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Wilfredo Gomez

Every once in a while there is a phenomenon that captivates the imagination of its followers and brings a country to its toes whenever it takes center stage.

This was the case of the boxer Wilfredo Gomez (born October 29, 1956). Nicknamed 'Bazooka' for his power and accuracy, Gomez, who also was an under-rated defense specialist, was a teen prodigy who conquered the world amateur championship in 1974 in Havana, Cuba.

Coming from Puerto Rico, however, meant that the big bucks and exposure of the American media would not come easy, and Gomez had to move to Costa Rica, from where he began to tour all of Central America in hopes of finding matches. His professional debut came in Panama City, Panama, where he fought to a draw with Jacinto Fuentes[?]. After this un-auspicious debut, he reeled off a streak of 33 knockout wins in a row, including wins over Fuentes, who was dispatched in 2 rounds in a rematch, and future world champion Alberto Davila, who lasted 9 rounds before crumbling.

Gomez's meteoric rise through his knockout streak caught the eye of the World Jr Featherweight champion Dong Hyung Yen[?], who travelled to San Juan, Puerto Rico to defend his crown against Gomez Yen had a promising start, dropping Gomez 30 seconds into the bout, but Gomez picked himself up and eventually won the crown, his first world title, with a 12th round knockout. His first defense took him to the Far East, where he beat former world champion Royal Kobayashi[?] in 3 rounds in Tokyo. Kobayashi had lasted 5 rounds vs Alexis Arguello and 10 rounds vs Roberto Duran when Duran was a Featherweight. Next was Ryu Tomonari[?] in a small city of Thailand. He lasted 2 rounds.

Gomez kept on going until his streak reached 33 knockouts in a row.Those 33 knockouts in a row included his biggest victory ever, a 4 knockdown, 5 round defeat of Mexican world Bantamweight champion Carlos Zarate, who was 55-0 with 54 knockout wins coming into their San Juan bout. Also included in that streak was future world champion Leo Cruz, beaten in 13 rounds at San Juan. After recording his 33rd. knockout win in a row, he moved up in weight to face the dangerous champion Salvador Sanchez of Mexico. Not realizing Sanchez was a sensational champion on his own , Gomez undertrained and lost a brutal bout by a knockout in 8 rounds in Las Vegas. Puerto Rico was shocked by Gomez's defeat, and Gomez himself learned a lesson in life: to never underestimate a foe.

Hoping to get a rematch with Sanchez, Gomez went back to the Jr Featherweight[?] division, where he got a dispense from the WBC to make 2 preparation bouts before defending his title again. He did so and won 2 non title bouts in a row , both by knockout in the 2nd round, one over the capable Jose Luis Soto[?], who was a stablemate of Julio Cesar Chavez back in Culiacan, Mexico. A win over future world champ Juan 'Kid' Meza[?] in Atlantic City followed, but all chances of a rematch with Sanchez were dashed when Sanchez died tragically in a car crash outside Mexico City the morning of August 12th , 1982. Mexico mourned their gone champion, and all of Latin America joined Mexico in their pain. Gomez, who was training to defend against Mexican Roberto Rubaldino[?] only 5 days later, took a quick trip to Mexico to offer Sanchez flowers and then returned to Puerto Rico the same afternoon. He beat Rubaldino by knockout in 8 rounds and made 1 more title defense, against the great Mexican bantamweight world champ Lupe Pintor in the Carnival of Champions in New Orleans, winning by knockout in 14 in a wild and historic fight. The Pintor contest was the only time a Gomez fight was showcased on HBO.

By the time he was done with the Jr Featherweights, Gomez had established a division record of 17 defenses, and a world record of most defenses in a row won by knockout, all his defenses finishing before the established distance limit.

He then re-tried winning the Featherweight title and this time, he achieved his dream, winning his second world title by dethroning the durable Juan Laporte, a fellow Puerto Rican who had won the title left vacant by Sanchez's untimely departure. He beat Laporte by a 12 round unanimous decision. This time, however, it didn't last that long. Ahead on all scorecards, Gomez was the victim of a rally by Azumah Nelson of Ghana who knocked him out in 11 exhiliarating rounds in San Juan, December 8, 1984. Nelson himself proved a great champion and future hall of famer by making a string of defenses in the Featherweights[?] and becoming a 3 time world champion himself later.

Gomez wanted either a rematch with Nelson or a shot at Jr Lightweight world champ Rocky Lockridge[?] of New Jersey , which ever came first. Lockridge was first to knock on the doors, and the 2 battled an exciting 15 round bout in San Juan, Gomez being given an extremely close 15 round decision, which many experts have said Lockridge deserved, but also which in the opinion of most who saw it life, was a justified decision.

This reign also came to an end quick, Gomez being handed his 3rd loss at the hands of young Alfredo Layne[?] by knockout in 9 rounds. Layne proved he wasn't an exceptional champion by losing the title in his first title defense, and it became obvious Gomez's best years had gone by, so he retired after this fight.

Gomez tried a comeback in 1988 and 1989, but after winning 2 more bouts by knockout, he realized boxing wasn't in his heart anymore and retired for good. He later moved to Venezuela, where he made a few wrong decisions and ran into trouble with the law. But, as a true champion, he rebounded and is now back in Puerto Rico, being an exemplary citizen and getting his life back on track, and helping the legendary 3 time world champion Hector 'Macho' Camacho with the training of Camacho's son Hector 'Machito' Camacho Jr., who is a prospect in the Jr Welterweight division.

Gomez is also a member of the International Boxing Hall of Fame and, during July of 2002, plans to take his life to Hollywood's big screen were announced.

Gomez had a record of 44 wins, 3 losses and 1 draw, with 42 knockout wins.

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