Making A Point for the Making of "Bazooka"
By Antonio Santiago, Doghouse Boxing (Dec 3, 2010)  
In 1980, the movie "The Raging Bull" was released, about the life of former Middlweight Champion of the world Jake LaMotta. It was a success, and quite deservedly, Robert DeNiro, the greatest actor in history, won the Oscar for best actor that year. More recently, we have seen the lives of Carlos Monzon, Rubin Carter and Micky Ward be taken into the screen, as well as that of the formidable manager and fudgeable (This being a family site, we can't use the F word) Jackie Kallen. Monzon's story was named "Monzon, el Juicio" and released in Argentina. Micky Ward's story, "The Fighter", will be seen at theaters worldwide in the upcoming weeks. Roberto Duran's story is also rumored to be on the making.

There are three boxers in particular who deserve their live stories to be played out on the cinema for the world to know: Max Schmeling, the world Heavyweight Champion, was accused of being a Nazi supporter, but he actually helped Jews hide from the Gestapo. Vinny Paz was told he'd never fight again after a horrendous accident (coincidentally, about the same time Gloria Estefan had her bus accident that almost left her paraplegic), and not only did he fight again, but he had one more world title coming! And Wilfredo Gomez tasted the high life of triumph, was defeated and then rose from the ashes to show the world what a human can become by winning over adversity. Of those three boxers mentioned above, two, Schmeling and Gomez-as well as Julio Cesar Chavez Sr.-have been featured on documentaries, Schmeling on "Joe and Max" and Gomez on "Bazooka: The Battles of Wilfredo Gomez", which was produced by the great Puerto Rican film maker Mario Diaz.

It is time, I think, to at least bring Gomez's story into Hollywood. Steven Spielberg is reading this article as I know he reads, and I am hoping he or some other powerhouse at L.A. can work on the idea. A great Latino actor, Edward James Olmos, has helped out the people of Cuba, Mexico and Puerto Rico be seen and understood with his films, so perhaps he could lend a hand to such a movie. And Danny Trejo may be too old to play Guadalupe Pintor in it, but I know there are thousands of actors of each Latin background who could play Gomez, Pintor, Carlos Zarate, Salvador Sanchez and Yamil Chade, as well as the women in Gomez's life. Someone needs to contact Diaz and adapt his documentary into a 120 minute biopic of the Puerto Rican "Bazooka".

What story is more deserving than Gomez's?? He raised from a dirt-poor Latin neighborhood in San Juan to visit Germany and Cuba as a member of Puerto Rico's National Boxing Team (he participated at the 1972 Munich Olympic Games and the 1974 Havana world amateur boxing championships) and to live in Panama during the early part of his professional career, enjoying then visits to other Latin countries such as Costa Rica and Nicaragua for fights.

He then enjoyed the sweet smell of success after winning the WBC world Super Bantamweight title, becoming a media darling in Puerto Rico and registering knockout after knockout, all the while being emblazoned into the era of the 1970's Puerto Rico as much as Disco music. In fact, Gomez was a staple of parties in his Nation and even owned a dance hall himself, a discoteque located in an UFO shaped building you can still see in San Juan. He talked the talk and walked the walk, and he banged the bang. He just kept on winning so much that there was no limit in sight.

Only that there was a limit, and so, as often, what goes up, must go down. Even when you get to 89-0 like Chavez Sr. did once, you still must land, or go down, or get caught with your pants off or something, but you always do. In Gomez's case, the balance that brought the scale the other way was named Salvador Sanchez. So Gomez tasted defeat. And after that loss, which made him human and Salvador become another one of my favorite boxers, Gomez went through a deep depression and personality finding moment. As much as I hate damn cliches, he was down, but not out.

Sanchez died in a terrible car accident on a day I'll never forget, August 12th, 1982. With that, Gomez's inspiration seemed to have dissipated. He visited his rival at Sanchez's Mexico tomb, to respectfully offer him flowers, and quickly returned to Puerto Rico to dispose of tough, brave Roberto Rubaldino 5 days later in San Juan. Gomez, however, still had the guts and the power in him, and on December 3rd, he fought Lupe Pintor, the all time great world Bantamweight Champion, in a fight for the ages at New Orleans, Louisiana. By far one of the very greatest fights ever at the 122 pound division, Gomez was on the brink of death basically before dramatically rallying to stop Pintor in round 14. If you don't believe Gomez walked in Hell during that fight, just go to Youtube and download a video of round 12.

That would seem like enough for his story to have a Hollywood ending, but he had more, far more.

He claimed two more world titles, one controversially over Rocky Lockridge in a fight he came from behind to pull by the closest of margins, and retired, falling into the dark world of drugs. Gomez moved to Venezuela and later, to a rehab center in Colombia. While more Puerto Rican than a Coqui-and that's another cliche if there ever was one!-Gomez saw other Latin countries hold huge importance in his heart and his life, such as Cuba, Mexico, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Colombia. He became a pride not just of Puerto Ricans, but for all Latinos worldwide, like Chavez Sr., Duran, Alexis Arguello, Pele, Diego Maradona, Charo, Evita Peron and the likes.

Battling the drugs, however, he found ultimate victory when he became a newborn Christian, welcoming Jesus into his life. That, my friend, is indeed, the ultimate Hollywood ending.

Knock knock, Steven! Knock knock Edward James! Knock Knock, Ron Howard!


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