Alfonso S. Gomez: "If it comes down to being toe-to-toe, I’m gonna be there, giving Feliciano hell, too"
INTERVIEW By Coyote Duran (April 21, 2006)
Alfonso S. Gomez must have a calculator with a screen the size of a dashboard because the kid knows no limit when it comes to counting his blessings.
It was only a little over two years ago that Gomez, 14-3-1 (5), would see his last days as a scrappy-yet-obscure prospect when fate would have him find his way to an audition that would change his life forever. NBC’s ‘The Contender’ was supposed to be the shining light that would cast an illuminating beam of hope over Our Sport and eventually aid in its triumphant return to mainstream prominence.
There were a few hiccups, mind you (Oscar De La Hoya’s/Fox’s ‘The Next Great Champ’, NBC’s dropping of ‘The Contender’), but ‘The Contender’ managed to reap many rewards from its successes and Alfonso S. Gomez, clearly was one of them. After delivering then-undefeated Peter Manfredo Jr.’s first loss in the season premiere as well as topping Ahmed Kaddour and Jesse Brinkley, Gomez would lose to Manfredo in their ‘Contender’ rematch but would remain etched in every viewer’s (and ‘The Contender’s’ creators’) mind as ‘the little man with the big heart.’ Today, Gomez is making the most of his good fortune by getting as much face time (thanks to ‘The Contender’ and its promotional firm) fighting on ESPN ‘Contender cards and branching out into other ventures as well.
Don’t get him wrong, the young ‘Superman’ who loves his mom and dad is still in love with the fight game, as indicated by his upcoming fight with a man he knows all too well, Jesse ‘El Rayo’ Feliciano, 14-5-2 (8), a young, tough-as-nails, television favorite who’s faced Gomez twice early in their careers and will meet again in their rubbermatch scheduled for May 4th, 9:30 PM ET/ 8:30 Central at the Aladdin resort in Las Vegas, Nevada (televised on ESPN). It has been three years since their last meeting and we all know too well that three years might as well be an eternity.
Of course that remains to be seen for Alfonso S. Gomez is more than just well known. He’s more confident. He’s more polished. And he’s a helluva lot more focused in keeping his successes intact. And he told me how and why.
Last Saturday, I got together with Alfonso and he shared his thoughts on his third and final meeting with Jesse Feliciano, his motivation for being the best he can in this sport, a secret about the upcoming season of ‘The Contender’ and whom he REALLY wants to face in the very near future…Read on, Howlers. There’s a lot to cover.
Coyote Duran: Jesse Feliciano’s up next for you, Alfonso, and it’s a rubbermatch. You previously faced him in your fourth and his second fights and once again for your eighth fight and Feliciano’s tenth fight, in which you each split the series. How does it feel to be facing someone you seemed to ‘grow up with’ career-wise, three years later?
Alfonso S. Gomez: Well, you know, I fought Jesse twice and I’m fighting him in my nineteenth fight. We both have been growing together. We both started together and he had some losses. I had some losses. He has some wins. I have some wins. And at the end of the day, we’ve come to meet each other again so it’s pretty exciting being that I beat him once and he beat me once. It’s pretty exciting knowing that this is it. I think I’m gonna win this fight. He thinks he’s gonna win this fight. I’m very, very excited to finally put an end to this (Chuckles).
CD: Your careers have taken significantly different paths, obviously, Alfonso. Yours having taken the route of reality show fame in ‘The Contender’ and Jesse’s having challenged and lost to the likes of Mike Arnaoutis and Demetrius Hopkins but pulling off a major win in beating Vince Phillips at welterweight in March. What difference will these three years make in this fight?
AG: Well, more than anything, I think I have grown a lot as a boxer. Not to say that Jesse hasn’t but I’ve seen him fight against Vince Phillips which he did a great job, being on top of him and I’ve seen him fight against ‘Mighty Mike’ and these great fighters that he’s been fighting and, to me, his style is still the same as it was when I first fought him and I think my style has changed a little. My way of thinking grew as a boxer and I think it’s gonna set us apart in this fight in ways that didn’t set us apart in the other two fights. But I can tell you that this is gonna be a tough kid to beat because he has faced tough opposition just like me. It’s not like he is where he is now because he has faced bums or nobodies. This kid fights anybody and everybody at any given time so that tells you a lot about a boxer, actually about a warrior. I call him a warrior, just like myself. He keeps coming forward. He’s a warrior. He has a chin of iron. And those are the same characteristics that I have. I can tell you right now it’s gonna be a great fight and I believe it’s gonna be the fight of the night!
CD: Feliciano has seemed so confident with Jesse Reid in his corner. His head movement has sharpened very noticeably and his punches are more controlled and shorter. What adjustments do you see yourself making in order to nullify what Reid’s done for Feliciano?
AG: Right. He’s (Feliciano) throwing shoulder punches, being on top of you and my boxing, I believe that I’m becoming more of a counterpuncher/boxer and, like everybody saw on ‘The Contender’, I’m also a brawler. Like I said, I’m training a lot to throw a lot of punches ‘cause I know he throws a lot of punches. I’m training a lot to go that whole eight rounds if it’s necessary. If he comes well, well prepared, I believe it’s gonna go the full eight. It’s gonna be a bloodbath, but if he’s not 100%, I think it’s gonna end up early.
