Michael Gomez

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Name: Michael Gomez
Alias: Predator
Birth Name: Michael Armstrong
Hometown: Manchester, Lancashire, United Kingdom
Birthplace: Longford, Ireland
Stance: Orthodox
Height: 166cm
Reach: 173cm
Pro Boxer: Record

Michael Gomez, known as "the Predator" or "the Irish Mexican", (born Michael Armstrong, 21 June 1977 in Longford, County Longford, Ireland) is a professional boxer who grew up in an Irish Traveller family in Dublin, Ireland and Moston, Manchester, England.

Gomez fights in the super featherweight division; however, he has also fought in the featherweight and lightweight divisions.

Gomez, often compared to Johnny Tapia – who also lived a turbulent life, was often involved in controversial and explosive fights, with each of his last sixteen fights have ended within the distance.

Background

Gomez was born into an Irish gypsy family in Longford, Ireland and from birth his upbringing was both turbulent and uncertain. As his mother was driving she started to go in to labour so Gomez' father (who was partially blind) took over the driving and not surprisingly crashed the car into a lamp post. Michael's mother gave birth to him on the back seat of the car.

Gomez is from a family of nine brothers and sisters, who moved initially to Ballymun, Dublin and then when Gomez was aged ten the Armstrong family moved to Manchester in the northwest of England.

Following their move to England, the family experienced problems - the eyesight of Gomez's father began to fail and his mother left the family to elope with another woman, their next door neighbour.

Gomez subsequently spent much of his youth in various children's homes. A serial truant from school, his mother had taught him to shoplift as a child and he was involved in petty crime throughout his youth in Manchester.

Aged nine, Gomez began training at Bryan Hughes' Collyhurst and Moston Boys' Club. He also played football for a local north Manchester team until the club received so many fines for Gomez's fighting on the pitch that they were unable to pay them. At this point Gomez had to stop playing football and concentrate on boxing.

Gomez, whose real name is Michael Armstrong, was forced to change his name by the British Boxing Board of Control when signing as a professional boxer because there was another boxer in the same weight division with the same name. He chose the name Gomez in honour of Puerto Rican boxer Wilfredo Gómez.

In 1996, Gomez was charged with murder after a gang fight outside a nightclub in Manchester. Gomez had hit one of the men, Sam Powell, who as a result of the blow banged his head on the pavement and died. The murder charge was later reduced to a charge of manslaughter and Gomez was cleared of the charges after it was ruled that he had acted in self-defence.

During another streetfight Gomez was stabbed and temporarily died when his heart stopped beating for 48 seconds whilst on the operating table. Gomez was accused of spending too much time in the pub when he should’ve been in the gym. He has also been convicted of drink driving had to serve a ten year driving ban.

Gomez became engaged to his fiancée, Alison after they had been together for 16 years and had three children together. They got married in November 2007.

Early career

Ring persona

Gomez had a brawling all out action style which earned him the nickname of "the Irish Mexican". His ring entrance music was that of a Mexican Mariachi band, a reference to his Mexican sounding chosen name, and many of his supporter would wear sombreros to his fights. Gomez wore long Mexican style boxing shorts in the colours of the Irish tricolour and often had the shape of a shamrock shaven into the hair on the back of his head.

Debut as a professional

Gomez boxed as an amateur before turning professional in June 1995, winning his first fight at the G-Mex Leisure Centre, Manchester, England, in which Gomez beat previously undefeated Danny Ruegg on an undercard of a bill that included Robin Reid and Michael Brodie.

Despite this initial win Gomez's early career was littered with losses to journeymen fighters such as Greg Upton, Chris Williams and he suffered a reversal to Danny Ruegg. All 3 defeats were by only half a point.

Title fights

After an initially shaky beginning in the professional ranks, Gomez then went on a run of victories. From September 1997 to February 1999, Gomez won seven straight fights before he fought for his first title belt, the vacant British Central Area featherweight title against Chris Jickells on 27 February 1999 in Oldham, England. Gomez handled Jickells with ease winning the title with a fifth round knockout. Gomez followed his first title win by adding another title, the IBF Intercontinental featherweight title, this time with a second round knockout over Nigel Leake.

