By Mike Indri
New York - If television’s reality boxing series “The Contender” has done anything for it’s participants, it has provided several young fighters with very rare and beneficial mainstream exposure, as well as some well deserved finances. A majority of those that fought on the “The Contender”, such as Peter Manfredo, Sergio Mora, Joey Gilbert, and now Alfonso Gomez, are better known and more recognizable than most of the current world champions within boxing!
While “Tinsel town” has made these young pugilists household names, most have not been able to shake the “contender”, or even worse, “pretender” tag, after their TV show stints. Most have returned to boxing obscurity.
Peter Manfredo Jr., maybe the most formidable of all the contestants, courageously got in the ring with super middleweight king Joe Calzaghe this past April 7th, and even before the one-sided bout was pre-maturely halted in round three, it was quite apparent that the likeable hero of Providence, RI was in way over his head challenging the Ring magazine and World Boxing Organization World Champion. Sergio Mora, the inaugural series overall winner, has not fought in close to a year, and could not even be lured or enticed to lace up the 10 ounce Everlasts with a title shot against Jermain Taylor.
At the Manhattan press conference Main Events Promotions CEO Kathy Duva officially announced the July 14th return of two-time world champion Arturo Gatti, who will be making his twenty first appearance on HBO, facing Alfonso Gomez, best known for his brawling, feisty, fighting style as witnessed on the first season of “The Contender”.
The 26 year-old, Mexican born fighter, prevailed over a long list of hopefuls in the “Gatti opponent sweepstakes”, and this can be perceived in two totally different ways: HBO must feel that the scrappy Californian is a valid opponent, while Main Events and/or the Gatti camp does not consider the relatively untested, lighter punching Gomez much of a threat.
Gomez, 16-3-2 (7 KO’s), unable to make the trip east for the hastily scheduled press event, spoke with the NY media via telephone and noted the importance of this being his opportunity, fighting on HBO against a world renowned fighter, a former world champion, and that he assuredly will be ready.
“This is an opportunity that I’m going to take advantage of,” reasoned Gomez, “the training regimen I’m going through will help me will this fight.”
While there are questions about Alfonso Gomez, questions that will be answered on July 14th, there are also concerns regarding Arturo Gatti that will be addressed in his adopted boxing home of Atlantic City that same night.
Gatti, 40-8 (31 KO’s), has been thrilling his loyal legion of fans for many years and has truly earned his title as Boxing’s “pound-for-pound most exciting fighter”. While being rewarded with a well-deserved multi-million dollar, multi-fight contract by HBO (this fight marks the end of said contract), Arturo has also paid a big price.
Unfortunately, whomever the opponent, Gatti makes every fight a “fight of the year” candidate - great for the fans, and great for boxing, not great for Arturo. Also, while the 147-pound limit may be a healthier fighting weight for “the human highlight film”, his power is not as prevalent and Gatti has absorbed excessive punishment fighting as a true welterweight. Gomez is a natural 147-pound fighter.
“A lot of people have count-ed me out, but I feel great,” stated the proud New Jersey based fighter. “I know I’ve been in a lot of wars - but most of the time my opponents get hurt more than I do!”
Recently turning thirty-five years old, Gatti is a young man, and a new father (daughter Sophia turned one on March 31st). While 35 years of age is young in normal everyday life, it’s old for boxing. Arturo Gatti 35 is very old for boxing.
No longer the 127-pound fighter that knocked out Jose Gonzalez (TKO 3) in the walk out bout at a Secaucus ice rink in 1991, Gatti has endured, flourished and survived for sixteen brutal years, in the most vicious business of all, and has rightfully earned the respect and honor of all the boxing world.
“I don’t have to prove to you guys that I can fight,” stated Gatti, “I’m going to show myself that I still have the ability, and hopefully I can fight for a world title one more time!”
The co-feature bout at the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall will showcase newly re-signed Main Event’s fighter, Kermit Cintron, who will be facing dangerous Argentinean slugger Walter Matthysse (26-1, with 25 KO’s). Cintron, 27-1 (25 KO’s) will be defending his IBF welterweight title, in what promises to be an exciting fight - which will probably not go to the judges.
An added treat for all HBO customers will be the live coverage of the WBO Welterweight Championship fight between title holder Antonio Margarito, 34-4 (24 KO’s) and # 1 ranked challenger Paul Williams, 32-0 (24 KO’s), which will take place in California. These dual coast title fights, carried live on HBO’s World Championship Boxing, are part of an unprecedented HBO welterweight tripleheader that evening.