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Ali Funeka vs. Joan Guzman Fight Preview and Prediction to Win

Ali Funeka vs. Joan Guzman II Fight Preview and Prediction
When: Saturday, March 27, 2010
Where: Hard Rock Casino and Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada
TV: HBO at 10:30 p.m. EST
Weight Class: Vacant IBF Lightweight Championship

By Scotty L of

Ali Funeka, 30-2-3 (25 KOs), East London, South Africa. Vs. Joan Guzman, 29-0-1 (17 KOs), Brooklyn, NY/Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

Fight Odds: Ali Funeka (-225), Guzman (+175)

Analysis: Ali Funeka and Joan Guzman will fight for the vacant IBF Lightweight Title on Saturday on HBO. These two fought each other 4 months ago in a bitterly disputed draw. Most observers felt Funeka had clearly won. While the draw seemed non-congratulatory to Funeka, Guzman did seem to narrow the gap with his pressure fighting over the last several rounds. Funeka appeared to win, but sometimes when a fighter jumps off to a big lead, onlookers donít adjust when the other guy turns the tables. Not that Guzman set the world on fire, but he got into the fight late and won some rounds.

Funeka, 31, is a 15-year veteran who has never caught much of a break. He appeared to beat unified Lightweight Champion Nate Campbell in the fight prior to Guzman, making it now two fights running where he appeared to get the short end of the stick. At 6í1Ē, he is one of the tallest prominent lightweights ever. He can use his reach, but is hardly shy about mixing it up on the inside. One would expect such a tall 135-pounder to be rickety and ungainly, but Funeka is pretty solid. He can take a punch and his legs hold up well over a long fight.

Guzman, 33, is a frustrating guy to follow. A prodigious talent, he has basically extracted as little glory out of his career as possible. At a time when he was kicking his career into high gear, he suddenly appeared distracted, struggled making weight, and saw his form deteriorate significantly. On one hand, he is undefeated and a former 2-time titleholder. On the other hand, one would have pictured him being a lot further ahead in his career by 2010 than struggling to even the score with the likes of Ali Funeka.

Guzman has had 3 fights since 2006. Itís starting to resonate with ring observers that Guzman will not only fail to fulfill his enormous promise, but that he might be slipping as well. He was a 2-1 favorite in the first fight and now finds himself the underdog. The thought might be that if Guzman were meant to be a superstar, he would have been one by now. Itís as if people are still waiting for the real Joan Guzman to show up, but heís been a pro for 13 years. He is who he is.

Those skeptical about Guzman being able to stoke the fires for this fight are within sound reason. There is no other conclusion to draw after looking at his career over the past few years than the fact that he lacks the make-up to be a top fighter at this point. But maybe the backlash has gone too far the other way. Guzman wouldnít be the first fighter to turn it up a notch when backed up against a wall. The urgency exists now for Guzman to get his act together.

I think Guzman can answer the call. Having come close last time, it will not require a 180-degree change of form. I think he knows he has no more slack and that another poor performance will put his career in critical condition. I also think Funeka will be fired-up and looking to erase the bad memory of the first fight. This might just turn out to be a nice little barnburner.

Scotty's Pick to Win: Guzman and his training team surely realize he was effective towards the end of the first bout with his pressure fighting. Normally more of a finesse fighter, Guzman found nearly no success laying back against the incredibly long-armed and energetic South African. Perhaps Guzman can start this fight the way he finished last time and get into the fight quicker. Funeka will not be flummoxed and he will engage Guzman.

With a little extra urgency, perhaps Guzman can be a little crisper in the majority of exchanges. It takes a leap-of-faith to expect a spirited performance from a guy who has shown such little spirit recently, but I think Guzman can at least make a moderate improvement off his last performance. In a highly competitive and entertaining fight, I picture Guzman winning a tight decision. Take the +175 and bet on Joan Guzman to win.

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