Move to Super featherweight

Soon after, Gomez relinquished his belts in a bid to move up to the super featherweight division. His first fight as a super featherweight was in Atlantic City, America at the Trump Taj Mahal against William Alverzo which Gomez won on a 6 round decision. The following month he challenged for the vacant British super featherweight title against the experienced Liverpudlian campaigner Gary Thornhill at the York Hall, Bethnal Green in the Autumn of 1999. Gomez defeated Thornhill with a second round knockout of his opponent.[1] His following fight in November 1999 was against Mexican Jose Manjarrez for the WBO Inter-Continental Super Featherweight title which Gomez won on a points decision over twelve rounds in what would be his last fight of 1999. 1999 had been a very successful year for Gomez winning 4 title belts and 7 fights.

The unbeaten streak continues on into the year 2000

Gomez continued the success he enjoyed in 1999 with another streak of six wins in 2000 starting off in January with a tune up rematch against Chris Jickells, this time stopping him in the 4th. This was to sharpen him up for his fight the following month with the respected Dean Pithie in defence of his British Super Featherweight title. Gomez outpointed Pithie over 12 rounds by the score 117-113. Next up in June Gomez had another tune up against journeyman Carl Allen winning by a 2nd round knockout. In July Gomez defended his British title for the second time with another 2nd round knockout over Carl Greaves. In October Gomez again travelled to the states to fight journeyman Awel Abdulai winning on an 8 round decision. Two months later to finish off the year, Gomez defended his British title for the 3rd time to win the title outright against Scotsman Ian McLeod. Gomez won by the score 118-110.

Bognar fights

His first fight in 2001 was on 10th February against Hungarian Laszlo Bognar for the WBO Intercontinental Super Featherweight title in Widnes, Cheshire, England. Going into the fight Gomez was the favourite and had been tipped to win the fight easily. Gomez had Bognar on the canvas in the fifth round after landing a crushing left hook and although Bognar was shaken Gomez was unable to make his power count and finish the fight. Bognar recovered from his knockdown and kept Gomez at bay with his southpaw jab and in the ninth round Gomez was stopped after referee Dave Paris stepped in following a double left from Bognar which had Gomez stricken against the ropes unable to properly defend himself. Gomez felt the fight had been stopped prematurely and that he should have been allowed to continue in the fight.

Gomez later stated that he was suffering from flu and should not have taken the fight, however others pointed to his well publicised out of the ring troubles. There had been reports in the press that Gomez was not training regularly, that he had not stuck to his diet and had been out drinking and clubbing. Reports also circulated that Gomez was having trouble in his private life and that he had been stabbed in a streetfight.

Gomez wanted to rematch against Bognar and five months later, in July 2001, the pair had a rematch in Manchester what what turned out to be a short and explosive encounter. The fight started badly for Gomez when he suffered a flash knockdown in the first round and was down again in the second, but Gomez then stunningly came storming back to put Bognar down near the end of the second round. Gomez came out firing on all cylinders at the start of the third round and finished the fight with a fourth and final knockdown to gain revenge for his defeat earlier in the year.

Defeat to Kevin Lear

Gomez followed up his victory over Bognar with another British title win over Craig Docherty via a second round TKO against the Scottish fighter on a high profile bill that included David Barnes, future opponent Alex Arthur, Anthony Farnell, Junior Witter, Eamonn Magee, Freddie Pendleton and Ricky Hatton at the MEN Arena on 27 October 2001.

His next opponent was unbeaten West Ham based fighter Kevin Lear on 1 June 2002 again at the MEN on the undercard of the Ricky Hatton v Eamonn Magee fight.

From the outset of the fight Lear, a former ABA champion, kept a one-dimensional Gomez at bay with his sharp jab. Lear inflicted damage to the nose of Gomez who's nose began to bleed heavily from the sixth round. By the eighth round Gomez was slowly suffering the effects of Lear's continuous barrage of combinations. At the end of the eighth round Gomez's trainer Brian Hughes retired Gomez giving Lear a surprising victory.

