Alfonso Gomez’s shot at WBC 154-pound titleholder Saul Alvarez on Saturday could not have come at a better time for the welterweight fringe contender and his management.
The scrappy 30-year-old veteran was ready to make a serious career move late last year after impressive back-to-back victories over rugged Jesus Soto Karass and former lightweight champ Jose Luis Castillo.
Gomez, who was soundly defeated by Miguel Cotto in his only shot at a major belt back in 2008, thought his springboard back into title contention would come against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. last December.
However, an elbow injury suffered during training forced Gomez to withdraw from the 156-pound catchweight bout against Chavez that was to headline a Dec. 4 pay-per-view card. His manager, Gary Gittelsohn, knew the opportunity to fight the son of the Mexican legend was gone forever.
“Chavez Jr. fight was one we’d been chasing for a long time, but the longer he held out the less of an advantage we had because he kept growing and getting heavier,” Gittelsohn told RingTV.com at last week’s media workout for Gomez at the Azteca Boxing Club in Bell, Calif. “That fight in December was the last chance to get him to come in under middleweight.”
Luckily for Gittelsohn and for Gomez, Chavez isn’t the only young unbeaten Mexican star on the scene. There was another, arguably more popular, Mexican attraction who conveniently fights in a division closer to Gomez’s natural 147-pound weight class.
“I knew that Golden Boy Promotions wanted to keep Alvarez active and were looking to put him on the Mayweather-Ortiz undercard, so I reached out to them,” Gittelsohn said. “I first got a blessing from Top Rank because it was the right thing to do. There’s no legal binding there, but Top Rank had kept Alfonso busy and on TV after the loss to Cotto and we appreciate everything they’ve done for us.”
Gomez got the blessing from Top Rank boss, Bob Arum, who told him to “kick the redhead’s ass,” and that’s just what the Los Angeles resident plans to do to his fellow Guadalajara native despite being viewed by most as a decided underdog.
Gittelsohn respects Alvarez, who is unbeaten in 38 pro bouts, but he doesn’t believe his fighter is in over his head.
“I don’t know from the next guy how good ’Canelo’ really is, but I think it’s a winnable fight,” he said. “I don’t mind people looking at Alfonso as an easy touch, especially his opponents, because he usually wins when he’s hand selected to lose.
“Arturo Gatti, Castillo, Soto Karass were all favored to beat him. The only time he didn’t win as an underdog was when he fought Cotto and that was the best version of Cotto that ever existed. That was the post-Judah and Mosley and pre-Margarito version of Cotto.”
Gomez (23-4-2, 12 KOs) says the fifth-round TKO he suffered to the Puerto Rican star adds to the two edges he believes he has over Alvarez — experience and maturity.
“Losing is an edge because losing always teaches you something about yourself,” Gomez said. “My losses are part of my experience. Alvarez has more fights than I do but I’m more experienced in terms of facing better and bigger fighters. I’ve been in deep water. He can’t show me anything I haven’t seen. I can show him things he hasn’t.”
Gomez says he will show Alvarez a more mature version of himself.
“Alvarez seems mature in how he speaks and behaves outside of the ring but ring maturity comes from facing adversity in a fight,” he said. “I’ve faced it. He’ll face it when we fight. I know he can box and brawl just like I can. I’ll set my pace and see if he can handle it.”
Photo by Gene Blevins-HoganPhotos.com / Golden Boy Promotions