CD: Will this be a junior middleweight fight on May 4th?
AG: Yes, it’ll be at 151. Obviously, it’s not a world title fight so it’s not necessary to make 147, so I’m fighting at 150, 151.
CD: This fight is part of a larger ESPN card called ‘Latin Warriors’ that involves ‘Contender’ alumni, such as last season’s winner Sergio Mora (in the main event against Archak TerMeliksetian ) and Miguel Espino in separate fights.
CD: We’ve seen Mora face Pete Manfredo Jr. again after their ‘Contender’ finale fight. Do you feel that we might see this card as a grooming point that could see Mora perhaps face you in the near future or do you see yourself going the Manfredo or Ahmed Kaddour route and taking on fighters in non-‘Contender’ cards?
AG: Ah, it’s just another fight. I mean, I’m getting paid very well to make these fights with the ‘Contender’ guys and right now, I’m making some decisions with my life. I have a group, I’m trying to manage some musicians and I’m trying to help them release their album. But when it comes down to it, my the end of the year, hopefully, I’ll be in touch with my manager to convince Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. to give me the chance to beat him.
CD: Nice! ‘The Contender’s’ first season was created with the middleweight in mind. You’ve spent your career at welterweight and junior middleweight. Did you have any reservations about competing at 160 in front of millions of viewers when you were so used to fighting at lower weights?
AG: Oh, no, not at all! Actually, I started fight at junior welterweight then I couldn’t make the weight anymore so I went up to welterweight and because of the opportunity for a million dollars for ‘The Contender’, I went up to middleweight, to 160 pounds. You know, going up and down, and now that I came down to welterweight, I feel stronger being that I did four or five fights at middleweight, I feel stronger at welterweight. I don’t feel as heavy. I don’t hit as hard, but it gives me a lot of confidence in this fight with Jesse, who’s actually a light welterweight. It gives me a lot of confidence when I’m in there. If it comes down to being toe-to-toe, I’m gonna be there, giving him hell, too.
CD: Being that you did hand Peter Manfredo Jr. his first defeat at middleweight, do you see other advantages performing at 160 and do you see yourself going back to middle any time in your career?
AG: No, I don’t see myself going back to middleweight unless it’s a real good fight against…the only time I would fight at 160 would be against Sergio Mora because I think that’s a fight that a lot of ‘Contender’ people and a lot of ‘Contender’ fans want to see. But obviously, it has to be for the right amount and under the right circumstances. I can see myself fighting at, you know, welterweight, light middleweight with the right opponents. But mainly, I wanna capture a title at welterweight, which is the hot division right now.
CD: Will you or any of last season’s participants make a return to this season’s show to help mentor or dole out any words of wisdom to the new season’s crop of contenders?
AG: Well, I don’t know if I’m supposed to say this, but the new season is welterweights and whoever the champion is, I’ve been talking to Mark Burnett and they’ve been talking to me and they say whoever the champion of ‘Contender 2’ is, I’m gonna have a fight with him for their title. So, a word of advice is (to the potential winner)…train hard ‘cause I’m coming for you! (Both laugh)
CD: Alfonso, are you still under a particular contract that dictates you remain fighting under the ‘Contender’ banner?
AG: Yes, I’m still under contract with ‘The Contender’ and with Contender Promotions. I’m still under contract. I’m happy with what they’re doing and obviously; they’re a new corporation. They’re a new promotion so they’re learning at the same time as they’re making the fights. But I have no complaints. I’m very happy with how much they’re paying me. I’m very happy with the treatment that they’re giving me and so, right now, I’m very happy to be part of the ‘Contender’ team.
CD: It’s funny you mention that, Alfonso, because that leads well into my next question: In your bio on your website, www.alfonsosgomez.com, you mentioned that before ‘The Contender’, promoters made promises but never wanted to deliver the money because they felt you were a nobody.
CD: With as well, as ‘The Contender’ has treated you, have any of the other promoters changed their tunes since?
AG: Well, actually, I’ve heard a lot of talk from, not actually from THE promoters, but people who work with promoters, that NOW they’re interested. Now, they’re looking at me as a possible future star, as a prospect and a boxer who can attract the viewer to the boxing community from the general community itself. So, you know, I guess things have changed since before ‘The Contender’ but like I said, I’m very happy with ‘The Contender.’ They’ve given me an opportunity that nobody else would give me and so, right now, I’m sticking with them.
CD: Whom in the junior middleweight/middleweight divisions do you have your eyes on when considering the next stage of your career? Is there anyone in particular you’re focusing on?
AG: Well, like I said, and because mainly in Mexico, when ‘The Contender’ hit, about 90% of Mexico saw that show, I would love to fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for ‘The Heart of Mexico’ and you can say that! If it happens, great. If it doesn’t, hopefully, in the near future, I can start fighting the Top 10. Somebody that catches my eye when I talk about possible fights in the future, a possible fight of the year, would be against Arturo Gatti. I would love to fight him. I really admire him. I think he’s a great fighter. He’s a warrior just like myself and me fighting him, I think, would be an amazing spectacle for the people, for the audience and for boxing in itself.