Move to the Phoenix Gym

The defeat to Lear, and the manner in which the fight ended, prompted Gomez's longtime mentor and trainer, Brian Hughes, to ask Gomez to quit boxing. This event signalled the end of the relationship between Gomez and Hughes and soon after Gomez crossed Manchester to join Ricky Hatton and former Collyhurst gym stablemate Anthony Farnell at the rival Phoenix Gym run by Billy Graham.

Alex Arthur fight

Again in what was becoming a predictable pattern in Gomez's career he followed the defeat to Lear with a string of three wins, all by knockout against journeymen Jimmy Beech, Rakhim Mingaleyev and Wladimir Borov. Gomez then fought in what is the highest profile fight of his career against Edinburgh based fighter "Amazing" Alex Arthur for the British and WBA International Super Featherweight titles. The fight took place at a sold out Meadowbank Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland in October 2003, in what was the first professional boxing card in the city for almost 20 years.

A war of words was waged between the two fighters prior to the fight, Arthur had stirred up the animosity between the pair stating in an interview that Gomez "gets involved in wars with journeymen", that "looking deep into Gomez’s eyes at the press conference, I’m not sure even he believes he can win. He’ll be so fired up I expect it’ll take me eight or nine rounds but, if his resistance has gone as people are saying, it could be a lot sooner" and "I see about 20 ways to beat him. I'm just looking forward to shutting him up.".

Arthur, who was looking to retain the Lonsdale belt, was seen as a rising star in British boxing and was being groomed to be a future world champion. Arthur was a strong favourite to defeat Gomez and this fight was seen a as stepping stone against a Gomez who it was perceived had been through too many battles and abused his body too much with alcohol and cocaine.

From the third round the fight began to turn Gomez' way. Gomez cut Arthur in the third and silenced the home crowd, who were not used to seeing Arthur being punished in this manner. Gomez again dominated the fourth round and was in full control of the fight and had exposed Arthur's non-existent defence and at one stage landed 28 punches without reply.

Gomez won the bad tempered contest by delivering an explosive knock-out to Arthur in the fifth round. Arthur was dropped heavily three times in front of his adoring home fans before referee, John Coyle, stopped the fight as Arthur was knocked to the canvas for the third time. The fight was hailed as own of the best best fights in Britain for a decade. Boxing promoter Frank Warren called the fight "the greatest contest seen on these shores since Nigel Benn beat Gerald McClellan in 1995".

WBU world title and Arthur rematch

The relationship between Arthur and Gomez would continue to fester when Gomez attended Arthurs next fight which was against Ugandan Michael Kizza in Meadowbank, Scotland.[23] On 3 March 2004, Gomez fought Ghanaian Ben Odamattey for the WBU super featherweight title at the MEN Arena in Manchester.[24] Gomez won the title, stopping Odamattey in the third round.

Gomez commented that he had attended Arthur's fight but Arthur had not turned up to his, stating "I gatecrashed Arthur's party by beating him for the British title in his own city of Edinburgh. Why didn't he come and watch my fight in Manchester on Saturday night? Sky Television want a return. Frank Warren, Arthur's manager, wants a re-match. And most of all so do I."

Arthur responded saying "the fight (with Gomez) is definitely going to happen. Hopefully I'll get another warm-up fight in June and then take on Gomez in September."

Gomez retained his WBU title in his next two fights over Justin Juuko and Leva Kirakosyan with knockout wins and then faced Argentinian boxer "El Vikingo" Javier Osvaldo Alvarez. The fight took place on 11 February 2005 and was Gomez's eighth fight at the MEN Arena. Joe Calzaghe pulled out of his arranged fight and it was left to Gomez to top the bill at the MEN.[25][26]

The pair clashed at the weigh in and Gomez stated "I'm raring to go and Alvarez is going to be knocked spark out", this venom was translated into the fight. From the outset of the fight Gomez tried draw Alvarez into a war. Gomez appeared to win the first two rounds behind stinging jabs, however, Alvarez seemed unruffled.[27] In the third round the fight began to turn in Alvarez' favour as Gomez' face began to mark up badly. The fourth round was all action, as usual Gomez began quickly, attacking Alvarez from behind his jab and working his way through the guard of Alarvez.

