Lee Groves

10: Best Mexico vs. Puerto Rico fights

10. Wilfredo Gomez KO 5 Carlos Zarate — October 26, 1978, Roberto Clemente Coliseum, Hato Ray, Puerto Rico

In terms of records, Gomez-Zarate was perhaps the most explosive pairing this sport has ever produced. Zarate entered the match 52-0 with 51 knockouts (including 28 straight) while Gomez was 21-0-1, all wins by knockout. With a combined 72 KOs in 73 wins, there was no way this one was going anywhere near the scheduled 15-round distance.

Both had problems making weight. Zarate, the WBC bantamweight titlist for the past two-and-a-half years, nevertheless scaled 124 on his first attempt while Gomez (who always had weight struggles) was also two pounds over. It took Zarate four attempts to make 122 and, according to the challenger, he also entered the ring with flu-like symptoms. Nevertheless Gomez, three days away from celebrating his 22nd birthday, wisely approached Gomez with respect.

The first three rounds followed the same script: For the first two minutes Gomez circled left and right around the stalking Zarate while flashing jabs that fell short of the target. The final 60 seconds saw Gomez shift into attack mode as he pelted Zarate with hooks and crosses that sparked ear-splitting roars from the partisan crowd. Zarate got in his fair share of licks in round three, but Gomez appeared to have the edge going into the fourth.

Gomez’s fourth round surge was dramatic, emotion-fueled and somewhat beyond the rules. It began when a reflexive left to the face floored Zarate near the ropes. A pumped-up Gomez stood over Zarate and hooted at him before referee Harry Gibbs guided him toward the neutral corner. The crowd was so rapturously loud that neither man heard the bell and thus Gomez got in three late punches, one of which sent Zarate tottering to the floor. Gomez tore after Zarate in the fifth and Gibbs ignored a but-for-the-ropes knockdown as well as Gomez striking Zarate with a right to the temple after the challenger slipped. As Zarate arose, his brother/chief second tossed in the towel to end the match, triggering a wild celebration between Gomez and dozens of fans who stormed through the ropes.

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