Gomez keen on pulling the upset card -- again

Updated: April 11, 2008

Chris Farina/Top Rank

With all eyes on Cotto, right, Gomez has been able to fly under the radar.

Gomez a spoiler again?

Alfonso Gomez, the likeable welterweight voted the fan favorite during the first season of "The Contender" reality series, parlayed his popularity on the series into a fight with action star Arturo Gatti this past summer.

For weeks, HBO refused to accept Gomez as an opponent. It finally gave in to Gatti's handlers, who felt Gomez was the perfect foe for the aging Gatti. They felt Gomez was tough enough to hang with Gatti for a few rounds and make things exciting, but they also believed Gomez was an opponent Gatti ultimately would knock out.

Gatti was a big favorite going into the July bout, and promoter Main Events was so confident, it already had negotiated a deal with Top Rank to match Gatti with rising prospect Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in a November pay-per-view fight.

Seven rounds later, that plan, along with Gatti, lay in ruins. Gomez had battered and brutally knocked out Gatti, who announced his retirement after the bloody destruction.

Throughout the promotion, Gomez had been overlooked. To many, he was simply a reality show fighter. But Gomez (18-3-2, 8 KOs) never let it unnerve him, and he took great pride in upsetting Gatti's plans.

Now, he's stepping way up in class, but he's also hoping to upset more plans Saturday (10 p.m. ET, HBO), when he challenges welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto (31-0, 25 KOs) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., the same arena in which he crushed Gatti.

"I guess I carry that on my shoulders, being the underdog pretty much every fight," Gomez told ESPN.com this week. "I'm supposed to lose. But I'm looking forward to Saturday. People are overlooking me. If he is, it is a big mistake."

As Gatti did, Cotto already has his next fight planned, for July 26 on HBO PPV. If Cotto wins, he'll face the winner of the co-feature, which pits fellow welterweight titleholder Kermit Cintron (29-1, 27 KOs) in a rematch against ex-titleholder Antonio Margarito (35-5, 25 KOs), who knocked out Cintron in the fifth round to retain his belt in 2005.

Gomez

Jim Everett/FightWireImages.com

Don't be fooled by the smile -- Alfonso Gomez has upset on his mind.

"It motivated me to train harder. I want to spoil some more plans," Gomez said. "Gatti was supposed to fight Chavez Jr., and I spoiled those plans. So this is nothing new. Everything I'm going through now, I've gone through before. I know Cotto is one of the best champions in the world, but I'm looking to mess up his plans.

"Cotto can think about what is coming next. That's fine. I don't do that. I just want to win. It's a pride thing, especially if nobody believes in you. So it's more satisfaction to win when they think you can't and are already planning ahead."

Said "The Contender" promoter Jeff Wald: "The best laid plans of mice and men, as they say. I have a lot of respect for Cotto, but guys have had him hurt. They may not have had him down, but they had him hurt, and when guys have had him hurt, they back up. They do it for two reasons: to admire their work, and because Cotto has a dangerous left hand. So instead of going for the finish, they become defensive, because they're worried about that counterpunch. They're not closing him out. Gomez is a finisher."

Cotto's promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank, isn't very worried about Gomez, however.

"One thing I have going for me here is that Cotto isn't Gatti," Arum said. "So I applaud Alfonso for taking the position that he is going to pull a big upset. Maybe he will. That's boxing. That's why you put the event on -- because it's not definitely done until the verdict is in. But I wasn't surprised he beat Gatti. [Top Rank matchmaker Bruce] Trampler said Gomez was going to win, so it didn't surprise me. The reason we were looking at Gatti for Chavez, with all his experience, was because we believed Gatti was shot. Gomez showed us he was.

"He's the perfect opponent for Cotto. He comes to fight. It will be a thrilling, sensational fight for a number of rounds, and then Miguel's experience and ability will win out."

Even when Gomez tried out for "The Contender," he was an afterthought. He did not make the initial cut. Instead, he was an alternate who made the series just before filming began because another contestant fell out.

"I knew they would call me. I always believe in myself," Gomez said. "It was meant to be. Then I was voted the fan favorite. Then I got the Gatti fight. It was meant to be. I'm really confident I can take this title away from Cotto. I'm not nervous because I know where I am headed in life."

On the first "Contender" episode, the alternate elected to box Peter Manfredo, an undefeated fighter who was bigger and favored by many to win the tournament. Gomez beat him.

"He picked the toughest guy. He was gonna show everybody that he deserved to be there," Wald said. "Alfonso is the little engine that could. 'I think I can, I think I can.' Here he is now, facing an A-plus opponent, but he didn't hesitate to take the fight. There's no downside for this kid. Nobody expects him to win, so he has nothing to lose."