Alvarez, appearing content to catch Gomez as he came forward and near the end of the round he rocked Gomez with a stiff right hand shot, after which the Argentinean launched into a furious onslaught onto the "Irish Mexican". Gomez steadied in the fifth but was visibly tired. Gomez started the sixth brightly but two minutes into the round Gomez was caught flush by a clubbing right hand which floored him. Gomez beat the count and Alvarez then moved in to finish the fight. Mickey Vann duly stopped the fight after after 2 minutes 25 seconds of the round with Gomez pinned to the ropes and taking a lot of puishment from Alvarez.

Peter McDonagh controversy

Gomez was then out of the ring for almost a year and was due to fight Willie Limond for the WBU lightweight title but Gomez turned down that opportunity for a chance to fight for an Irish title. Gomez then signed up to fight fellow English based Irish traveller Peter McDonagh, for the Irish lightweight title on the undercard of a Bernard Dunne fight on 28 January 2006 at the National Stadium, Dublin, Ireland. After the fight was signed Gomez stated "I just can’t wait to get my hands on that Irish title because I’ve been desperate to fight in Ireland for years".

Leading up to the fight McDonagh was making visits to see the famous paranormalist Uri Geller as mind coach to help him mentally prepared for the fight and Geller also travelled with him to Dublin for the fight. Gomez commented that "I’m not sure Uri Geller will be of much use to him though because there won’t be any spoon’s in that ring for him to bend. The only thing I plan on bending is some of McDonagh’s ribs with my body punches".

The first four rounds were relatively close with Gomez leading according to pundits but the fight ended in the fifth round in bizarre circumstances when for no apparent reason Gomez stopped fighting and failed to defend himself, he then received a number of unanswered punches from McDonagh before being floored. Gomez rose from the canvas immediately but appeared to ignore the referee and walk towards his corner while the referee continued with his count, and then left the ring as the referee was waving the fight off. The RTÉ commentator Steve Collins commented that "I smell a rat, something's not right here".

The Boxing Union of Ireland (BUI) initially suspended both fighters purses, and investigated reports of unusual betting patterns and large sums of money being placed on McDonagh to win inside the distance and more specifically in the fifth round after on McDonagh to win the fight in the fifth-round had been cut from 125-1 to 18-1 by the afternoon of the bout.

Following an investigation, the BUI released the purses to each of the fighters, stating "Michael Gomez and Peter McDonagh confirmed that neither they, their families, nor any person in their camp, as far as they were aware, betted on the fight", but expressing disappointment that the bookmaker Boylesports, who had suspended wagering on the bout due to the unusual betting patterns, had chosen not to reply to the investigators' queries.

Gomez later explained the loss by saying that "it was all very simple, I just came to a decision in there that I need to retire from boxing full stop". Gomez further indicated that he planned to pursue a career in bodybuilding. McDonagh, meanwhile, claimed that he had won because Uri Geller had helped him mentally prepare for the fight.

His trainer Billy Graham told PA Sport: "It is ludicrous and laughable, and it would be tragic if a guy like Michael who has given so much to the sport ended his career under a black cloud.

"If Michael was going to throw a fight why would have put himself through it all again, working hard and showing the ambition to get back to the top again.

"Michael has gone to the well so many times and shown indomitable courage. There is no quitter in Michael but it had to come to an end some time.

"The ending was sad enough, never mind for it to come with allegations that he has thrown a fight as well."

Graham, who confirmed Gomez would now retire from the sport irrespective of the outcome of the investigation, also insisted modern boxing was virtually untainted by such scandal.

