- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
Juan Carlos Gomez was a dominant cruiserweight titleholder, winning a belt in 1998 and defending it 10 times, including nine by knockout, before vacating the title in 2001.
Like most top cruiserweights, Gomez, the former Cuban amateur star who defected to Germany, decided to move up to heavyweight and try his hand in a more lucrative division. And like most cruiserweights, Gomez (51-3, 38 KOs), a southpaw, did not have much success.
All of his losses are at heavyweight, where he fought mostly second-tier or worse opponents, other than Vitali Klitschko.
In 2004, Gomez got knocked out in the first round by obscure Yanqui Diaz. In 2009, he got a shot at Klitschko's title and was dominated in a ninth-round knockout loss. In 2011, Gomez lost a majority 10-round decision to journeyman Darnell “Ding-A-Ling Man” Wilson. Gomez also had a 2005 decision win against former titleholder Oliver McCall changed to a no-contest because Gomez failed a post-fight drug test.
Now 40, and with his career fading fast, Gomez, known as the “Black Panther,” is looking to recapture past glory by returning to the cruiserweight division he once dominated.
Gomez, who weighed as much as 255 pounds for a 2010 fight, is going back down to the 200-pound division for a Nov. 1 fight in Dachau, Germany. He is scheduled to fight Adnan Buharalija (29-18-2, 21 KOs), 33, of Bosnia, and hoping to eventually fight for a cruiserweight title again.
“I haven't felt this good in years,” Gomez said. “The ‘Black Panther’ is back and hungry.”
Gomez has won two in a row since the loss to Wilson, including a fourth-round knockout in their rematch, but he has not fought since May 2012.
“Over the last couple of years I lost my focus,” Gomez said. “I was only fighting for money and did not enjoy what I was doing. After the Klitschko fight I lost my motivation and love for the sport. But that changed dramatically. I'm back to my old self. And I want to become world champion again.”
Gomez said he was motivated by watching 41-year-old Guillermo Jones defeat Denis Lebedev in May to reclaim a cruiserweight title (which was later returned to Lebedev in the wake of Jones’ failed drug test).
“So I thought, I can do that, too. I can and will be world champion again,” said Gomez, adding that his aim to is to challenge cruiserweight titlist Krzysztof Wlodarczyk of Poland, who holds the belt Gomez once did.