He isn’t really sure if he’s being invited to the gig at the Hard Rock to lose, but if that is so, then Alfonso Gomez is not going to take it to heart.
That was the case when they signed him to fight Jessie Brinkley in 2005, ArturoGatti in 2007, Miguel Cotto in 2008, Jesus Soto Karass in 2009, JoseLuis Castillo in 2010, Canelo Alvarez in 2011 and Shawn Porter in 2012. I don’t mean they signed Gomez, a Mexican born California resident many know from his appearance and solid showing on season one (2005, with Sly Stallone, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Gallagher) of “The Contender” scripted reality show, to show up to lay down. It’s just that the dealmakers, the power brokers, the suits, the guys that make the money off the toil of the laborers who absorb the punishment, they thought their guy was the better man than Gomez, now 33, and they knew he’d make their guy work, but their guy would likely win.
Sometimes, it went down like that…Ah, but sometimes it didn’t.
Brinkley took a loss, and so did Gatti, in his last effort as a pro. Cotto proved too physical for Gomez, who fights on July 9 in Vegas, but vets Soto Karass and Castillo were maybe surprised by the underdog’s mettle. Canelo knocked down Gomez (now 23-6-2) in round one and earned TKO6 over the man, while Porter had to go the distance, the full ten, to get the nod from the judges in July of 2012, in Cali. That was no runaway victory for the man who now holds the IBF welterweight crown, which he wrested from Devon Alexander last December, and defended in brutally efficient and violent fashion against Paulie Malignaggi April 19 in Brooklyn.
Porters’ recent run underscores one of those interesting things about our fair sport. A win, or a loss, can be re-evaluated, seen in a different light, a year, or even two years after. Porter steamrolled Paulie and beat Alexander, no bum, at his own game..but Gomez was right there with him. The fighter, who faced Massachusetts-born Ed Paredes, now living in Florida, in Vegas, in a bout to run on Fox Sports 1, told me that Porters’ streak has bolstered his own confidence a bit. “This fight is a great opportunity, and a win will put me back in the mix,” Gomez said, following some sparring at the world famous Wild Card Gym. The scrap will be contested at the junior middleweight class. He'd love another crack at a world crown, after coming up short in world title clashes vs. Cotto and Canelo.
This will be Gomez’ first bout in two years, and he said the time off was helpful if for no other reason to let his injuries heal up.
So, I wondered, is he in that defined but not stated underdog role?
“I was the underdog in my second fight, against Ishe Smith…and in my last fight, against Shawn Porter. Against Castillo, in “The Contender,” and I came out on top. I don’t know if I’m the opponent here. Paredes has a good record but with my record, I’m way more experienced, under those bright lights way more times. This is the first time he’ll be in deep waters. I’m a shark, I’m used to it.”
The best names on Paredes’ scalp list are Antonio Pitalua (2010) and VivianHarris (2012), so Gomez isn’t wrong. “He hits pretty hard,” Gomez continued. “He tries for the KO every time. But he’s never fought a fighter like me, been in with the big boys, in deep water.”
I asked Gomez where his head was after the back to back losses, to Canelo and Porter. Was he demoralized, thinking about hanging ‘em up?
“The Porter fight was a very good fight, and there were one or two rounds different. Porter had the Watsons in his corner, and Al Haymon with him. So his recent wins made me feel good. And I’m better now, no injuries, the elbow, the back. And, I understand the way the game is played. So, Porter had a tough time with me.” So, he can now look back on that Porter fight with a different set up eyes. That's helpful, when those demons of doubt, which can creep into the best of minds, start to slither in....
Gomez said he doesn’t exactly feel old, at 33, but admitted, yes, when he turned 30, it was an, ‘Oh damn’ moment. He said, rightly, that your average pound for pound list contains tons of guys over 30. “I’m happy with the way I feel,” he said.
His home, he said, is good. Wife Dulce, to whom he’s been hitched for seven years, daughter Luna (4) and son Leon (2) have a house with dad in Downey, CA, between LA and Orange County, and the missus would be happy to hear Gomez tell me, “I love being a family man.” Part of that family dynamic involves dad Alfonso Sr., head trainer and cornerman for Junior. “He’ll be there right to the end,” the son told me. “We butted heads some in my teenage years, but I grew out of it. Working together gives us, I feel, a bigger bond than most fathers and sons have.” And you think it’s hard when dad sees you eating a harsh combo? “I think it’s kind of unspoken, we’ve been in it so long. It’s part of our lives. He’s proud of me, and I’m proud of him, for enduring all my BS when I was younger!”
Gomez was kind enough to indulge me a most personal line of questioning. PEDs, some say, are prevalent in fight sports. I’m assuming that maybe a temptation to use could grow as you get older, and start to fight these young guns. Yes or no? “Nobody has offered it to me, I don’t need it,” he said. “I train hard and I’m there to fight.”
“So, I didn’t lose to bums," he says in summation. "I’ve lost to the best. And the losses were close.”
Who's the best Mexican boxer today?