He added: "I started boxing when I was 15 and I've spent all my life around boxers and never known anyone be approached to throw a fight.

"All I know about fixed fights is those old black and white films - I know it used to happen but all this stuff about Saturday is just sensationalist rubbish."

Final return to the ring

After the McDonagh fight Gomez had retired from boxing, however, 15 months later he returned to boxing defeating Daniel Thorpe at the Altrincham Lesuire Centre, Manchester in May 2007 by a 3rd round knockout.

Gomez had left the Phoenix Gym and was now training at Bobby Rimmers' Boxing Academy in Stalybridge, Manchester and had moved back down to fight in the super featherweight division. The fight was billed as "The Last Stand" and the venue was sold out with fellow fighters Ricky Hatton, Matthew Hatton, Robin Reid and Jamie Moore all being in attendance to witness the return of Gomez. Gomez won the fight with a stoppage in the third round. The following month Gomez also beat Youssef Al Hamidi again with a third round stoppage.

"Nowhere to run, nowhere to hide"

Following two comeback fights against journeyman opposition Gomez was linked with fights against many of Britain and Ireland's top level super featherweight's and super featherweight including Kevin Mitchell, Amir Khan, Carl Johanneson and a rematch against Peter McDonagh.

He then signed up to face Leeds' Carl Johanneson on 19 October 2007 at the Doncaster Dome, Doncaster, England]] for the British super featherweight title. Gomez was stopped in 6 rounds and his career at British level now looked to be over.

Michael Gomez signed up to fight Scotland's Lee McAllister from Aberdeen on 29 March 2008 at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre for the WBU Lightweight title. Unfortunately the fight never happened. Gomez instead outpointed journeyman Baz Carey over 4 rounds before signing a fight against unbeaten 2004 Olympic Silver Medalist Amir Khan. This was the biggest stage of Gomez' career fighting on terestrial television with millions of people watching the fight live on ITV. Khan came out with blazing handspeed looking to end the fight early. Gomez fought back and gave Khan a huge scare when he dropped him with a quick-fire left hook. Gomez' warrior spirit was on full display. As the fight went on it was clear that Gomez was a shell of his former self and by the 5th round he was just a punching bag for Khan although he refused to quit. The old snap and quickness of his work had gone and he was rescued in the 5th round.

3 months later and Gomez was back again fighting Chris Brophy (TKO2) and the following month he again outpointed Baz Carey but this time over 6 rounds. Gomez ended 2008 with what would be the final win of his professional career, a 6 round decision over journeyman Chris Long.

In the last bout of his career, Gomez fought the ever-improving Scotsman Ricky Burns for the Commonwealth super featherweight title. Burns, who would go on to become a 3-weight world champion would prove to be too much for Gomez at this stage in his career and stopped him in 7 rounds ending what had been a brilliant career filled with many exciting wars.

The Michael Gomez Story: The Movie

In 2007 a film depicting the life of Michael Gomez began production. Andrew `Barney' McHugh, wrote the script based on Gomez's frenzied life and Gomez commented that "Everyone dreams about having a film made about their life and I'm no different."

The part of Gomez is played by Jody Latham, who also plays Lip Gallagher in Shameless and the part of Gomez's best friend and fellow boxer Michael Jennings is played by Emmerdale's Kelvin Fletcher.

Interview on his career

Michael Gomez interviewed on his life and career by former world champion Bernard Dunne.

http://www.rte.ie/radio1/doconone/2014/0626/647675-documentary-podcast-michael-gomez-bernard-dunne-boxing-mexican/

Unlicensed fights

Gomez said after his final professional bout against Ricky Burns that he wanted two more fights to make his final fight record total 50. He instead chose to finish his career in unlicensed boxing, scoring knockout victories over Rob Newbigun (KO3) on August 14th 2009 at the Ritz in Manchester and then vs Higgins (KO?) also in 2009. Gomez decided to have another bout, winning a 6 round decision on Friday August 13th 2010 at the Ritz in Manchester over Kieran Kumberath in what would be the final fight of his career.