Manuel Gomez vs. Antonio Margarito: Death, Taxes, and One Hell of a Fight!
By Sergio Martinez (December 17, 2005)  
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This past Wednesday, Top Rank held a press conference at the Aladdin Hotel, Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada to officially announce that on February 18, 2006, Antonio Margarito will defend his WBO 147-pound trinket against rugged Mexican veteran Manuel ‘Shotgun’ Gomez. If you are a hardcore boxing fan, this is a fight that makes your mouth water! They say the only things guaranteed in life are death and taxes. Well, you can add the Gomez-Margarito fight to that list. The thought of these two badasses locking horns is a scary proposition and one that is sure to satisfy the thirst for blood most of us possess inside.
Just think about it; on one side, you have a very underappreciated and avoided champion in Antonio Margarito who has labored in obscurity for years, now chasing that proverbial ‘career defining’ fight which, by all accounts, should lead him from rags to riches and secure his legacy as the premier 147-pounder of his era, all of which are things that the Mexican so desperately wants.
The Tijuana, Mexico, native was sure that in March of 2005, that very quest had been realized when he met and completely eradicated Kermit ‘The Killer’ Cintron in five one-sided rounds. It was supposed to be Margarito’s coming out party as Cintron was a young, strong, undefeated pug who many considered to be the most destructive force on the planet. His supposed ‘power’ had reached mythical proportions and many in the boxing media felt that Antonio was going to get blasted out. Margarito told anyone who would listen that Kermit was overrated and he was going to destroy him. At times, Antonio even seemed annoyed when told about Cintron’s ‘power’ and often questioned what the media based their assessments on. In the end, Margarito did exactly what he said he was going to do, but unlike what he expected, nothing really changed. He has not fought since, and to add insult to injury, he has had to watch the ‘big’ names in the sport – i.e. Vargas, Mosley, Mayweather, De La Hoya, et al – continue to avoid him, leaving the hard Mexican in boxing’s Siberia. This must anger and frustrate Antonio as his family’s future is left hanging in the balance, and he will definitely be looking to make Gomez pay for boxing’s insolence.
On the flipside, Margarito will be facing a very dangerously underrated, heavy-handed hard-man in Manuel Gomez. Like Margarito, Gomez has labored in obscurity for the better part of a seventeen-year career. Managerial and promotional problems have lead to long layoffs for this tough Mexican who currently calls Laredo, Texas his home. Unlike many prospects out there, Gomez was never coddled and was tossed into the deep waters early in his career as in his second and fourth professional fights; Gomez faced future champions Jesse James Leija and Rogelio Tuur respectively. Also, due to financial necessity, ‘Shotgun’ had to take fights on short notice and often faced hometown hero’s on their turf, losing controversially. Still, he kept moving right along facing all comers and waiting for his moment in the boxing sun.
That moment finally came to fruition as in November of 1997, then newly crowned IBF 135-pound boxing marvel ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley decided to make the first defense of his title and took Gomez as his ‘soft touch’ type opponent. It was the first time in a long time that Manuel had a ‘real’ training camp as he prepared for eight weeks and came into the fight at a trim and ready 133-pounds. ‘Sugar’ Shane, who is now considered an all time great at lightweight, ended up having the toughest test of his 135-pound title reign as Gomez pressed the action all night, got inside effectively and gave as good as he got for eleven action packed rounds before finally succumbing to a Mosley right hand. After the fight, Shane gave praise and respect to his underrated foe and also attested to Gomez’ punching power. Shotgun’s plight would continue as he would only fight two more times in 1998, and then would be put on a shelf for over three years.
Since his return in 2001, Gomez is undefeated and has bested fighters the likes of former lightweight champion Miguel Angel Gonzalez and the highly regarded Kofi Jantuah, who was undefeated at the time. Gomez would knockout Jantuah in the tenth and final round of a fight which ‘The Ring’ magazine selected as ‘Welterweight Fight of the Year’ for 2001.
After those impressive wins, Manuel felt confident that his promoter at the time, Don King, was going to get him another shot at a title as he had bested some solid fighters and had earned that right. It was not to be as Shotgun fought just once more under King and was shelved for another year.
He would resurface in 2003 under the promotional graces of Top Rank. In August of that same year, Manuel would, again, raise eyebrows in what ended up being one of ‘The Ring’ magazine’s ‘Round of The Year’, and ‘Knockout of The Year’ candidate as Gomez would battle Jeffrey Hill in a pier six type brawl on Telefutura.
After being down once, and having his world rocked by Hill twice in the first round, Manuel would fire the most beautiful, compact, straight right hand shot I have ever witnessed in a professional prizefight, finding the point of Hill’s chin, incapacitating his legs, and disconnecting his mind from his body. It was such a brutal punch that it was beautiful. The fight was immediately stopped as Jeffrey lay on the canvas.
That sensational win should have moved Shotgun closer to a title shot but, since then, he has fought a total of just six times, winning four and drawing twice. It seemed that Gomez had lost his lust for battle and boxing’s politics had broken his warrior spirit. Now that Gomez has received this second, and probably last, opportunity for a world title, one can only imagine how hard he will train and what kind of pain and suffering he will be prepared to endure in order to be crowned champion. He has no choice because there is no other way.
Both of these blue collar, noble Mexican warriors need to win in order to have a chance to secure a future for their families. When a Mexican man feels that someone is standing in the way of their blood’s survival, then blood is what he is willing to spill in order to prevent that from happening. In this case, you have two Mexican men with the same dilemma. Like I said in the title, this is going to be one hell of a fight! I cannot wait for February 18, 2006.
Such is life and life is boxing.
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