By Kim Francesca Martinez
San Bruno, Calif. native Joe Gumina (4-1, 2 KO), whose devastating power punches and ring bravado mask one of the nicest personalities in the sport, recently spoke with BoxingScene about his upcoming bout.
“Hey, I’m so sorry; could you hold on for a second?”
A chorus of spirited ‘woofs’ color the background as Joe “The Punisher” Gumina reins in his 115 lb American Bulldog, Rocky, during an evening walk—his “third workout of the day,” Gumina says with a laugh.
March 8th heralds the return of boxing to the San Francisco Peninsula following a 20-year hiatus. Not since 1994, when Eddie Croft squared off against Richard Duran at the San Mateo Expo Center, has the sunny stretch of land south of the city proper seen its fair share of in-ring action.
Gumina, who currently resides in neighboring San Carlos, is one of the local talents anchoring this Friday’s card at the historic Fox Theatre of Redwood City, Calif. When asked his thoughts about fighting in front of family and friends on his home turf, Gumina waxes enthusiastic.
“I think it’s great, it’s long overdue… there’s definitely a boxing fan base [here] that’s dying for it… I heard it’s already sold out, or at least tickets are pretty hard to get right now.”
That the ‘Punisher’ boasts a loyal following is no surprise. Gumina’s explosive fighting style has earned him four wins, two by way of vicious knockout (having been present for both, this writer can attest that Gumina’s trademark coups de grâce never fail to draw a collective “ooooh” from the crowd).
Gumina, who first stepped into the ring at 21, credits his punching prowess to gritty beginnings (“I went from street fighting to the ring, that’s how I fight.”), legendary inspiration (“Mike Tyson, [he was] the most electrifying fighter.”), and a determination to give the crowd their money’s worth (“1% of people pay to see a good boxing match; 99% pay to see someone get knocked out!”).
And if it ain’t broke, why fix it? Regardless of opposition, the construction worker-turned-brawler’s game plan for demolition never wavers. Originally slated to face Albert Avina (0-1), a Stockton, Calif.-based fighter who has managed to evade the Punisher a handful of times, Gumina will now meet South Carolina’s Lee Holloman (1-4-1) in the ring. Gumina admits to knowing little about the proxy but isn’t worried.
“In the amateurs, you show up and have no idea about your opponent. Am sure [Holloman] is going to dance, move around… if he tries to fight with me, he’s going to go to sleep. So I hope he does.”
With his heavy hands and seek-to-destroy approach, it seems that Gumina was born to be a professional pugilist. He recounts a highlight from his amateur career, a knockout victory -- one of 16 in 26 bouts, total -- that took place in Oxnard, Calif., several hours south of San Francisco.
“I knocked the guy out in eight seconds; think I tied Mike Tyson’s record*. Best part was, the guy was from Philly. So he flew all the way out to Oxnard for eight seconds,” chuckled Gumina.
Despite the jocular hubris, The Punisher’s seems a heart of gold. After working with renowned cornerman Jesse Reid, Gumina has since reteamed with his original trainer Jimmy Ford (“like a brother to me”) to prepare for this fight, as well as his last, at San Francisco’s Ring of Fire Boxing Club. Sponsored by the Fire and Rec Departments, Ring of Fire aims to keep the city’s kids off the streets and in a healthy environment. Gumina speaks highly of the boxing program, which offers its services gratis to San Francisco youth under 18.
“[It] helped me out a lot, it kept me off the streets… after I started boxing, did a few amateur fights, and [my career] has just blossomed. And I’m grateful everyday,” Gumina says.
And he’s feeling good about Friday’s challenge. Reincorporating weight lifting into his training regimen (which includes walking Rocky twice daily) and sparring with fellow fighters at San Carlos’ Undisputed Gym, The Punisher seems relaxed and ready to put on a good show. I ask what fans can expect to see. True to form, he replies, “I’m not there to look pretty—I’m there to knock someone out!”
Tickets for the card, headlined by junior bantamweight Bruno “Aloha Kid” Escalante and Rigoberto Casillas, and promoted by Don Chargin and Paco Presents in association with Jorge Marron, can be purchased at foxrwc.com.
*In 1986, Mike Tyson dispatched Dan Cozad in eight seconds, setting the record for fastest knockout in amateur boxing history.