Photos by Sumio Yamada
ALFONSO GOMEZ vs JESSE FELICIANO
Alfonso Gomez was perhaps the most well-liked of all the fighters in The Contender reality TV series, taking on the favourite, Peter Manfredo Jr., in his first bout and pounding out the upset win, then beating the flashy Ahmed Kaddour before losing, in a brave effort, to the bigger and stronger Manfredo in a rematch after the Rhode Island boxer had been invited back to the series.
Gomez, 25, has had two impressive wins subsequently in Contender format shows and he is back again to meet the always tough and game Jesse Feliciano in an eight-rounder that has been made at 150 pounds, give or take a pound.
The two have met twice before, early in their careers, with Gomez winning a four-round split decision, then losing a unanimous decision in a six-rounder three years ago. A lot has happened in their careers since then.
Feliciano, 23, had a big win in his last fight when he came in at short notice and battled his way to a majority 10-round decision over the veteran Vince Phillips, who despite being 42 years old was a big favourite in the betting.
I was ringside for the last fight between Gomez and Feliciano in Las Vegas, when Gomez scored well early but Feliciano came on strongly down on the stretch. It was a very competitive bout, highly entertaining, and the rubber match should be more of the same.
Felicianos trainer, Jesse Reid, says he loves the fight. He feels that his man will be very strong at the weight and says that the improved technique that Feliciano showed against Phillips, with more head movement and shorter punches, has been fine-tuned still further. He says that Gomez is in for a surprise.
Gomezs manager, Gary Gittelsohn, expects a tough fight but said from his Los Angeles office: Alfonso has been getting very, very good work [sparring] in Los Angeles at the La Habra gym, where hes had really talented fighters working with him from Sergio Mora to Kingsley Ikeke.
This is the stage that is always the hardest in every prospects career when they move up into really competitive fights to separate the wheat from the chaff.
In Alfonsos case, we know what were getting with Feliciano hes very tough, but I think Alfonsos skills are much more refined and I think thats going to be the difference in the fight. I think, since theyve fought, their careers have gone in very different directions even though Felicianos coming off a very big upset win, which made him a very acceptable opponent to ESPN on this special card.
Im sure Feliciano is very confident but I like the fact that Alfonso I think is the naturally bigger man at this point since they originally fought, I think Alfonsos a stronger fighter as far as just general toughness theyre both tough guys but I think Alfonsos just the better-skilled boxer.
This really should be the main event. I think there are going to be fireworks in this fight."
I, too, think that the fight will be a thriller.
Feliciano (14-5-2, 8 KOs) turned his career around with the extremely hard-working, determined showing against Phillips, who was constantly being backed up and seldom had the room to throw his hard right hands and left hooks.
Before this, Feliciano had lost four of his last five fights, and when he got stopped in four rounds by Demetrius Hopkins last December I thought his career was probably all over. Trainer Reid tells me, though, that Feliciano had a lot of trouble getting down to light-welter to meet Hopkins: there was no doubting Felicianos strength and stamina at 149 pounds when he virtually swarmed all over Phillips.
It is easy to be wise after the event and say that Phillips was a faded fighter at 42, but Cool Vince had been looking good in his last few fights and the overwhelming opinion in the fight trade was that Feliciano would get knocked out but he never wavered. Indeed, when Phillips landed some of his best shots in the ninth, Feliciano audaciously dropped his hands and invited the ageing ex-champ to hit him again.
Maybe Jesse Reid is right when he says that weight-loss had reduced Felicianos punch-resistance in the fights in which he was halted because there was nothing wrong with his chin when he fought Phillips.
When a fighter is fresh from the biggest win of his career which the victory over Phillips certainly was for Feliciano it makes him doubly hard to beat. I believe that Felicianos confidence will be sky high. However, Gomez is strong-willed and sturdy, too, and also does not lack for self-belief.
This fight will, I think, steal the show. Gomez (14-3-1, 5 KOs) is the favourite and I do think he is the classier and shrewder fighter, although it isnt so easy to box stylishly when an opponent is on a boxers chest from the first bell, which I think is undoubtedly what Feliciano will be trying to do in this fight.
I think Gomez can box and counter punch well enough to gain an advantage on the scorecards in the early rounds. The deeper the fight goes the more Feliciano is likely to be coming on (Jesse Reid told me he would have preferred a 10-rounder) but I feel that Gomez can grit his way through some torrid exchanges and prevail, on points. Of course, I (and many others) underestimated Feliciano going into the fight with Phillips and there is the very real possibility that he is being underestimated again.