Guzman Passes Soto Test, Pacquiao Next?



In a junior lightweight showdown to determine one of the frontrunners to challenge either Manny Pacquiao or Juan Manuel Marquez, undefeated WBO Champion Joan Guzman outpointed Humberto Soto by lighting up Atlantic City with superb boxing and exceptional hand speed.

Soto looked sharp enough to hang with Guzman in the first round, which he appeared to edge in his favor with the more effective punches, but the champion was more than able to take Soto’s blows having put on eighteen pounds since the weigh-in; in fact, Guzman outweighed Soto by as many as thirteen pounds on fight night most likely for that purpose, a move that gave him free reign to do just about whatever he wanted to in the bout, for Soto could rarely catch Guzman, and, when he did, he was unable to hurt him with anything big.

An explosive round two saw both fighters throwing bombs after Guzman unexpectedly initiated the battle. Soto was more than happy to slug it out with the champion, but Guzman’s speed allowed him to get in the best shots and avoid the best of what Soto had to offer in return. Each man clearly wanted to make a statement and entice Pacquiao into fighting him based on his performance against his best opponent yet. Viewers were lucky enough that each man’s best opponent to date happened to be the man in front of him.

The blistering pace continued into round three where Guzman avoided entrapment against the ropes with a big low blow that dropped Soto to his knees. Referee Harvey Dock allowed Soto sufficient recovery time. When the action resumed, Guzman demonstrated more impressive means of escape as he twisted and contorted his body to avoid even the most disciplined of Soto’s punches. Soto did, however, have success in scoring when Guzman was on the ropes, and he took advantage of those moments to punish the body. Unfortunately for Soto, such occasions were few and far between.

Making only his first appearance under the tutelage of new trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr., Guzman demonstrated why boxing is considered an art as he hit Soto almost at will, escaped before catching any return fire, and delt out more punishment of his own. By the fourth and fifth rounds, Guzman was mocking Soto amidst dodging punches, dropping his gloves and smiling at his increasingly frustrated Mexican foe. Adding to this building frustration was Dock, who periodically stepped in when Soto would rally with body punches only to negate such attacks by calling them low. All the while, Guzman continued to amaze the audience with his unparalleled defense and stifle Soto with crisp counter punches, including a triple left hook while lying on the ropes.

Aside from a solid round seven after which Guzman’s left eye began to swell up, Soto seemed to have no answers for dealing with his opponent’s superior speed. As he ran out of answers, Soto also ran out of steam, succumbing to more and more of Guzman’s pot shots. The razzle-dazzle of the WBO Champion reached its peak in the tenth round as Guzman began walking away after tagging Soto with a good shot. In defense mode, he would slide along the ropes, sinking almost to a knee to dodge bullet after bullet before rising up and dancing away again. Soto could do little else but watch in disappointment.

Credit Soto for never giving up despite his frustration. After hitting gloves with a grinning Guzman to begin the twelfth round, Soto took a big swing at the champion to which Guzman responded by acting offended. Guzman put some polish on his performance as he waved on the crowd with one glove while popping Soto with the other and giving the fans a brief dance as the final seconds ticked away. In the end, Soto’s effort kept the fight enjoyably close, but Guzman’s ability kept it just out of the challenger’s reach.

While the final tallies of 117-111 twice and 118-110 were a bit too wide, the winner was obvious. By unanimous decision, Guzman retained the WBO Championship and remained undefeated after his toughest test to date. Whether Pacquiao and Freddie Roach felt his performance was entertaining enough to warrant a megafight remains to be seen, but for all intents and purposes, Guzman took care of business and took enough risks against a deadly puncher to earn that showdown in the near future. Soto, meanwhile, lost for the first time in five years and over 20 fights but loses little in the way of respect. He lost to an undefeated opponent with a difficult style where most fighters in his position would have chosen to sit and wait for a big fight to come their way. The real loss, though, could prove more devastating as a fight with Pacquiao, even after dispensing the Filipino’s younger brother Bobby in the summer, appears all but lost. Of course, Pacquiao did fight Marco Antonio Barrera, who was coming off a loss but who also happens to be worth a lot of money.


On the undercard was an equally, if not consistently more exciting fight between undefeated bantamweight prospect Abner Mares of Mexico and twice-beaten Damian Marchiano of Argentina. Mares eventually pounded out a unanimous decision victory but was extended twelve rounds for the first time in his career by the hard-nosed Marchiano.

Boxing behind a piercing jab, Mares piled up the points early, landing some particularly vicious shots in the waning moments of the first round, but Marchiano gave no hint that the blows were affecting him other than sporting a reddened face. In the second round, Marchiano performed a makeover of his own when he busted Mares’ nose open with a big right hand against the ropes, but Mares fought back with combinations, landing a brutal right of his own on Marchiano at the bell.

With blood streaming from his nose, Mares engaged Marchiano throughout the third round, making the fight more competitive than it had to be but giving the fans a good show as both men landed beautiful shots and counter punches. Immediately into the fourth round, Mares realized the mistake he was making by giving Marchiano a chance to catch him with something big, and, boxing in the center of the ring, he nailed Marchiano with some jarring combination punching.

After a vicious fifth round assault to Marchiano’s head, Mares went to the body in round six, devastating Marchiano with a crushing blow on the beltline. Marchiano hesitated a moment before collapsing onto his knees, catching a right hand from Mares on the way down, but Referee Sparkle Lee, one of the few female officials in the sport, called the shot a low blow and allowed Marchiano some time to recover. When the fight resumed, Mares unleashed a brutal assault on Marchiano that could have prompted a stoppage from some corners, but Marchiano actually absorbed the punishment and fought back, catching Mares off guard and stunning the undefeated Mexican briefly. The bout had officially become a war at that point.

Mares, however, eased off the throttle shortly thereafter. His mouth covered in blood and facing new territory in the ninth round, Mares was content to box more and chip away at the seemingly indestructible Marchiano. Then, in round eleven, Mares landed another low blow, this one more censurable, and was docked a point by Lee. This only inspired Mares to finish strong in the twelfth, which he did with some brutal shots that failed to take Marchiano off his feet but succeeded in forcing him to hold on.

The scoring was quite academic as the judges produced scorecards that paralleled those of the main event (118-109 twice and 117-109) to give Mares the roughest but most impressive win of his young career in a twelve-round unanimous decision. Marchiano proved a worthy opponent and a solid test that brought out the best in Mares, who is sure to achieve much success in his future.