And, as he has shown before, he has everything to gain.

Dawson, Johnson ready to rumble

Tarver, Dawson, Johnson, Woods

Tom Casino/Showtime

The gang's all here: Tarver, Dawson, Johnson and Woods are ready to battle it out in Tampa, Fla.

Four of the premier light heavyweights will face off in two title bouts Saturday in Tampa, Fla. (9 p.m. ET/PT, Showtime), as England's Clinton Woods (41-3-1, 25 KOs) defends his belt against former champion Antonio Tarver (26-4, 19 KOs) of Tampa, and Chad Dawson defends his version of the title against Glen Johnson, a former champion who split two fights with Tarver and is 1-1-1 against Woods.

Dawson (25-0, 17 KOs) is making his third defense and is considered the future of the division by many. But aside from his title victory against Tomasz Adamek, Johnson (47-11-2, 32 KOs) represents his stiffest test.

"I have never been more anxious or ready for a fight," Dawson said. "I am determined to make a statement and prove to everybody that I am the No. 1 light heavyweight in the world. I have done all that's been asked, but I definitely feel I'm being underrated and not getting the respect I deserve. Some polls are flat out wrong for having some of the guys ranked ahead of me like they do. As far as I'm concerned all those polls are a farce.

"I have a lot of respect for Glen Johnson. He truly is a warrior, and I know he is coming to win the world title again. I expect him to give it everything he has. I am prepared for an onslaught. But he is 39 and I'm just 25."

Johnson, with a wealth of experience and a knockout win against Roy Jones, predicts he will knock out Dawson, too.

"I will knock out Dawson and wait to see who wins the Tarver-Woods battle so I can take them next," he said. "I will destroy Chad Dawson. He has no clue what's coming to him. I'm going to tear him apart."

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QUICK HITS

Diaz

• Lightweight titleholder David Diaz has signed to defend his belt against Manny Pacquiao, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com. "We got his contract [Tuesday]," Arum said. The HBO PPV fight is slated for June 28 at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay. Pacquiao will be gunning for a world title in his fifth weight class. He already has won championships at flyweight, junior featherweight, featherweight and junior lightweight.

Khan

• The Diaz-Pacquiao televised undercard also is taking shape. Arum said 2004 U.S. Olympian Vanes Martirosyan, a rising junior middleweight prospect, will be on the card, and he already has matched heavyweights Tye Fields and Monte Barrett. Arum said the co-feature might include rising lightweight star Amir Khan of England, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist and 2007 ESPN.com prospect of the year. Khan is a mandatory challenger for unified titlist Nate Campbell but could have eyes on a mega fight with Pacquiao instead. Arum said he and Frank Warren, Khan's promoter, are talking about putting Khan on the card and working their way toward an eventual meeting between the two. "We both like the idea," Arum said.

Klitschko

• Unified heavyweight titleholder Wladimir Klitschko (50-3, 44 KOs), with mandatory defenses due against Tony Thompson and Alexander Povetkin, received an exemption from the IBF to delay the Povetkin fight. The move clears the way for Klitschko to defend against WBO mandatory Thompson (31-1, 19 KOs). The bout is July 12 in Germany, and HBO plans live afternoon coverage along with a taped replay in prime time. If Klitschko wins, he'll face Povetkin in November, adviser Shelly Finkel told ESPN.com. "I am very happy about the fair decision by the IBF, because Thompson has already been waiting for a year as the mandatory challenger," Klitschko said. "There is a reason why Thompson is No. 1 in the world ranking -- he hasn't lost in eight years. I saw his knockout win in Germany over Luan Krasniqi and definitely will not underestimate him. I look forward to getting back into the ring in July and to defending the titles again by the end of the year."

Berto

• Welterweight Andre Berto (21-0, 18 KOs), the 2006 ESPN.com prospect of the year, will face Miki Rodriguez (29-2, 23 KOs) in an eliminator June 21 on HBO, Berto promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com. "Don [King] and I made a deal for the fight, and we're finishing the paperwork," DiBella said of the agreement with Rodriguez's promoter. The winner will become the mandatory challenger for Floyd Mayweather's alphabet belt. But since Mayweather is interested only in mega fights and neither Berto nor Rodriguez qualifies, it is more likely the winner will fight for an eventual vacant or interim title. The other fight on the card isn't set but could feature super middleweight slugger Edison Miranda against Fulgencio Zuniga, a fight HBO has approved, according to Miranda promoter Leon Margules. However, there also is a possibility the scrapped fight with ex-titleholder Mikkel Kessler could be resurrected for the show, he said. If Miranda-Kessler comes back together, it could be for a vacant belt, because Anthony Mundine, who will defend his WBA title against Sam Soliman on May 28 in Australia, plans to give up the belt if he wins and move down to middleweight, according to the WBA.

