What Really Happened To Juan Carlos Gomez In America?
23.03.05 - By Wray Edwards: When the former, undefeated Cruiserweight Champion of the world Juan Carlos Gomez came to America at age 27 after leaving his European career with Universum behind, his prospects were ostensibly bright. The Cuban exile’s 32 KO record, out of some 37 fights, was built by defeating good to top-notch opponents in the no-man’s land of cruiser competition. His entre to the west was under the management of Leon Margules’ and Louis De Cubas’ “Team Freedom”, so-named due to its majority compliment of fighters who had defected from communist or despotic nations.
Article posted on 23.03.2005
Juan’s arrival in the USA was the beginning of a series of events which were bizarre, to say the least, and precipitated a rash of lawsuits and litigations which continue to this day. Parts of this saga read like an international spy novel with secret agents, behind-the-scenes machinations and nefarious attempts by third parties to undermine Carlos’ American career and associations..
Team Freedom’s acquisition of Gomez was based on a 50/50 promotional deal with Sugar Ray Leonard and a management contract with SBM in California. The court cases are a matter of public record, but some of the astounding events which took place behind the scenes are disclosed here for the first time.
Shortly after Juan arrived here, and made his preliminary commitments to Team Freedom, Sugar Ray Leonard and SBM, Mr. Klause-Peter Kohl of Universum is reported to have been very uncomplimentary regarding Juan and generally bad-mouthed Gomez. Klause-Peter allegedly missed few opportunities to heap demeaning invective against the boxer. Kohl’s attitude, and that of Universum, it seems, was essentially “good riddance” and “you are welcome to him if you want to put up with the mess.”
One major issue was Juan’s alleged failure to pay certain very substantial taxes (some $280,000.00) in Europe before coming to America. Another was his life-style and social relations which were said to be chaotic, and counter to his ability to train for professional boxing responsibilities. While granted asylum in the U.S., he still had contractual obligations to Universum until December, 2005, though at this point, Universum seemed uninterested in working with him.
Gomez’ first boxing event here was with Sinan Samil Sam at the HBC Arena in Buffalo, New York on September 27, 2003. The outcome of that fight figures in many events which followed. Though Turkish, Sam fights out of Germany; Gomez beat him by UD. Speculation has it that Sam was one of Universum’s pet projects, and when he was bested by Juan Carlos, an inclination arose to try to get Gomez back to Germany, where he originally defected from the Cuban National Team tour.
Meanwhile Juan’s wife had left Spain and taken up residence in the New York – New Jersey area. She has a brother who is an American citizen, an attorney and resides there also. As Juan was scheduled to train in California, he would be a continent away from his family; a circumstance which had positives and negatives for Gomez.
In the late summer and early fall of 2003 Juan was brought to the west coast to find a home, take up residence and begin to train. This writer had opportunities to sample Gomez’ attitudes and found him occasionally personable, but difficult to communicate with at best. With a home for his family in the L.A. area and a camp some three hours north in the mountains, Gomez would have been set to roll. Problems arose when his handlers were unable to find a residence which suited his demanding tastes. He stayed briefly at the training camp, but had personal conflicts with other boxers and missed the night-life of a big city. So it was back to the L.A. hotel scene for Juan. Every effort was made to provide him with the “necessities”.
He was even provided with a nice, new, white Beemer to cruise the L.A. high-life. As the Deutch-mobile zoomed past us on a mountain road one night, yours truly wondered if we would ever be able to corral this wild stallion to greater purpose than self-indulgence and avoidance of responsibilities.
In the spring of 2004 things began to unravel. Juan’s contract with Team Freedom-SRL called for an annual retainer base of X dollars and at least three fights per year. Perhaps things would have gone better if SRL had at least kept up with the financial support. As time wore on, and no fights were inked, Juan grew restless and depressed as SBM attempted to fill his financial gaps and other needs. Juan did some sparring and training at local gyms, and also did some exhibition sparring at a local mall. About this time the plot began to thicken.
An old groupie of Juan’s named “Cheeky” (phon.) showed up and began to hang out with him. This guy would go everywhere with Gomez, and was not helpful when managers tried to negotiate with Juan regarding his training and other arrangements. With no fights on the horizon Juan began to get very discouraged. Juan grew increasingly frustrated with his inability to collect his retainer fees from Sugar Ray Leonard’s side of the contract. SBM was trying to carry the whole load. It was very difficult for this writer to watch this talented man spiral downward and out of control.
