Fight #42: Wilfredo Gomez vs. Lupe Pintor, December 3, 1982, Superdome, New Orleans, Louisiana
Over the weekend, I watched Juan Francisco Estrada's controversial split decision victory over Roman "Chocolatito" Gonzalez for the unified super flyweight (115 pound) title. Most ringside observers thought Gonzalez won the fight, but I had it an even draw, 114-114, and think you can make a solid case for either fighter as the winner. It was an all-action fight, with both men throwing over 1,000 punches and landing over 300. There was very little to choose between them, but Gonzalez is one of the most respected fighters in the sport, a future first-ballot Hall of Famer. And the announcers for the fight seemed to focus almost exclusively on the shots landed by Gonzalez, and largely ignored what Estrada was doing. This created the false impression that Gonzalez was actually dominating the fight when in reality it was very close and the winner highly subjective. People often say that bad judging does a lot to hurt boxing, but I actually think the bigger issue is that writers aren't honest about how subjective the sport actually is, and therefore cry robbery whenever the judges don't see the fight the same way they did.
Wilfredo Gomez and Lupe Pintor are both Hall of Famers today, and their 1982 war took place 7 pounds north of the Estrada-Gonzalez fight. Going into this one, the Mexican Pintor had 38 knockouts in 49 wins, including a 1980 bludgeoning of Johnny Owen that led to Owen's death. Yet Pintor wasn't the biggest puncher in this fight. Gomez, the reigning two-time super-bantamweight champion from Puerto Rico, had 37 knockouts in 37 victories to this point, with only one defeat coming against future Hall of Famer Salvador Sanchez.
Gomez's style in this match was to keep the fight on the outside, keeping Pintor on the end of his left jab and then step in to land crushing right hands to Pintor's face. For the first two rounds, the fight plan worked well, as Gomez controlled the action and dealt out a steady dose of punishment to Pintor. In the third round, the fight changed. Early in the round, Pintor was hurt by Gomez and retreated to the ropes, where Gomez looked to finish him off. But here Pintor discovered something: he could handle Gomez's power so long as he laid on the ropes, which seemed to be very loose for this fight. Allowing those loose ropes to absorb some of the punishment, Pintor was able to bring Gomez close enough that he could counter and hurt the Puerto Rican fighter. By the end of the round, Pintor, who looked to be out on his feet at the start, was the one landing the heavier blows, driving Gomez back and now dictating the action for the first time.
That round established the pattern for the fight. Pintor would either take Gomez's best punches to bring him in close enough to hurt him to the body, or would bob and weave on the outside to make Gomez miss, then step in with his own attack. By the sixth round, a frustrated Gomez deliberately hit Pintor with an elbow, which caused referee Arthur Mercante to take a point from Gomez and put Pintor in the lead, at least by my scoring. After that pivotal round, Gomez looked to reestablish control of the fight by moving around the ring, keeping Pintor on the end of his jab. But all that movement and all the punches thrown were taking their toll on Gomez. By the 11th round, Gomez was so exhausted that his own cornermen were running into the ring at the end of each round to carry Gomez back to his stool.
Gomez hurt Pintor early in the 12th round, driving Pintor back to the ropes and unleashing a furious fusillade of punches on Pintor. But Pintor used those loose ropes to absorb some of the impact of the blows, and not only survived the round but punctuated it at the end with a counter-attack that drove a completely exhausted Gomez back against the ropes. At that point in the fight, I had Gomez ahead by a couple rounds, but if I had been watching it live I would have predicted that Pintor would win the fight. Gomez was completely exhausted, and Pintor still looked fresh. Sure enough, Pintor controlled the 13th round as a worn out Gomez seemed barely able to lift his arms to throw his punches.
But maybe Gomez took that round off to preserve his strength for one more push. In the 14th round, Gomez caught Pintor with an awkward shot to the top of his head that suddenly sent the Mexican tumbling to the canvas for the first time in the fight. Bareley beating the count, Pintor rose to his feet only to be battered again with a string of punches, culminating in a left hook to the body, a straight right, and then a perfectly timed left to the chin that sent Pintor back down to the canvas, ending the fight. Pintor handled Gomez's power, until he couldn't.
A couple other notes on this fight:
This is considered one of the classic fights of the long-standing rivalry between Mexican and Puerto Rican fighters. With the victory, Gomez avenged the only previous defeat of his career, a knockout loss to Mexican Hall of Famer Salvador Sanchez one year earlier.
Watching this fight made me wonder how different some of the outcomes of recent boxing matches might be if fights still went 15 rounds. But alas, just two weeks before Gomez-Pintor, Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini had knocked out Kim Duk-koo in the 14th round of a nationally-televised fight. That tragedy would help bring about the end of 15-round championship fights.
Here is the video of the fight: