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In 64 amateur fights, Gomez lost but three, one of them in the 1972 Olympics at Munich. He says he was only 15 at the time, although 17 was then the minimum for making the team. He was as much a loser to awe as he was to one Mohamed Selim of Egypt. But two years later in Havana, he was in awe of no one, and he became the World Cup champion at 118 pounds.
Having graduated from high school, he came home from Cuba with plans to attend college. "Only I was offered $15,000 to box six rounds with a guy named Jacinto Fuentes," he said. "I was stunned. Fifteen thousand dollars to fight? I said goodby to education, took the money and bought my father a cab." But when that first fight ended in a draw, Gomez felt humiliated. "I fought Fuentes like an amateur. I was too polite. Besides, I was robbed."
Gomez brushes aside such slanders. "Since I am a boxer, my blood is hot and I can't always be on guard to everything in the ring," he says. "That is why there is a referee: to notice and correct any errors. It is his responsibility. I am busy fighting, not reading the rule book."
Against Jimenez, there were a few such misplaced punches, mostly low blows. But they were as critical to the outcome of the fight as a few more drops of water are to a flood. Gomez hit Jimenez so murderously and so often about the head that perhaps he threw in a low blow from time to time just to see if Jimenez was still alive.
From the second round on, after Gomez got rolling, it was difficult to determine what was keeping the Colombian erect. "I just keep hitting them until they can't stand it anymore," Gomez says. "Then they fall down."
Even when his man is badly hurt, Gomez remains calm, picking his spots, every punch controlled. He is like a demolition expert precisely placing each stick of dynamite. And every so often he likes to step back and survey the wreckage before laying in new charges.
For Jimenez, the final barrage came late in the fifth round: a savage hook to the head, a tap from the right hand as he started to fall, and then another thunderous hook to the head that caught him on the way down. Rolling over, the Colombian forced himself to his knees at six, and somehow was erect as the count reached nine.
As the towel of surrender came flying in from Jimenez' corner, Perez decided to end it. "I looked into his eyes and he wasn't looking back," the referee said.
Later, his speech
sluggish and his face swollen and raw, Jimenez complained that because of low
blows he was never able to get anything going from the start. It sounded like
the ghost of a man executed by a firing squad complaining because someone had
shot him in his pinkie.