By Thomas Gerbasi
It’s a sad fact of life, but most of us mature too late to do anything about it. Better put, former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson said in describing himself, “I got old too soon, smart too late.”
In “real” life, Alfonso Gomez isn’t old at 34, even though in boxing years, 34 normally begins that period where the reflexes slow and the chin isn’t as sturdy as it used to be. But for the Guadalajara native, who headlines tonight’s Fox Sports 1 event at Fantasy Springs in Indio against Yoshihiro Kamegai, his chronological age isn’t cause for concern, simply because he now has the maturity and knowledge to go along with what he’s always been able to do in the ring.
“At 34, I learned something about life, and it’s a rollercoaster, up and down,” he said. “Even the Bible says that there will be years of fat cows and years of lean cows. So I guess it’s part of the system that we live in with the ups and downs. And I consider that what’s happening in my life right now, including my career, is coming up. I want to take advantage of that in the sense that I’m more mature. The opponents that my management are working on getting, they’re worthy opponents that will catapult me to bigger venues, bigger stages. So I’m really happy. I’m looking forward to take advantage of the upswing happening in the coming years.”
Gomez is one of the good guys in the sport, a person that’s been easy to root for ever since he entered the public eye as a member of The Contender’s first season cast in 2005. He’s one of the last men standing from that group, and while the goal over the last decade – to be a world champion – is unchanged, the reasons behind it have been altered a bit.
“Before, it was more about the fame and the money and this glamorous life that being a famous boxer brings you,” he said. “And ultimately, I acquired that through being on The Contender and fighting on big cards with Canelo (Alvarez) and (Miguel) Cotto and (Arturo) Gatti. I did get that taste of fame and money and glamour, and I didn’t like it. It’s not what I thought it was gonna be. But now, coming back again, why do you want to be world champion this time? And beyond the money that the world champion gets, it’s more about the security that I can leave my kids with, and it’s about leaving a legacy.”
At the moment, Gomez’ legacy is as one of toughest hombres of this era, an underrated fighter who never shied away from a challenge between the ropes. Of course, when you have that attitude, there will be notable victories like the ones he scored over Arturo Gatti, Jose Luis Castillo and Calvin Green, and crushing defeats against the likes of Canelo Alvarez, Miguel Cotto and Shawn Porter. But every time he hit bottom, he got back up, eager to show that there was some “up” left in his rollercoaster.
“There’s a saying in Spanish that in English means ‘God squeezes but he never chokes,’” Gomez said. “The first time I was on a downswing, I did get desperate and I wanted to dig myself out of the hole, but the more I dug, the more I sank. So if you want to dig yourself out, stop digging. (Laughs) In the down times I just stayed consistent with the mentality that tough times happen, but eventually it will come up. I just endured it.”
After the Porter loss in July of 2012, Gomez was written off once more, with a fight against Victor Ortiz to prove whether he still had it or not. A broken wrist suffered by Gomez scrapped that bout, leaving him on the shelf for nearly two years heading into his comeback fight last July against Ed Paredes, who hadn’t lost since 2009.
Gomez won, shaking off two questionable knockdowns to win a clear-cut decision. It was a surprising outcome to some, but not Gomez.
“After being out of the game for two years, fighting a ranked fighter who was much younger, had a winning record and a big KO ratio, I was being overlooked,” he said. “Even when I look at myself on TV, I was like ‘I can kick my own ass.’ (Laughs) But when I’m in the ring, I think I have better timing than people anticipate and I can surprise, like the little Mexican that could. So going into the Paredes fight, I was very confident that this new Gomez was gonna show up.”
New Gomez was pretty good, but when he faces Japan’s Kamegai, fight fans are expecting some Old Gomez too, with the result possibly being an early Fight of the Year candidate.
“I know you’ve got a Samurai warrior on one side and an Aztec warrior on the other, and those are the ingredients for great fireworks,” he admits. “But if the Aztec warrior is also a smart warrior, then I think you’re going to see a lot of smart action.”
Smart action, dumb action, we’ll take whatever we can get, as long as it’s two fighters going to battle and leaving nothing for the ride home. That’s always been Alfonso Gomez’ style.
“I plan on using my intelligence, using my distance and my jab, and if it gets down to being a warrior and slugging it out, I can do that,” he said. “I’ve done it before and I’m not afraid of it. So whether it’s a slugfest or a smart fight, it’s going to be an exciting fight. That is a fact.”
Any other facts, Mr. Gomez? Well, that 34 is the new 24.
“At 34, I’m not old enough to be counted out,” he said. “It seems like the future’s still bright, the security for my family is still acquirable and I know that I want to squeeze out of boxing more than boxing squeezes out of me.”