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Amateur standout Gomez confident but patient
Frankie Gomez has already demonstrated that it can be difficult for a gifted boxer to be patient.
Gomez, a silver medalist in last year’s world amateur championships, had always planned to fight in the 2012 Olympics. However, antsy to test his skill as a professional and eager to help his family financially, he turned pro at 18 this year.
Now, two fights into his career and bursting with confidence, he understands he must build slowly toward realizing his dreams. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though.
“It’s hard,” said Gomez, who fights Akeem Akinbode on the Fight Night Club card Thursday night at Club Nokia in Los Angeles. “I see a lot of people fighting in big fights and for championships. And I think, ‘I can beat him.’ I know you can’t move up fast, though. You have to work your way up.
“My goal is in maybe two, three years get a championship fight and keep going from there.”
No one will be surprised if Gomez (2-0, 2 knockouts) gets there. The junior welterweight from the same East Los Angeles neighborhood where his promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, grew up was one of the world’s top amateurs.
He finished his amateur career with a record of 121-8 and culminated it by reaching the finals of the world championships in Italy, where he lost the gold-medal match to Cuban Roniel Iglesias 8-2.
Gomez has the natural gifts one would expect from a top amateur –- speed, athleticism –- and he’s well schooled. He has been training since he was 5 years old. However, his ferocity is what might set him apart in the long run. Some call him “The Beast.”
Ronnie Rivota, his trainer since the beginning and former pro boxer who sparred with De La Hoya, attributed his protégé’s drive to determination.
“Even when he was little he was more determined than the other kids,” Rivota said. “He would never let them out run him, for example. He didn’t like running but there was one thing he liked less -– coming in second. He’s really competitive. … He has this incredible will to win in all sports. That’s why I never wanted him to play football or basketball. He plays so hard.
“He refuses to lose in his heart. Every time he sees a pro fighter go down or quit, he looks at me says, ‘You’re gonna have to carry me out before I quit like that.’”
Or as Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez (no relation) put it: “He’s all fighter. I sometimes tell him to ease up a bit, relax, smile a bit. The guy is so determined. Boxing is everything to him.”
Gomez seems to have the discipline necessary to realize his potential.
The teenager occasionally slips away to spend time with his friends, as any 18 year old would, but has done so less and less frequently as his boxing career has progressed. He seems to understand that hard work might lead him to a special destination.
“You can’t mess around,” he said, sounding a lot older than 18.
Rivota was separated from Gomez only once since he began working with him, when he was 13. The boy’s mother revoked his boxing privileges because he was receiving poor grades in school and he didn’t train for more than a year. When he returned, though, he was single minded.
And his results in the ring reflected that attitude.
“He really came back with a lot of fire,” Rivota said. “I noticed that he was more focused and more determined. From that time, when he was 13, he has only lost one time -– to that Cuban at the world championships.”
Gomez also seems to be self critical, a character trait that could serve him well.
The young man knocked out his first two opponents in three and two rounds, respectively. Rivota said he didn’t boast, though. Instead, he asked what he could’ve done better. That was music to Rivota’s ears, although he’s come to expect such maturity from his fighter.
“He has the speed and the power,” Rivota said. “More important than that, though, is his intelligence. I remember someone came up to us after his first fight and asked me, ‘How would rate his performance, coach?’ I said, ‘C+.’ The guy looked at Frankie and asked, ‘You agree with that?’ He said, ‘Yes. He’s right.’
“And then we were watching a replay of the fight on a big screen. One of the girls said to him, “Are you admiring yourself?’ He said, ‘No, I’m looking at all my mistakes.’ That says a lot about him.’”
Gomez is very business-like even when he’s being interviewed. He’s soft-spoken and doesn’t seem to be very emotional, even going into his first professional fight in his hometown.
He expects dozens of family members and friends to be at the downtown night club Thursday night to cheer for him. Still, he says he’s not particularly excited about the location or who might show up in his honor.
He wants to show everyone what he can do, he acknowledged, but he has bigger things in mind. He was asked in jest whether he would be pleased to match the accomplishments of his promoter and boyhood idol but gave a serious answer.
“I’d be happy with that,” he said. “And if I can do more, I’ll do more.”
Perhaps in time.
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at RingTVeditor@yahoo.com