At this point things began to get really creepy. We discovered that a person from Juan’s Universum days was allegedly dispatched by Universum to try to get him to come back to Europe; perhaps with a promise to resolve his German tax problems. With his groupie whispering in his ear and the European agent beginning to stir the pot, things got really messy. Gomez, it is said, likes to party, which can get very expensive. Here, as it was in Europe, financial pressures began to build. The European agent began to make progress in his attempts to subvert Juan’s contractual relationship with his American managers. The final straw was on the camel’s back.
Someone came up with the idea that should Juan declare bankruptcy, he would be able to void his American boxing contracts. A New Jersey court was enlisted to complete that task, and a Florida court was petitioned to enjoin SBM, SRL and Team Freedom from interfering with Gomez’ attempts to take another route to boxing fame and fortune. They had, after all, contracted with Juan while his Universum obligation was still in force, though not being exercised.
Kohl, possibly having second thoughts, had re-assumed control of Juan’s career (his Universum contract was still in effect until December of 2005) and he began to train for a return to scheduled fights. On August 13th, 2004 at the Entertainment Center in Laredo, Texas Juan was matched with 10-1-0 Yanqui Diaz (Yamplier Azcuy, also Cuban) in a heavyweight bout. At 1:46 referee Rafeal Ramos stepped in between the fighters to stop the match.
Gomez, impressed with himself, and disrespecting Diaz, decided to do a send-up of Ricardo Mayorga’s showboating routine and got himself thrashed into a TKO; So much for Juan’s foray to the Colonies. It was back to Europe with him to be closer under the wing of Herr Kohl and Universum. His wife then left New York and returned to Spain. About five months later, on January 15th Juan scored a third round TKO over David DeFiagbon in his fifth heavyweight appearance since vacating the Cruiserweight title. Gomez had sustained a cut, and really got down to business to win the bout before a stoppage might happen.
Juan’s return to Europe set some very curious wheels in motion. The Universum “agent”, who had allegedly engineered the final strokes of Juan’s disaffection from his American handlers, evidently was disappointed with Universum’s gratitude for his successful intrigues. Universum, evidently, was not forthcoming to this guy’s satisfaction, and he really got bent out of shape over it. Result: he decided to drop some poo in the proverbial fan.
Renditions vary a bit, but the alleged Universum agent, we found, has decided to communicate the more sordid details of his activities to the American boxing community. He is supposedly spilling the frijoles about Universum’s alleged nefarious enterprise in attempting to purloin Juan back from his American career.
As of this writing, an international lawsuit might be filed which alleges that Universum engaged in a surreptitious effort to undermine Juan’s allegiance and co-operation with his new business partners here in the U.S. It is similar to a tort called “alienation of affection” where a person (a third party) is accused of attempting to convince the party of the first part to abandon allegiance to the party of the second part; In other words, interfering with the carrying out of a contract. Kohl could have it both ways, as he seemed to express disinterest until Gomez defeated Sam, then decided to attempt to get Juan to reinvest with the big U.
Juan Carlos Gomez is a bit of a puzzle to say the least. As I sat next to Juan Carlos one day, with his WBC Cruiserweight Championship Belt in my lap, pondering his possible future in boxing, he confided to me that this (referring to his belt) was “his life”. In other words, boxing and winning were the essential core of his being. He is, without doubt, a troubled soul. He is also capable of very impressive accomplishments in the ring. He does, however, suffer from the ills brought on by being a vagabond expatriate from Communist Cuba; a man without a country whose only allegiances are to fame, fortune and fighting.
It’s hard to imagine how difficult it is to be a first-generation immigrant trying to make your way in the world, having left family, friends and homeland behind. Add to those sacrifices the inevitable tensions which accompany life as a world-class competitor in a life-threatening blood-sport, and you have a recipe for disaster. Here we have a young man of great potential, awash in testosterone, under the control of strangers in a strange land, with no hint of knowledge about personal finance and life-planning.
It is obvious that he becomes confused and aimless at times – a perfect combination for those who might take unfair advantage of him. As events unfold the “what ifs” continue to accumulate for Juan. One can only hope that Gomez will find a sense of self, courage to prevail in the ring, and get his act together in life. The odds are quite long for this outcome, but as a selfish fan of the sport, this writer would covet the opportunity to see him succeed, no matter whose colors he wears.
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