By Thomas Gerbasi
Alfonso Gomez laughs when you ask him if it feels like ten years since he was in the nation’s living room as a cast member on the first season of NBC’s The Contender.
“It doesn’t, but it’s scary once you say it because it has been ten years, and in one blink of an eye it will be another ten years, like ‘oh no.’”
One of the most affable fighters in boxing today, Gomez has never lost his appeal as a blue-collar, regular guy who showed up to fight when the bell rang and then went back home to his family when it was all over. And while he’s right when he says that ten years can disappear in an instant, at 33, he’s still here in the fight game mix, something not many of his peers from the show can say.
In fact, if you’re talking fighters with relevance today, it’s just Gomez, Sergio Mora, and Ishe Smith from the cast of 16.
“Sergio, myself and Ishe Smith, we’re the last of the Mohicans,” said Gomez. “We’re the last ones standing and still going strong. And that’s pretty cool.”
Of that trio, Gomez is the only one without a world title, Mora briefly holding the junior middleweight crown in 2008, and Smith doing the same thing last year. Gomez saw what Smith did against the odds in 2013, and it stuck with him and made him even more intent to one day strap that championship belt around his waist.
“Definitely,” he said. “I still feel that I’m very capable of winning a world title.”
He’s had his shots, getting stopped by a Miguel Cotto that was on top of his game in 2008, and then losing a competitive 2011 bout to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez in 2011, a fight that saw him get a quick hook from referee Wayne Hedgepeth. A decision loss in his last bout against Shawn Porter was almost the one that broke Gomez, as he felt that he was behind the eight ball from the time the fight was signed.
“I had a mixture of emotions,” he said of the aftermath of the July 2012 bout against Porter, who is now an IBF welterweight champion. “At one point, you start feeling like an opponent because you lose, then you lose again.”
Fighters like Gomez will always find away to get another shot though, and in late 2013 he was going to have a big one against comebacking Victor Ortiz. But a broken wrist forced him out of the bout, opening the door for Luis Collazo to come in and knock Ortiz out. Did Gomez watch the fight and say, “that could have been me?”
“Even more than that,” he said. “Beating Ortiz could have gotten me into that (May 2014) fight with Amir Khan, and I think I could have done a lot better job than Collazo did against Khan. So it was very bitter for me, but that’s life. I broke my wrist, and maybe God has better plans for me in the future.”
That future is this Wednesday, July 9, when he headlines a Fox Sports 1-televised card in Las Vegas against Ed Paredes. It’s a welcome opportunity for Gomez, who feels that a win this week will inject new life into his title hopes.
“I’m really happy with Golden Boy’s commitment to me,” he said. “First they gave me that opportunity with Ortiz, and that didn’t happen, so now they’re giving me this opportunity to headline a fight against a ranked fighter, and that’s amazing because that puts me in line for another world title shot by beating this kid.”
Winning is all that Gomez talks. There aren’t any what ifs with the Guadalajara native, and while he hasn’t always been on the winning side, he’s had more than a few big wins over the likes of Arturo Gatti, Jose Luis Castillo, and Jesus Soto Karass, and he’s reached the point in his career where he doesn’t mind where you put him on the marquee, just make sure you give him the opportunity to overturn the apple cart.
“Ever since I fought Ishe Smith (in his second pro fight in 2001), I went there as an opponent, and then on The Contender I went there as an opponent, and even when I fought Gatti, he was supposed to beat me and go on to bigger things,” said Gomez. “Castillo was supposed to beat me too. I’m always on the short end of the stick, I’m always coming in as the underdog, and that’s my life story. At first I got frustrated – how come I can’t be on the other side, or be the red corner or the A-side - but that’s the way the cards were dealt for me, and I think I’ve done a pretty good job of handling that. I’ve overcome many obstacles, I’ve beaten many of the guys I was supposed to lose to, and that’s pretty much given me the name that I have and all the fans follow me because of that – I’m supposed to lose, but the majority of the times I win.”
And if he wins the big one?
“It would be a dream come true,” he said. “I’ve been a boxer for 23 years, professionally for 13, and unfortunately I haven’t been world champion. But hopefully I’ll get the opportunity again, and looking at my track record, it will probably be against the best again, and if it has to be the best, hopefully it’s (Floyd) Mayweather or (Manny) Pacquiao, because we’re all looking to fight the best. The third time’s the charm, and I believe I’m gonna do it the third time.”