Originally created 09/13/99

Fight over pro boxers turns fatal



WILLISTON, S.C. -- A weekend argument over a professional boxing match turned deadly outside a family get-together in Barnwell County, sheriff's officials said Sunday.

Two Barnwell County men were arguing late Saturday about who would win this weekend's boxing match between undefeated champions Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya.

The Williston men started their own fistfight, leading 58-year-old John Wesley Dunbar to pull a gun and shoot 37-year-old Nelson Guzman in the neck, said Investigator Sgt. Steve Flowers with the Barnwell County Sheriff's Office.

Mr. Guzman died outside the manufactured home on the 600 block of Lewis Street in Williston.

Mr. Dunbar told officials the shooting was accidental after the two struggled over the gun, admitting that he pulled the trigger but suggesting he shot in self-defense.

He was jailed at the Barnwell County Detention Center on an investigative hold pending the results of an autopsy today in Newberry, Sgt. Flowers said. No charges have been filed.

"The autopsy will tell me what I need to know and whether this guy is lying to me or not," the sergeant said. "Some things just aren't adding up."

Both men had been drinking at the family gathering, Sgt. Flowers said. The wives of both men are first cousins.

The argument began inside the manufactured home about 10 p.m. when both men disagreed on who would win the upcoming welterweight title unification bout scheduled for Saturday in Las Vegas.

The men went outside and started sparring, which progressed into a fistfight that was witnessed by at least five people, Sgt. Flowers said. But each of the witnesses have slightly different stories, he said.

According to witness accounts, a warning shot was fired by Mr. Dunbar, apparently to run Mr. Guzman off, Sgt. Flowers said. Then the men allegedly struggled over the weapon and it went off.

Mr. Guzman, 37, of 15572 Aiken Road in Williston, died from a single gunshot wound to the neck.

Sgt. Flowers said he should know today whether the killing was accidental or not. If the killing is ruled a homicide, it would be the first in Barnwell County since 1996, the sergeant said.

The Trinidad-De La Hoya fight is being billed as the biggest fight of Mr. Trinidad's career. Also known as "Tito," he is the IBF champion with a record of 35-0 including 30 knockouts. Mr. De La Hoya holds the WBC title and is 31-0 with 25 knockouts.

Sgt. Flowers said the reason for the argument and subsequent shooting astounds him.

"I have yet to see anyone killed over something important," he said.

REACH

Greg Rickabaugh at (803) 279-6895 or scbureau@augustachronicle.com.