Buffer

• Three weeks after undergoing successful surgery to remove cancerous tumors from his throat and neck, ring announcer Michael Buffer of "Let's get ready to rumble" fame announced Thursday that he is at home recovering and will return to announce the April 19 Bernard Hopkins-Joe Calzaghe light heavyweight championship fight. "The cancer was detected at a very early stage in mid-February, and three weeks ago, I was operated on by one of the best surgeons in the field," Buffer said in a statement. "I am recovering well and feel stronger every day. The early detection prevented any spread that would have jeopardized my vocal ability. I am looking forward to being back in the ring next week." Buffer, a former smoker, quit 35 years ago but thinks the habit might have caused his cancer. "Hopefully, my circumstances will encourage others to avoid smoking and secondhand smoke when possible, and please get regular checkups," he said.

Arreola

• Heavyweight prospect Cristobal Arreola (23-0, 21 KOs) is slated to open the "ShoBox" card in the Cayman Islands, which is headlined by 2004 Olympic gold medalist Andre Ward's super middleweight match with 2000 Olympian Jerson Ravelo. The card will take place June 13 or June 20. Promoter Dan Goossen told ESPN.com that he is finalizing his deal with Showtime and trying to secure an opponent for Arreola, America's brightest rising heavyweight.

Penalosa

• Before bantamweight titlist Gerry Penalosa dominated mandatory challenger Ratanachai Sor Vorapin for an eighth-round TKO last week in the Philippines, discussions had centered on Penalosa moving up to junior featherweight and titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon traveling to Manila to give him a rematch. However, Penalosa stayed at bantamweight when negotiations fell apart after Ponce De Leon, who outpointed Penalosa in March 2007 in a bout that appeared far more competitive than the lopsided scorecards, rejected the offer. A rematch still could be in the cards if Ponce De Leon wins his June 7 mandatory on HBO against Juan Manuel Lopez. "We'll see what happens with Ponce's fight. If he gets past Lopez, he would consider going to the Philippines now," Eric Gomez of Golden Boy, which promotes Ponce De Leon and Penalosa, told ESPN.com. "He is not overlooking Lopez, but he understands the money that is available for the Penalosa fight, and if he beats Lopez, he's willing now to go to the Philippines. Gerry wants big fights, and we're trying to get him the biggest fight possible."

Quintana

• Showtime's June 7 doubleheader featuring junior middleweight titlist Vernon Forrest facing Sergio Mora and the rematch between welterweight beltholder Carlos Quintana and Paul Williams has a home. After sites from Texas to New York were mentioned, the card will take place at the Mohegan Sun resort in Uncasville, Conn.

Lacy

• Ex-super middleweight titlist Jeff Lacy probably will fight on the May 31 HBO PPV card headlined by the Shane Mosley-Zab Judah welterweight bout, according to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer. However, he's unlikely to face Allan Green, as had been discussed previously. Matchmaker Eric Gomez said Lacy-Green still is possible, but after the May 31 bout.

Bute

• Super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute will be sidelined for six weeks because of a leg injury, Canadian promoter Interbox announced. Bute had to make an emergency visit to an orthopedist and was ordered to rest, although the particulars of the injury were not disclosed. The time off means that when Bute returns, he'll likely have to face mandatory challenger Librado Andrade, since he will be out of time to make a second optional defense.

King

• Promoter Don King announced that his first promotional venture on the Internet, the March 27 card headlined by Verno Phillips upsetting Cory Spinks to win a junior middleweight belt, drew 400,000 total page views from 200,000 unique users. The card was available only at www.DongKingTV.com. "I am delighted with the super-sensational response to my first webcast at DonKingTV.com," King said in a statement. "I felt the timing was right for me to begin providing boxing matches on the Internet, and the public's response with more than 200,000 individual visitors logging on in 94 countries has confirmed that. It's definitely the wave of the future, and Don King Productions will be on the leading edge."

Quotable

Calzaghe

"I'm delighted that an experienced and well-respected referee like Joe Cortez is in charge of our fight, but he's going to have very little to do, apart from giving Hopkins a count to 10." -- super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe, musing on the selection of Cortez to referee his April 19 fight in Las Vegas against light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins.