Lee Groves

10: Greatest 122-pound title fights

1. Wilfredo Gomez KO 14 Lupe Pintor – December 3, 1982, Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana

Gomez-Pintor was part of an HBO doubleheader dubbed “The Carnival of Champions” (Thomas Hearns-Wilfred Benitez was the main event) and the combatants’ records justified the billing. Gomez was 37-1-1 (all wins by knockout) and had already obliterated Roberto Duran’s all-time record for consecutive knockouts in title defenses in a single weight class (11) by scoring 16 during his five-and-a half year reign. Meanwhile, Pintor had overcome extreme weight-making difficulties to forge an excellent reign at 118 that spanned eight defenses and included victories over Alberto Sandoval, Johnny Owen, Eijiro Murata, Seung Hoon Lee, Jovito Rengifo and Albert Davila.

Any match pitting a boxer-puncher with supreme power and a classic Mexican aggressor would produce fireworks but when both parties were among the very best of their era their encounter had the potential of becoming the stuff of legend. That’s exactly what happened here and that’s why Gomez-Pintor occupies the top spot on this list.

After edging Pintor in the first two rounds with superior activity, Gomez tried to consolidate that advantage in the third with an all-out assault that momentarily had Pintor in trouble. After referee Arthur Mercante broke them to issue a low blow warning to Gomez, Pintor finally had enough of a respite to launch his own counterattack. And what a counterattack it was – his far more accurate and powerful punches more than made up the lead Gomez created in the round’s first 90 seconds and the toe-to-toe exchanges that wrapped up the round had the Superdome crowd in an uproar. Incidentally, round three was deemed THE RING’s Round of the Year for 1982.

While Gomez threw more punches and pushed the fight, Pintor’s precision punches raised ugly swellings above and below both Gomez eyes. Also, the pulsating pace took a bigger toll on Gomez, prompting one of his seconds to rush to mid-ring and carry Gomez to his corner following rounds 10, 11 and 12. Shockingly, it was the relatively unmarked Pintor whose gas tank reached “E” first and Gomez took advantage by scoring two knockdowns in the 14th, the last of which was the result of a beautifully delivered four-punch salvo capped by a crunching hook to the chin. Entering the final round Gomez lead handily on two cards (126-120 and 125-121) while trailing 124-123 on the third.

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Gomez-Pintor – and all the other fights on this list – epitomized everything that is great about the 122-pound weight class: Speed, power, courage, desire and skill. The honorable mentions alone at 122 would be prime beef in other weight classes: Victor Callejas-Loris Stecca II, Oscar Larios-Israel Vazquez II, Daniel Zaragoza-Wayne McCullough, Lupe Pintor-Juan “Kid” Meza, Kelvin Seabrooks-Thierry Jacob, Erik Morales-Daniel Zaragoza, Kennedy McKinney-Welcome Ncita I, Israel Vazquez-Jhonny Gonzalez, Kelvin Seabrooks-Ernie Cataluna, Leo Cruz-Sergio Palma II, Leo Randolph-Ricardo Cardona, Paul Banke-Daniel Zaragoza II, Daniel Zaragoza-Hector Acero Sanchez II, Wilfredo Gomez-Carlos Zarate, Oscar Larios-Wayne McCullough I and II…and on and on.

If Mares-Moreno even comes close to the fights listed in this article – even the honorable mentions – fans will be in for a tremendous treat. With Thanksgiving quickly approaching, a great effort by both men would be a fitting way for boxing fans to mark the holiday.

 

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Photo / John Gurzinski-AFP

Lee Groves, a boxing writer and historian based in Friendly, W.Va., can be emailed at l.groves@frontier.com. He is a full member of the BWAA, from which he has won seven writing awards, including a first-place for News Story in 2011. He has been an elector for the International Boxing Hall of Fame since 2001 and is also a writer, researcher and punch-counter for CompuBox, Inc. He is the author of “Tales From the Vault: A Celebration of 100 Boxing Closet Classics.” To order, please visit Amazon.com or e-mail the author to arrange for autographed copies.

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