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A belated pro debut for Guzman

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | September 8, 2023 12:00 AM

In 2009 the Daily Inter Lake ran an article on a local boxing gym that featured, among others, an 11-year-old fighter named Dillan Guzman.

“It feels good when you accomplish stuff, like when you win a match or something," the youngster said. “I'm doing good now and as soon as I'm 18, I'm going to try to get pro.”

Guzman’s 18th year came and went, with no professional bout.

“There was a lot that happened,” he said Thursday. “I broke my leg. I went to Hawaii one year. Then I got married.”

On Saturday, as one of the marquee events on a 12-bout card, the 25-year-old will make his pro debut at the Flathead County Fairgrounds Trade Center. It’s part of “Fight Night 7: The Resurrection,” so named because Jesse Uhde is all about making boxing popular again in Kalispell. The event runs from 7-10:30 p.m.

Uhde owns Hard Knocks Boxing and Fitness, a burgeoning business that has been around since 2015. In March his club hosted Montana’s Golden Gloves championship at the Kalispell Center Mall; on June 1 Hard Knocks moved into a 5,000-square foot space in the same mall.

“What I do know is we are the largest competition team in Montana,” he said this week. “We have 36 registered amateur boxers. I have about 70 clients.”

The roster includes Guzman who, it should be noted, was there when this all kind of began.

“He started boxing with me when he was 9,” Uhde said. “He was actually my first student ever, and the whole reason I started coaching. I knew his family, and I had boxed, and we hadn’t had a boxing club here for years.

“We were at a barbecue and he was wanting to punch things.”

Pretty soon Uhde was holding his hands like mitts and the young Guzman was throwing jabs. He’ll show his stuff as a welterweight (147 pounds) Saturday night. In between, like he said, a lot happened.

He did have close to 40 amateur fights — not counting the one he lost with a tree, snowboarding on Whitefish Mountain — before he stepped away from the ring. He and his wife Lunden both served with Youth With a Mission in the intervening years.

He didn’t get in a ring for a solid five or so years, but the sport never left him.

“I trained off and on when I was back and forth from Hawaii,” he said. “Then I just kind of came home and started to settle down again, get back in shape and the boxing deal has always been a part of life, part of my daily schedule.”

Two more amateur fights took place, he won both, and figured he should move up a level. He’ll be one of four professional fights on Saturday.

“This is the perfect time,” said Guzman, who feels excited and well-prepared.

“I’ve been training so hard and doing everything the best we know how, to get ready for such a fight,” he said. “The butterflies are all lined up.”

Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 758-4463 or fneighbor@dailyinterlake.com.