Every weekday morning, 19-year-old Eddie Gomez gets up and heads to John F. Kennedy High School in the Bronx, N.Y., to continue his march towards graduation. Gomez is a senior and hopes to graduate in January; if not, he’ll receive his diploma in June.
Classes are short, and he’s usually out by 12:30 p.m., after which he resumes his “other life.” Eddie Gomez is also a professional boxer.
Gomez (6-0, 5 knockouts), a junior-middleweight prospect currently preparing to face Antonio Infante (6-1, 4 KOs), at the Complejo Deportivo Nilmarie Santini in San Juan, Puerto Rico, tries his best to live a normal life as a teenager. Yet as his public profile grows, the task becomes more and more difficult.
After winning the Junior Olympic national tournament at 15, a classmate brought in a clipping from the New York Daily News announcing Gomez’s win. The class gathered around in awe that seated among their sea of desks was one of the country’s top amateur fighters. The cat was out of the bag for the reserved youngster.
“I’m just a regular kid in high school,” said Gomez, a native New Yorker of Honduran descent.
It’s been harder to maintain his low-profile now as a professional, as most of his bouts so far have been featured on Telefutura’s Solo Boxeo Tecate series, including this Friday’s telecast beginning at 12:30 a.m. ET/PT. It will be Gomez’s first headlining bout, and his first eight round assignment.
Still, Gomez only informs teachers he’s close with of upcoming televised dates so as not to draw unwanted attention to himself.
Despite his national amateur success and with the 2012 Olympics just around the corner, Gomez decided to make the leap to the professional ranks late last year after being scouted by Golden Boy Promotions as part of their campaign to expand to a bi-coastal company. Gomez, who had won the New York Daily News Golden Gloves earlier that year, said he felt the Olympic selection process was subject to “politics,” and that “they pick and choose who they want to have represent the team.”
Gomez’s style of patiently stalking his opponents behind a fast jab, then unloading with heavy combinations in close is more suited for the pros. At just 5-foot-7, the likelihood is that Gomez will settle at 147 pounds, however.
Four of his five knockouts have come in the first round, including his first pro appearance in his home neighborhood in his most recent fight three months ago.
The youngest of nine children, Gomez grew up in the East Tremont neighborhood on the west side of the Bronx, which has a reputation as one of the worst in the nation. Boxing was a way for him to avoid trouble on the streets, and from the age of 8 began to cultivate a lifestyle of going straight to the gym after school, followed by home.
Today, the pattern is more or less the same.
“When my boys go out to eat, I’ll stay back,” said Gomez. “When they’re eating things that I’m not supposed to eat, I just stay back. I can’t go out because I have to be focused and on point.”
Gomez’s father Eddie Sr., is very involved in his son’s career as co-trainer to Jose Cotto Talavera, both of whom have been there since day one. They split time between the Juan LaPorte Boxing Gym and Gomez’s basement, the latter of which appeals the most to the reticent prospect.
“When we go in there, you get the feeling like it’s hot in there, so it makes you wanna work,” said Gomez. “This is a small place, this is a place I feel comfortable at, as opposed to a bigger gym where there’s a lot of people around and they’re looking at me. I don’t have anyone that comes in from the outside, it’s only people that I know.”
Gomez’s precocious sense of discipline has enabled him to juggle his two demanding lives, all while looking ahead to greater rewards down the line.
“I’ll make up for it later on 1,000 times better,” said Gomez. “Right now, I’m just focusing on school and my career.”
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.