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List of Articles by Joaquin Henson



To file or not to file

By Joaquin Henson
PhilBoxing.com
27 May 2019


Burnett (L) and Gomera in action.

Superbantamweight boxer Jelbirt Gomera said yesterday he was paid the full purse of $6,000 for his recent fight against Englishman Ryan Burnett in Belfast but couldn’t perform to his potential because of an exhausting 24-hour journey that brought him from Manila to the Northern Ireland capital the night before the bout.

The trip was doomed from the start. Filipino matchmaker Art Monis said he was asked to find an opponent for Burnett by a Chinese contact who was tipped off by an agent working out of a Dubai company. That was last April 7. Monis said no fighter from Japan or Thailand was interested to fight in Belfast and no Indonesian was qualified to take on Burnett in a 12-round bout for the vacant WBC International superbantamweight title.

“Qualified si Gomera,” said Monis who arranged the fight with Gomera’s manager Brico Santig. “Galing sa panalo at dati siyang OPBF Silver featherweight champion.” For the record, Gomera was coming off a win by an eight-round unanimous decision over Lloyd Jardeliza for the Luzon Professional Boxing Association featherweight crown. In 2017, he stopped Venezuela’s Omrri Bolivar in the fifth round to claim the vacant OPBF Silver featherweight title. But in between the Bolivar and Jardeliza wins, he lost to Can Xu on a seventh round stoppage. And before beating Bolivar, he’d lost three in a row. So Gomera had won only twice in his last six outings.

It took GAB two weeks to approve Gomera’s application for travel clearance because the request was initially denied. Then, Gomera applied for a UK visa and that, too, was initially denied. He was finally given his UK multiple-entry visa on the morning of May 15, Wednesday. By then, Monis had received notice that the fight would be downgraded to a non-title 10-rounder. Monis booked Gomera and his trainer Rod Sarguilla to leave Manila for Belfast that Wednesday evening. But when they checked in at the Cathay Pacific counter, they were not allowed to board because their route to Belfast included a stopover in Dublin which requires a visa separate from the UK. Monis rebooked their tickets on Etihad and this time, the route went from Manila to Abu Dhabi to Manchester to Belfast. Gomera and Sarguilla took off at 1 a.m. on May 16, Thursday. The fight was scheduled at 10 p.m. the next day.

During a 4 1/2 hour stopover in Abu Dhabi, Gomera received a text from Monis that the fight against Burnett would be reinstated for the title. That meant Gomera had to make the weight limit of 122. “Bago kami lumipad, kumain muna ako ng lomi sa airport,” said Gomera. “Noong sinabi sa akin na tuloy yung title fight, hindi ako kumain mula sa Abu Dhabi hanggang dumating kami sa Belfast." Gomera starved himself for 15 straight hours. Gomera and Sarguilla arrived in Belfast at 6 p.m. on May 16. They were whisked to the Park Inn Hotel where Gomera was weighed in by promoter Lee Eaton. The official weigh-in had taken place about four hours before. After stepping on the scales, Gomera was brought to a hospital for a medical check-up. Gomera said he wasn't given a chance to eat.

That night, Gomera slept only about four hours, struggling with the time zone. The next morning, he looked for rice and "sabaw" but the hotel breakfast menu had nothing of the sort. For lunch, Gomera went to a restaurant that served rice. In the afternoon, he napped a little and by 7 p.m., he was at the Ulster Hall. Gomera was told the fight would be at 10 p.m. By 9 p.m., Sarguilla started to wrap Gomera’s hands. At 9:20 p.m., Eaton burst into his dressing room and told him to march to the ring. Eaton allegedly berated and cursed Gomera for not being ready. Gomera hadn’t done mitts, stretched nor warmed up because he thought the fight would start at 10 p.m. Without a bead of perspiration, Gomera entered the ring like a lamb ready to be sacrificed.

“Mahina ang suntok ni Burnett,” he said. “Tinamaan niya ako sa mukha, walang epekto. Sa second round, na-corner ko siya pero nakawala. Tingin ko, nasaktan ko siya. Ang problema, bago nagumpisa ang laban, hilo na ko at mahina na ang tuhod ko. Wala akong lakas gawa ng mahabang biyahe. Namura ako ni Mr. Eaton kaya nagalala ako at baka hindi ako bayaran. Hindi ako takot kay Burnett. Payag ako mag-rematch sa Belfast, yun lang dapat at least apat na araw or sana one week nandoon na ko before the fight.” Before the fight, it was disclosed that no title would be at stake and the distance would be 10 rounds. Gomera’s weight was announced at 122 3/4, the same as Burnett. Gomera said he was also told that under British rules, referee John Latham would be the sole judge. As it turned out, Gomera quit at 2:01 of the sixth round. He never went down but couldn’t continue because of his condition.

Monis said he rebooked the tickets of Gomera and Sarguilla thrice and incurred additional expenses. Eaton reimbursed some of his expenses but not all. Monis said he’ll talk to Santig about filing a complaint with GAB so that an investigation could be conducted to determine culpability if Gomera was aggrieved in any way. Monis said Gomera isn’t inclined to file because it might affect his chances to get more fights. “Wala na ba tayong karapatan na mag-reklamo sa di magandang pag-trato ng promoter sa Pilipino boxer?” asked Monis. “Paano tayo irerespeto ng mga promoter sa ibang bansa kung tameme lang tayo?”

GAB chairman Abraham Mitra said he was informed that Gomera has decided not to file a complaint. Monis, however, said he hopes Gomera will change his mind and seek redress for the shabby treatment he received in Belfast.


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