This feature appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on June 25, 2003.
The bell is calling …
By Ed Odeven
“The older the fiddler, the sweeter the tune,” — old English proverb.
In music, that analogy might be true. But it’s not necessarily the prevailing wisdom in boxing. Pundits of the Sweet Science whine when a boxer continues fighting past his prime (Roberto Duran is a classic example). Age tends to take away a fighter’s quick hands, instincts and ability to handle himself in the ring.
Dean Guthery didn’t get the message. The 41-year-old Flagstaff resident is making his pro debut in a four-round heavyweight bout Saturday evening against Phoenician Jason Adkinson, 27, at Celebrity Theater in Phoenix. The 6-foot-3, 240-pound Adkinson is also fighting for the first time as a pro. He was 8-2 as an amateur.
For Guthery, age is just a number. Boxing, however, is something that gets the 6-5, 225-pounder’s heart beating faster.
“It’s a thrill,” Guthery said. “I have to say now because of my age I feel that … I don’t feel old, so I feel like in a sense that I may be out to prove something, maybe just to myself, maybe to everybody else. But boxing is also something that I enjoy doing.”
Guthery’s trainer, Daniel Hudson, says it’s his job to prepare his pupil for this fight, not to ponder why he wants to fight.
“I don’t even ask why,” Hudson said. “I just tell him what he’s got to have inside to make it work — be it family or pride or that they come from the school of hard knocks, just some guys have it in them.”
Guthery has always been an avid boxing fan.
“I watch it all the time,” he said, smiling. “I’m really into boxing, maybe not all the weight classes, but the heavyweights I really enjoy. What really got me started was years ago watching (Muhammad) Ali and, later, Mike Tyson kind of spurred me back on, and that’s when I got back into amateur fighting.”
Many fighters begin hitting punching bags and skipping rope as skinny pre-teens. Guthery got his start much later — in his mid-30s.
“I had a family fairly early. At the age of 20, I started my family, and I really just couldn’t find the time to start (boxing) when they were young,” he explained, speaking about his wife, Colleen and their children: Jamie, 21; Shanna, 18; and Chad, 17.
“So I waited ’til they were older and I had a little more time to spend training and what have you.”
Guthery began to box in 1988, when he first competed, and won, a Rough Man contest in New Mexico. The next year, he moved to Flagstaff and won a Rough Man contest in the Valley.
Guthery had a successful amateur career in the mid-1990s. He was Arizona’s Golden Gloves heavyweight champion in 1993, ’94 and ’95, and was a USA Boxing champ in ’95. In one Golden Gloves bout in Las Vegas, he fought Charles Shufford, the man who played George Foreman in the 2001 motion picture “Ali.” Shufford beat Guthery, but lost a WBO title fight against Wladimir Klitschko in April 2001.
In 1995, Guthery developed an inner-ear infection and had trouble maintaining his equilibrium. After being put on antibiotics, the condition cleared up. He returned to the ring and continued fighting until early the next year. When he turned 35 in May 1996, Guthery’s amateur fighting days were over because the Arizona Boxing Commission does not issue licenses to amateur fighters 35 or older.
He did not fight again until 2002, in another Tough Man competition.
“When I was fighting (as an) amateur, I did it as a hobby,” he said. “I wasn’t doing it all the time, so I wasn’t staying in perfect shape, and I knew once I turned 35 I’d have to turn pro. I wasn’t ready to do that, but now I’ve got the time. I’ve spent the time getting into shape. My son Chad, a cross country runner for Coconino (High School), and I would run and I got into pretty good shape. I thought, ‘If I’m going to do this, it’s now or never.’ I can’t wait any longer.”
Last summer, he stopped waiting and started training with John Pertuit, who runs KIKS American Karate. Then he had to lobby on his own behalf before the Arizona Boxing Commission to obtain a boxing license.
It wasn’t an easy, ho-hum task. Guthery had to undergo extensive medical tests in Flagstaff. He had Pertuit send a letter to the Arizona Boxing Commission stating that he was training regularly.
“They looked at me really hard because of my age,” Guthery recalled. “They wanted to make sure I was capable of doing this; and because I had a pretty successful amateur background, the commissioner gave the vote for me to go ahead and get my license and they gave it to me.”
These days, Guthery puts in daily workouts at a gym in the Sunnyside section of town. It’s the home of the Flagstaff Impact Center and KIKS.
He arrives around 5:30 p.m. and stays for a couple hours. He routinely spars against lighter, quicker guys, like Rob Christie, an ex-Marine, Anthony Garcia and Angel Baca. During a recent workout, Guthery sparred against the three of them in succession for one round each.
Watching the fighting intently from just beyond the ropes, Hudson blurts out encouraging words.
“Keep that jab up,” he shouts as Guthery exchanges punches with Christie. “Just like that, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop.”
Moments later, Guthery takes quick break outside the ring, and Hudson reminds him of their strategy for Saturday:
“No matter what he does, jab.”
For Guthery, the key is stamina in a four-round fight.
Said Hudson: “For a four-round fight, everything is based on intensity. It’s not a marathon we’re running, it’s a sprint. So his training mimics that.”
After his evening workouts at the gym, Guthery heads to Coconino High to run. Here’s how his routine is set up: Guthery sprints for 100 meters, takes one long breath and does three more of these repetitions in a row. Then he takes a one-minute break and repeats the process until he’s exhausted.
Hudson knows there are no guarantees in boxing. A Louisiana native who used to be one of Evander Holyfield’s sparring partners, he has worked in the corner for 20-25 pro fights. Hudson has seen the good, the bad and the ugly in boxing.
“I guess it allows you to view it through a very realistic prism — you see things the way they are,” said Hudson, who’s making his head coaching debut Saturday. “I know the reality of the sport very well, and what’s needed to win, you know not having any fantasies about what can happen and what will happen.”
Guthery has not made any outlandish predictions for Saturday. Thus it’s probably safe to assume the only tune Guthery hopes to be humming late Saturday evening is Kool and the Gang’s “Celebrate.” Or maybe he’d like to hear LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” over and over again.