Wilfredo ‘Bazooka’ Gomez, Part II

17.05.07 - By Michael Klimes:

The Return

Gomez was not a man to take a day off. He re-established himself as the ruler of his old division and proceeded to vanquish his enemies like he had never been absent. The W.B.C allowed him two preparation bouts before defending his title again. He then made his final four defences at the super bantamweight limit. There are only two which are worth mentioning. He looked at his best technically against Juan ‘Kid’ Meza in Atlantic City. Meza was a tough brawler and Gomez dissected him with peerless brilliance over six rounds.

Meza’s chin kept him in the fight as Gomez placed his shots beautifully and reminded everyone why he was a boxing legend. He was powerful, fast, gave Meza angles and most admirably looked like a smaller version of Joe Louis. Round two was reminiscent of the ‘Brown Bomber’ where Gomez landed a perfectly timed left hook. Meza came right back and Gomez retreated, biding his time. He did not feel the urge to recklessly engage with Meza. His punches were also compact and economical.

Lupe Pintor

Lupe Pintor was a typical Mexican boxer, unimaginably durable but also surprisingly crafty. He gave Gomez the fight of a lifetime in his last title defence. Gomez won by a stoppage in the fourteenth round and was well ahead on points. However, the fight was given a dramatic turn by Pintor from round three due to his movement toward the ropes and his adaptation of Ali’s ‘rope a dope’ strategy. Gomez was ineffective for much of the round and was unable to make any clean contact with Pintor’s head or body. He tired himself out. From then on the fight was a rare mixture of tactics and excitement as both took command of the bout at different times. In the championship stages, Gomez’s intelligence and versatility brought him through the stormy waters Pintor whipped up for him. The irony of the fight was that Gomez was the more beaten up fighter with the tender skin around his eyes splitting while Pintor, although sustaining heavier damage had no markings whatsoever. All of the commentators mentioned that the bout was a classic that could be mentioned in the same breath as Duran-Leonard, Hearns-Leonard and Pryor-Arguello. They were right and Gomez concluded his ground breaking run at super bantamweight in spectacular fashion. He had successfully proved that he could retain his power while combating the toughest challengers over the distance.

The Long Slide

Afterwards, Gomez moved up in weight and fought the new featherweight champion, Juan LaPorte. Laporte stood no chance against Gomez who beat him up over twelve rounds. It was harrowing to see Laporte not collapse from Gomez’s combinations but at the same time it was ugly to see his face painted to a red pulp. Gomez’s first defence after this win came against the African luminary of the day, Azumah Nelson. Both had shared a common defeat against Sanchez and it was perhaps fitting these two fighters squared off to fight on Sanchez’s former patch. Nelson was a large and determined featherweight from Ghana who was a consummate boxer-puncher.

From the opening bell, Nelson was asserting himself better than Gomez in every department. At points, Gomez was mobile and landed a better jab yet Nelson presented similar problems that Sanchez had done. Gomez was troubled by an opponent who was more agile and could maintain a higher work rate. In many ways, Gomez was beginning to experience his age catch up with him. Increasingly, he was looking like a man who walked through a house and was beginning to hear the floorboards creak in various places. In his following bout, Gomez would be a house whose very foundations would be shaken by the earthquake that was Rocky Lockridge.

The Last Belt

Rocky Lockridge was the W.B.A Super Featherweight Champion and was a real life version of Clubber Lang from Rocky III. He was big, muscular and was a tank that pulverised any obstacle. Gomez was also a bit like Stallone in Rocky VI, he needed to retire. He managed to struggle with Lockridge for the first four rounds yet he quickly came undone. His fans were treated to a harrowing display of raw and visceral pounding as a flabby Gomez stubbornly held out. In round nine, he clinched Lockridge and looked up, almost as if he was begging God to give him one punch to end the fight. He was given a blessing, whether it was from God or by accident is irrelevant in that Lockridge was unable to shorten his punches to deliver any finishing blows. Gomez managed to win the last rounds by looking less tired and bouncing around more. He was awarded a controversial decision thereby making him a world champion at three different weights. If he deserved the decision it is up for debate but it is emotional to see Gomez refusing to go down and the partisan crowd chanting, ‘Gomez! Gomez! Gomez!’

It seemed Gomez was fighting for more than himself that night and Ferdie Pacheco observed that Gomez’s condition was a metaphor for the end of an era. All of the Latin American champions from that period who were Gomez’s contemporaries such as Duran, Sanchez, Zarate, Pintor, Arguello, Chacon, Predroza, Limon and Rosario (I have probably forgotten one of them) were all retired or near to it. Duran was the only one who would have a last swansong against Iran Barkley in 1989. For Gomez, he should have retired, sat on a porch with a glass of wine and looked forward to the days when he could tell his grandchildren about his hall of fame career. For some reason it was not to be.

The Fight Carries On

Gomez lost his title to Alfredo Layne and then had two more wins. He finally retired in 1989. Later on he developed drug problems and spent some time in jail. He managed to get himself rehabilitated and it is wonderful that he did not die from any overdose. From a certain perspective, maybe Gomez’s; it was harder to leave boxing and lead a healthy life away from it then continue fighting. In that part of his story, Gomez is not alone.

Note: These articles on Wilfredo Gomez are dedicated to Diego ‘Chico’ Corrales who died in a motorcycle accident on May 7, 2007 and Salvador Sanchez who died on August 12, 1982 in an incident of the same nature. Rest in Peace.

Article posted on 17.05.2007

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