CD: That’ll put the butts in seats, man!
AG: Yeah? (Both laugh)
CD: Alfonso, talk to me about HY3RID (pronounced ‘hybrid’), your family musical venture.
AG: It’s the group I’m managing right now. I’m trying to release their album and it should be coming out in May or the beginning of June. Now, I’m not telling you this because I’m managing them but they are the future of music. They have amazing music and we’re doing everything possible to release the album and after that…Thank God for ‘The Contender’ that I have contacts and I have met people that, hopefully, will help this group actually launch and have their careers launch like mine launched.
CD: I checked out the samples on your site and I’ve gotta tell ya, I was impressed! Are you still a band member or is this a gig that just involves your brothers and you solely handle the managerial side of things?
AG: No, actually, I’m more like just the manager now. I’m helping them achieve their dreams. They have amazing talent. They have amazing lyrics. My brother’s an amazing rapper. My other brother’s and amazing singer and the beats that they make and the music that they’re doing, I think, are really catchy to the ear and catchy to the people because they have a message. It’s not just saying bad words or cussing. They have stories. They have messages. Actually, before I went into ‘The Contender’ and everything, they’ve always wanted to be musicians. They’ve always had dreams of being on stage and being on tours and now that I’ve had the opportunity to be on ‘The Contender’ and get a little money, now I’m very happy and very glad to say that I’m helping them to achieve their goals and their dreams and make it easier for them to actually reach the stars like I have been.
CD: Well, from what I’ve heard thus far, it sounds like they’re on the right track. When things start picking up speed and the group drops their first slab, please let us know and Doghouse Boxing will do its part to let the world know, too.
AG: Oh, definitely! Thank you very much! Actually, obviously, I can’t box all my life. I’m just doing this to help my family, to help myself, to help my future wife and my future kids and I can’t box all my life so as of right now? I’m doing this just to open more doors for other dreams that I have and my brothers’ dreams and my parents’ dreams. In particular, boxing has been great for me and the people surrounding boxing have been amazing, also. Boxing has treated me well, so I’m doing everything possible to give back to boxing and give back to boxing’s people. If it has to be done with music, if it has to be done with movies, if it has to do with fighting, I’m willing to do it.
CD: Speaking of your family, Alfonso, your biggest motivation to be a successful fighter has always been the need to give back to your folks who made so many sacrifices to give you a great life in The United States. How proud of their ‘Superman’ are your folks?
AG: (Chuckles) Oh, my parents are more than proud! I’m sure that they can see that all the sacrifices that they made are paying off. And not just them. Obviously, I made a lot of sacrifices myself as a young kid, not being able to go out to parties or to have a girlfriend, stuff like that. It’s finally paying off. It’s like, I guess they planted a seed a long time ago and it’s the plant finally grew. It’s now giving them fruit. It’s now giving them shadows. It’s finally growing up and being what they’ve always dreamed of, what their son or their kid’s doing. So they’re very proud. They’re very proud of themselves too, because I guess not every parent is willing to sacrifice as much as they have.
CD: Wouldn’t if be great if all parents these days were that good?
AG: Actually, you know, I didn’t see it before but for the past few years, I’ve seen a lot of parents that wouldn’t be willing to give their jobs and their homes to help their kids achieve their dreams and that’s just amazing. You don’t see it that often. In the near future, for my kids and my brothers, whatever they wanna do, I wanna help them. And that’s exactly what they (Alfonso’s parents) did. Whatever I wanted to do, they said ‘Whatever you wanna do, son. Just let us know and we’ll make everything possible to help you do it.’ And now, I’m doing the same thing for my brothers. They wanna sing. People ask me, ‘Have you invested your money? What have you been spending your money on?’ Yes, I’ve invested my money and yes, I feel like I’ve invested it well because I’m investing it in something that I believe will generate more money and generate more dreams coming true which is my brothers’ music.
CD: Any final words for your fans or the great readers of Doghouse Boxing.com?
AG: Well, more than anything, I wanna thank Doghouse Boxing.com because they interviewed me before I was anybody. They interviewed me for ‘The Contender’ and I’m very happy to give this interview. I also wanna thank all the fans because every boxer knows, every athlete knows, every actor, every person who’s a celebrity knows that we would be nothing without them. They make us or they break us and I wanna thank them for their support and me giving my brothers their album, me giving my mom her house, her kitchen, her dreams wouldn’t be possible so thank you very much to all the fans and also thank you for the interview and taking the time to interview me, man.
CD: Well I thank you very much as well, Alfonso, and may you have the very best of luck on May 4th on ESPN against Jesse Feliciano.
Major Coyote-thanks go out to Alfonso S. Gomez very much for sharing his valuable time and Roberto Homero Gomez for arranging this interview! Also, please check out www.alfonsosgomez.com for song excerpts from Alfonso’s family music project, HY3RID! Alfonso S. Gomez faces Jesse Feliciano on ‘The Contender Presents: Latin Warriors’, May 4, 9:30 PM ET/8:30 Central on ESPN.
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