A “Contender” Stays in the Mix

By Ted Sares on March 30, 2015
A “Contender” Stays in the Mix
Gomez may be an overachiever, but he perseveres and survives in the mix. (Naoki Fukuda)

The win over Yoshihiro Kamegai was Gomez’s second since losing back-to-back bouts to Canelo Alvarez and Shawn Porter…

“I’ll fight him.”—Alfonso Gomez calling out Peter Manfredo Jr. and winning the hearts of fans

“I’m gonna punch him with love.”—Sergio Mora, before fighting Jesse Brinkley, illustrating the bonds the contenders developed

On March 19, 2015, at the Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California, Alfonso Gomez (25-6-2, 12 KOs) scored an upset unanimous decision over tough Yoshihiro Kamegai (25-3-1, 22 KOs) with all three judges scoring the fight for Gomez 98-91. The scoring was a bit much since Gomez tired late, but the anticipated all-out war never came and that played right into the hands of Alfonso who picked his spots shrewdly. This was the same Kamegai who gave Robert Guerrero a life and death battle in what was a Fight of the Year type brawl in June 2014.

The win was Gomez’s second since losing back-to-back bouts to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Shawn Porter in 2011 and 2012. His first win came when he defeated Ed “The Lion” Paredes (35-3-1) in Las Vegas on July 9, 2014. Paredes was on a 12-fight undefeated streak and no slouch. Prior to that, Alfonso suffered an elbow injury that led to a hiatus of almost two years.

But the real story here is that the win just might position the articulate and extremely affable Gomez to contender status again. The last time Gomez was a contender was when he was on the original “Contender” reality show back in 2005 and though he didn’t win the title, he captured the hearts of the fans with his grit, willingness to call out the best, and fine technical skills—though he did and does have a marked propensity to use his head in a non-intellectual way. In short, he had the charisma that most of the others lacked. In the end, Alfonso beat Jesse Reid for third place out of sixteen fighters.

Coming off a strong amateur career in which he went 80-10, the reality show experience catapulted him to a world ranking of 21 out of 861.

Alfonso fought at an extremely high level of competition from the very start; Ishe Smith, Jesse Feliciano and Dumont Welliver were among his early opponents. He went 1-1-1 with a prime Feliciano, split a pair with Peter Manfredo, and stopped a very tough Carson Jones in 2006 and Martin Concepcion (in the UK) in 2007, the latter with a perfect uppercut. He also has some prominent names on his list of victims.

Gatti (2007)

“I’ll be back — as a spectator.”—Arturo Gatti

After getting stopped by Carlos Baldomir in July 2006, Arturo Gatti’s camp needed a decent comeback opponent to determine whether he still had anything left and they picked Alfonso. Gomez, however, was badly misjudged by Team Gatti as being a crude brawler type, a light puncher, and slow. Someone forgot to do their homework. The fight was also meant to position Gatti for a go against Julio Cesar Chávez Jr., but things didn’t work out as planned. Au contraire as Gatti suffered a terrible beating at the hands of the “slow and crude” Gomez on July 14, 2007, via seventh round TKO. The Mexican seemingly could not miss landing right hands repeatedly over Gatti’s jab and generally got off first with his own jab and short combinations to Gatti’s body and head, opening up a deep and ugly gash on Gatti’s upper lip. Then a crunching right sent him down and the ring legend of Arturo Gatti had come to a violent end. Commissioner Larry Hazzard had seen enough, stormed into the ring and stopped the massacre while referee Randy Neuman was counting to ten. Hazzard was followed into the ring by Arturo’s beautiful Brazilian wife Amanda Rodríguez. Gatti wisely retired following this match, but the battle brought to mind the question: was Gomez that good or was Gatti that shot? 

Cotto (2008)

“He (Gomez) looked very impressive against Gatti, but he couldn’t jump to the next level.”—Sugar Ray Leonard

As for Gomez, after a seven-fight undefeated streak (including the Gatti beatdown and an impressive win over talented Ben Tackie), he finally became a genuine contender when he went up against a prime Miguel Cotto for the WBA welterweight title in Atlantic City in 2008. However, Alfonso was badly mauled and dropped three times before the ringside doctor stopped the slaughter prior to the sixth round.

Alfonso reportedly came into the fight with a still injured right hand (broken in the Tackie fight), and after a training camp during which he was badly ill at one point. While he may not have been in his best condition, this was a Cotto at the top of his malevolent game and good condition or not, it would have made no difference.

