow like a porch roof and a virulent case of Hopkinesque ‘outsider’ syndrome. If Guzman assumes his role as the challenger means he is, by default, the hungrier fighter, as he did in interview this week, he’ll underestimate the 36-year old champion.

Nate Campbell arguably came to public prominence as “the guy who stuck out his chin and got knocked out”, not stuck out his chin like young protege Amir Khan – who now looks a life-time removed from the talk of facing Campbell that swirled over the summer, but in the clowning style of Naseem Hamed. An act of disrespect, intended to mock the opponent – Robbie Peden – and obtain a psychological advantage. It brought the playground into a world-class ring, and Peden was happy to oblige and flattened the Galaxxy Warrior in the 5th round.

Campbell became one of the early viral email circulars, pointing friends and colleagues to the video of THAT guy who stuck his chin out and ask to be hit, and got knocked out was an office parlour game for a week or two. It was humiliating. And the humbling was further magnified when Peden stopped him again in the inevitable rematch a year later. He was, by then, 33.

“All the other guys get the praises and respect, but I’m always the underdog. I’ve come to relish that role because I know what I’m capable of.”

Nate Campbell

It is a sign of the man’s perseverance that he is now, 3 years on, sitting at the top of the Lightweight rankings following his upset points victory over the youngster Juan Diaz back in the Spring. Despite being the custodian of three of the four major belts, Campbell for all of his presumed vulnerabilities, initially found suitors hard to pin down. YouTube has a number of videos of him haranguing Joel Casamayor and speaking to the BBC with regard to tackling Amir Khan by way of exemplar. To even have needed to consider Khan as an opponent said a lot about Campbell’s increasing desperation..

Against Guzman, one of those fighters who has been inactive but maintains a cult-following among boxing die-hards, Campbell will enjoy advantages of activity, height, reach and experience. He is also the more natural lightweight. This is Guzman’s debut at the weight, and he faces a fighter with good movement, a solid crack and a great deal of self-belief. For all of Guzman’s speed and stylish combinations, he’s been injury prone, inactive and has repeatedly jumped weight when well placed for championship bouts. In short, he’s a hard fighter to be sure of. Can he really slip and slide around Campbell’s greater reach, can he trouble Campbell with fragile hands?

I’ve seen glimpses of both through YouTube, not enough to offer a precise breakdown of the fight. Instinctively, and having seen them side-by-side there just appears a stubbornness in Campbell, a fire that I don’t think Guzman can quell. With Marco Antonio Barrera signed to the Don King stable with whom he is aligned, I think Campbell can see big paydays he thought were lost and an opportunity to earn a level of respect still not extended to him despite the victory over Diaz.

Campbell late stoppage. And I realise I’m in a minority.

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