By Ben Carey
Amir Khan’s claims that he is genuinely ready to challenge for a world title will not be strengthened if, as expected, he brushes aside faded crowd-pleaser Michael Gomez at Birmingham’s National Indoor Arena on June 21.
Gomez’s colourful vernacular and “in-your-face” bravado is sure to shift some tickets in the build-up to Khan’s 18th pro outing but those have grown accustomed to Gomez’s hot air over the years are bracing themselves for what could prove uncomfortable viewing. Though still only 30, Gomez is at the end of his punishing career and has lost three of his last six, all inside-the-distance, to lesser foes than Khan.
Those who questioned beforehand how much the similarly battle-hardened Graham Earl had left prior to receiving his one-round pasting from Khan in December are already labeling Khan vs Gomez a mismatch before the opening bell has rung.
It’s worth pointing out however that Gomez has been written off more times than a one-legged man in an arse kicking contest throughout his 13-year career, most notably after he suffered stoppage losses to Laszlo Bognar and Kevin Lear between 2001 and 2002. It was probably these comprehensive drubbings that convinced Alex Arthur’s handlers that the face-first Gomez would be easy pickings for the then unbeaten Scot in October 2003.
Five bloody and unforgettable rounds later, Arthur was flat on his back in front of a stunned partisan Edinburgh crowd. But Gomez’s most famous victory seems an awful long time ago now and the 2008 version of the “mad Mexican” looks a shell of the dangerous, rampaging warrior of old.
Gomez, who has contested virtually all of his 43 fights at super-featherweight, looked finished when he was emphatically beaten by Carl Johanneson and stopped in six-rounds when challenging for the British super-featherweight crown last October. It was a contest that many fancied Gomez to win against the mentally fragile Johanneson, who had been hammered by Leva Kirakosyan for the European crown three months earlier. To emphasize Gomez’s decline, the Manchester slugger had previously stopped Kirakosyan himself in 2004.
The selection of Gomez, in what is expected to be Khan’s last fight to be broadcast live on terrestrial channel ITV (at least in the near future), is a backward step and a long way short of the acid test that Khan has long since boasted he is ready for. A rematch with Willie Limmond, who had Khan down and almost out last year, would have been more intriguing than seeing the Olympic silver medalist embark on some target practice against Gomez. Better still, European lightweight champion Yuri Romanov would have provided a stern examination of Khan’s world credentials.
It would seem that Gomez’s only hope would be if Khan becomes complacent after axing trainer Oliver Harrison and placing Sports Network’s matchmaker Dean Powell in temporary charge of his corner while he seeks to appoint a high-profile trainer from America.
Stranger things have happened and the absence of Harrison may prove a harder void to fill than the self-assured Khan has imagined. On the night when he unexpectedly lost to Gomez, Alex Arthur was supposed to have the presence of top trainer Freddie Roach in his corner until Roach pulled out after a contractual challenge by Manny Pacquaio. While Arthur was no stranger to Terry McCormack who led the Scot’s corner on the night, Gomez took full advantage of Arthur’s lack of focus, flooring him three times in five, dramatic rounds.
It would be considered a major upset if Khan was to fall into a similar trap.