Thursday, January 21, 2010

Pacquiao No. 1 in star cutman's list

MANILA, Philippines - Veteran cutman Ruben Gomez, who has worked the corners of at least 70 champions in over 300 world title bouts in 30 years in boxing, said the other day Manny Pacquiao is by far the best fighter he’s ever been involved with.

Gomez, 59, is in town to serve as cutman for Brian Viloria in the IBF lightflyweight titleholder’s second defense against Colombian challenger Carlos Tamara at the Cuneta Astrodome tomorrow.

Through the years, Gomez has seen champions come and go but he said none comes close to Pacquiao’s ability to shine in and out of the ring. Among the stars whom Gomez has worked with were Roberto Duran, James Toney, Diego Corrales, Robert Guerrero, Fernando Montiel, Paul Williams, Hilario Zapata, Rosendo Alvarez and Frankie Liles.

“What Manny has done is unheard of in boxing history,” said Gomez referring to the Filipino icon’s feat of capturing seven world titles in seven different weight divisions. “Right now, he’s in the driver’s seat. He’s the man. It doesn’t matter whom he fights – Floyd Mayweather or Joshua Clottey. Fans come out to watch him.” Gomez, who was in Pacquiao’s corner the night he wrested the IBF superbantamweight crown on a sixth round stoppage of Lehlo Ledwaba in Las Vegas in 2001, said there’s no doubt in his mind that Mayweather is scared of the WBO welterweight champion.

“Mayweather just doesn’t want to fight Manny, that’s all,” said Gomez. “That talk of taking steroids is crazy. You can’t let a fighter dictate the rules on drug-testing.

It’s none of his business. The state athletic commission doesn’t bend the rules for anybody. Mayweather stood to earn $25 million for the fight so there’s no other reason why he backed out. It’s certainly not the money.”

Gomez worked Pacquiao’s corner until he was replaced by Lenny de Jesus who was later changed by Joe Chavez then Miguel Diaz.

“Manny thought he was being short-changed and often asked me about what he should be earning from his fights but I never told him anything since I had nothing to do with the business side,” said Gomez. “But I was accused of messing with his mind. Then, before the (Emmanuel) Lucero fight in 2003, I was suspected of being in cahoots with medical examiners when Manny tested positive for hepatitis. It was so unfair. I knew all along the test results were faulty because I was with Manny and Brian when they drew blood and we all thought the handling was very unprofessional. The day before the fight, they took blood from Manny again and he tested negative.”

But all that is behind Gomez now.

“Boxing isn’t my living so I don’t need the aggravation,” said Gomez. “I was born in Los Angeles, brought to Mexico before I was one year old, went back to LA when I was 16, finished only up to second year of college then at 26, became self-sufficient dealing in real estate. I’m lucky I own several buildings and I do boxing because I love it.”

Gomez arrived here with his wife Maria Pompeya last week. They have two children – Eddie, 39, is a Harvard University anthropologist and Ruby, 33, works at the New York University.

“My idol growing up was Duran,” said Gomez, a kendo-karate practitioner. “I used to watch him train and fight. I became friends with his managers Carlos Zeleta and Luis Spada who was also a trainer and cutman. I took an interest in being a cutman and learned from Spada and Curo Dosman. Eventually, I started to work corners and I took care of 80 percent of Latino fighters in the US. In 1986, I went to Manila for the first time with Zapata who fought Dodie Boy PeƱalosa.”

Gomez said aside from being a cutman, he also co-managed several champions but has solely managed the affairs of only one titlist, John David Jackson who campaigned in 1984-99, held the world middleweight and lightmiddleweight titles, fought Bernard Hopkins and finished with a record of 36-4, including 20 KOs.

Gomez said the worst cut he ever handled was when Liles suffered a bad gash that left his eyelid hanging out in the fourth round yet went the distance to win a decision in 12.

“Of all the fights I’ve worked, the most emotional was when Brain knocked out Ulises Solis in the 11th round to win the IBF title in Manila last year,” said Gomez. “I cried like a baby. It was such an unforgettable moment. Brian came back from the depths to win and that was really special.”

Gomez said he’s never had trouble with Viloria because he doesn’t cut easily. But he doesn’t take any chances and in every fight, he’s armed with his “magic potion” of coagulants like adrenaline 1/1000, avitine and thrombine – substances approved for use by regulatory boxing authorities.

Gomez said Viloria’s re-emergence makes him tough to beat on Saturday.

“Tamara’s very capable,” said Gomez. “He’s got a good resume. But Brian has a gift. He’s ready. He’s now more experienced, more mature. You can’t believe how popular Brian is, even in Mexico. When he fought there two years ago, in the undercard of a Jorge Arce fight, he was mobbed by fans. That was before he fought Solis so you can imagine how much more popular he is now after beating Solis and defending against (Jesus) Iribe. He’s refocused himself. I can see it in his eyes. The old Brian is back.”


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