Canelo (2011)

Road warrior Gomez then ran off five straight wins against stiff opposition, including Juan Manuel Buendia, Jesus Soto Karass, the once great Jose Luis Castillo (60-9-1 coming in), and Calvin Green. This streak set him up for another title shot—this time against a fit and ready Saul “Canelo” Alvarez for the WBC super welterweight title at the Staples Center in LA on September 17, 2011.

In this one, Gomez gave a solid account of himself despite a flash knockdown at the end of round one as he pressured “Cinnamon Head” for much of the fight by maintaining a high work rate. Alvarez would slip in hard shots here and there, but Gomez seemed to be outlanding and outworking him and constantly bringing the fight to Alvarez. This continued in rounds three and four. In the first half of round five, Gomez had a good start but Alvarez finished the round strong letting his hands go a bit more to make the round close. In the sixth, both men had their moments, but near the end of the round, Alvarez caught Gomez with a counter right uppercut that stunned the challenger. Alfonso went back to the ropes and covered up, but Alvarez came after him with a flurry of six or seven punches, most of which were partially blocked by Gomez. Then, the relatively unknown referee (at the time), Wayne Hedgpeth, prematurely stopped the fight in Alvarez’s favor after a flurry of light punches.

Gomez as it turned out was losing on the official scorecards prior to the stoppage, while unofficially HBO had the fight a draw. Gomez said after the fight he felt that the referee was looking for a reason to stop the fight in Alvarez’s favor and stopped the fight too early. He added that he “knew something like that could happen with Alvarez’s backing and it is what it is.”

Porter (2012)

Gomez then fought up and coming Shawn Porter in a great action fight that was a Fight of the Year candidate for 2012. The athletic and muscular Porter did well using his handspeed in particular to land combinations on Gomez, being busier and landing more punches throughout the fight, but Gomez returned fire with the cleaner, harder shots throughout, landing some very clean straight rights and left hooks to Porter’s body and head. Most of the rounds were tough to call. The fight was a rough and bloody one, with both fighters connecting frequently and clashing heads multiple times. By the end, Porter had cuts over both his eyes and Gomez had bad swelling. In my view and that of many others, this brawl should have been at least a draw but boxing politics, being what they are, allowed the prospect Shawn Porter to steal it by UD. The scores were 96-94, 97-93, and a disgraceful 98-92 turned in by one Kermit Bayless.

This was not unlike the recent Glazkov-Cunningham debacle where the prospect Glazkov got a controversial decision over the veteran—or even worse—when young Jose Benavidez was awarded a robbery decision over often-victimized Mauricio Herrera.

Fast Forward

A lot has happened since those initial “Contender” days. Peter Manfredo, Jesse Brinkley, Brent Cooper, Joey Gilbert (an attorney), Miguel Angel Espino, and Tarick Salmaci are long gone though each did some solid ring work. Juan De la Rosa (27-4-1) is nearing the end. Ahmad Kaddour last fought in 2013. Anthony Bonsante (33-12-3) made a comeback in 2014 after having been away almost four years.

Jonathan Reid was 34-1 at one time but now he has become a notch on his opponents’ belts having gone 3-17 in his last 20. The Beltway’s Jimmy Lange (38-6-2) also fights on but is morphing to promoter status.

Sadly, Philly-born fighter Najai Turpin committed suicide, and Jeff Fraza (17-3), was fatally injured in an accident. In an ironic twist of fate, Fraza said after Turpin’s death, “He was one of my better friends on the show…I don’t want to sound corny or nothing like that, but he was one of my top five guys on the show. He was on my team, and we got along well. Once you got past his quietness and all that, he opened up and was fun to hang around. He was a real good kid. He loved his daughter and talked about her all the time. I don’t know what happened”

Later, Jeff’s trainer Micky Ward said, “He (Jeff Fraza) was a great kid. I love him like a brother. I’m kind of in shock.

The Contenders

Ishe Smith was “maybe the most talented guy we ever had on the show.”—Sugar Ray Leonard

Ishe Smith (26-7) is active and viable having won a world title in 2013 beating Cornelius “K9” Bundrage. Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora (28-3-2) fights on and wins but his style lacks fan-appeal. Nevertheless, Mora, the winner of the Contender Event and attendant one million dollars, also won a world title in 2008, beating the late Vernon Forrest but losing it in a rematch. He too remains very viable and hopefully financially comfortable.

As for Alfonso Gomez, he has been a legitimate contender twice since being on the reality show but lost both times—to Cotto and Canelo. Still, his latest win over Yoshihiro Kamegai puts him back into the mix. One more solid win—maybe against a fringe contender—and he might get a third shot at a world title. In this connection, a crossroads fight with Robert Guerrero makes all the sense in the world.

