Alfonso Gomez (24-6-2, 12 KOs), a two-time world title challenger and former star of “The Contender” reality television series on NBC, faces Yoshihiro Kamegai (25-2-1, 22 KOs) of Japan on Friday night, March 20th at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, California.
His prediction? “War!”
Gomez is a scrappy battler. He placed third in a field of 16 in “The Contender” back in 2004, a group which included Sergio Mora, Ishe Smith and Peter Manfredo, and went on to have one of the better post-reality TV series runs in boxing.
The 34-year-old from Guadalajara, Mexico has defeated notable contenders Ben Tackie and Carson Jones as well as the late Arturo Gatti, a 2013 inductee into the Boxing Hall of Fame. Gomez also earned a technical decision win over veteran tough guy Jesus Sotas Karass in 2009 and a round 6 stoppage over Jose Luis Castillo in 2010. His last three losses, all coming after his decision loss on “The Contender” to Manfredo in 2004, came against world-class opposition: Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez and Shawn Porter.
Gomez said he’s thankful for the path he’s had in the sport, one fraught with both stifling setbacks and unlikely opportunities.
“It was great,” Gomez said of his TV fame. “It gave me the kind of exposure that many fighters, even world champions, don’t have. In turn, it gave me great opportunities that I was able to capitalize on…like defeating Jose Luis Castillo and headlining against Arturo Gatti. Those kinds of victories catapulted me into even bigger scenarios, like the ones with Cotto and Canelo, which ultimately I did not win those fights. But the experience factor and the lessons learned? That’s something I know that only being there can teach you.”
After a 10-round decision loss to Porter in 2012, Gomez stayed out of the boxing ring for almost two years. He said he pondered whether he’d ever return, but after feeling his body recover from the rigors of a fighting man’s life, Gomez said he discovered he still had a deep love for boxing within his heart.
“I had a lot of injuries going into the Canelo fight, as well as the fight with Shawn Porter, so like any wounded caterpillar I just decided to go into my cocoon and evolve into a better being. So I guess you guys kind of saw that in my last fight against Parades, a much more poised, more experienced fighter and a more intelligent boxer who fought a tough, young kid who had a very impressive record, a good fighter.”
Caterpillars aren’t wounded when they enter their cocoons, but the metamorphosis they undergo within them is the salient point. Gomez said he’s emerged from his stasis as a professional a smarter, better fighter than he’s ever been, something he believes fans got a taste of during his 10-round win over Ed Paredes last year.
“I went in there and showcased what I believe now. This is a perfect opportunity and opponent to do that again.”
Gomez expects a tougher bout against Kamegai, who was on the losing end of a Fight of the Year candidate last year against Robert Guerrero.
“I’m fighting a solid, jabbing Samurai warrior, a Kamikaze who is willing to die in the ring. So I expect that type of fight, even better than the one he had with Guerrero because nobody likes to lose twice in a row.”
Gomez said his whole life has prepared him to be in this position. He expects not only a rough, good fight, one that will elevate his career and the sport in general, but a win over Kamegai, one that will be a giant leap forward for him as a marketable boxing commodity.
“I do believe that this fight will be tough. But I also believe I will overcome the toughness of Kamegai and really prove to people I am a fighter who is at a different level mentally and physically, one who is ready to take on even bigger challenges.”
Gomez seems to have his head on straight. That’s something that shouldn’t be taken from granted when dealing with someone who has been involved in as many rough fist fights as him. But he said he’s healthier than ever now, in both body and mind, and even when he started to wonder what life might be like for him if he just stayed out of the boxing ring for the rest of his life altogether, he realized he still had much more left in the tank.
“There’s always the doubt in your head, but ultimately I was raised to believe I was the descendent of kings. My mom used to say that when we were kids. I used to laugh at her. I’d say ‘Mom, I’m not the descendent of kings!’ And she’d say, ‘Yeah you are. You can do anything you want.’ So that got encrusted into my head so much that at this point I just can’t turn away from it.”
Gomez loves boxing. He loves training. He works with his dad and is close to his team and handlers. And while he’s headlining the card on Friday night, he’s a man who has had to fight his way from the very bottom of the sport to get there.
Ironically enough, Gomez said his first professional prizefight was at the very same venue where he’ll fight Kamegai. Back then, Gomez was merely the opponent brought in to be a body. But Gomez won a four-round split decision over Pedro Antonio Ochoa and carved out his role as a spoiler.
“That’s the story of my life. When I die, the epitaph on my tombstone will read: He overcame life’s obstacles.”
Gomez lost the second fight of his career to Ishe Smith, the same one he’d later place higher than in “The Contender” series. Most of his time after was spent taking whatever fights he could get, fighting as substitutes for other promoters, taking fights on short notice, etc. Even after his television fame, Gomez found himself being brought in as an opponent. Gomez wasn’t supposed to defeat Gatti or Soto Karass, but he’s ever the spoiler, this hard-nosed scrapper.
“I’m so happy to come into this fight on an even playing field.”
Gomez vs. Kamegai is a fight that could get lost in the shuffle of boxing’s absurdly busy spring schedule, but it absolutely shouldn’t. It has the potential to be a real barnburner, one that might even turn out to be a Fight of the Year candidate. And if you doubt Gomez is the kind of fighter who could participate in such a thing and win it, he’s ready to prove different to you.
“They have no idea who I am. They have no idea what I have evolved into. I can’t wait for Friday so I can show it.”
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