Whether contender or survivor, this 34-year-old native-born Mexican (but reared in the US) continues his somewhat circuitous journey while most of the others have dropped out. He may be an overachiever and he may never be a World Champion, but he perseveres and survives in the mix. Against every opponent he’s had a realistic chance of beating, Gomez has not disappointed.

Alfonso Gomez is what a contender is all about.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Alfonso Gomez vs Yoshihiro Kamegai full fight 20.03.2015

The Contender No Turning Back - Alfonso Gomez Vs Ben Tackie

Arturo Gatti vs Alfonso Gomez

Alfonso Gomez vs Jesus Soto-Karass

Saul Canelo Alvarez vs Alfonso Gomez

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  1. Tex Hassler 04:20pm, 04/13/2015

    Gomez certainly rates an A plus for heart and determination.

  2. Kid Blast 06:49am, 04/10/2015

    Thanks John. Gomez retired Gatti and then a tragic end followed.

  3. John aka L.L. Cool John 04:23pm, 04/09/2015

    I think Gomez was Gatti’s last fight. I miss Gatti.
    Nice piece, Ted.

  4. Kid Blast 09:25am, 04/01/2015

    Yes, “frealistic” is a nifty technique

  5. Dollarbond 07:12am, 04/01/2015

    Outstanding piece of writing Ted.  I especially like the way you closed it in a very frealistic way

  6. Kid Blast 06:37am, 03/31/2015

    I know. I cannibalized it.

  7. LaRue 10:00pm, 03/30/2015

    This article is getting a great play on Facebook, Ted

  8. Kid Blast 04:17pm, 03/30/2015

    Dranreb, I am in the process of writing one on DONNIE AHAS NIETES . But now, because of your shocking Pinoy nastiness, I might reconsider. lol

  9. Kid Blast 04:13pm, 03/30/2015

    Holy moley CG. how nice of you. Lake clear, eh? I ‘ll steal that one. Poor Feliciano had some good efforts but then his face became a target for boxing gloves and he took some brutal punishment. Never “saw” the punches coming.

  10. Dranreb Datsboygym 04:01pm, 03/30/2015

    with you respect sir Ted…i think its another crap article…knowing that Alfonso Gomez was just a product of US Mexicans overhyped price fighters….instead of mentioning this non sense kinda fighters why not make an article about the real deal in the lower weight divisions where the Filipino ruled in? DONNIE AHAS NIETES again brutalized another boastfull lousy over hyoed mexican in the name of Gilberto Parra whos ring record was 19 W in 17 KOs…hmmm i dont think its a lousy record yeah? but when AHAS handled this tacos eater he only made him a lousy easy prey…NEIETS is aiming towards Estrada and nicaraguan pound for pound star chocolatito…i just hope sir Ted that instead of creating an article for not much worth mexican american lousy overhyped kinda fighters better to focus on NIETES! ESTRADA, and Chocolatito this Trio will make our asss stand for real explosiveness not to mentioning that americans doesnt interested with the midgets but even they are smallest if they give you a kind of real excitement then why not??  i will choose to watch an explosive fights rather than the kinds of Floyducks fights whos a real remedy for all human beings sufferings an ENSOMIA lol…lol…sir Ted you are a real sporting heroes in your country of yhe US pls try to stay at your very best when doing writing an article thank you sir

  11. Clarence George 01:00pm, 03/30/2015

    Compelling detail and lake-clear writing.

    I know all about the appeal of Mexicans and Puerto Ricans facing each other, but giving a blind Puerto Rican singer a boxing license seems a bit much.  It’s possible, of course, that Feliciano was cut from the same cloth as Master Po (Keye Luke) of “Kung Fu.”  I never heard that, but it would explain Gomez’s spotty 1-1-1 record against him.

  12. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 12:49pm, 03/30/2015

    Ted Sares-Writer on another site going on about how well Etches was doing in the first three rounds….looked to me like his chin was following his jab as he leaned forward with each jab…..when Khomitsky detonated that right hand on his chin the follow through on Etches’ jab had his left down by his hip. Sergey doesn’t have a high KO ratio but Etches literally teed it up for him.

  13. Kid Blast 11:50am, 03/30/2015

    No argument Irish.

    Thanks Walt

  14. Irish Frankie Crawford Beat Saijo aka Gimpel 11:32am, 03/30/2015

    Ted Sares-Kamegai tailor made for Gomez….too bad Canelo isn’t a bit rangier and doesn’t hit a tad harder….still….Canelo/Kirkland more interesting than Pacman/Floyd…..which reminds me….Gatti/Ward were tailor made for each other.

  15. Walt 10:19am, 03/30/2015

    Enjoyable read and nice to see you back on this site.

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