SALT LAKE CITY — Every day for five years, Larry Gomez wrestled with regret.
More than a year ago, he began fighting for his dreams.
The 20-year-old West Valley fighter is one of six boxers representing Utah and the Rocky Mountain Region in the National Golden Gloves Tournament, which begins Monday at the Salt Palace.
Gomez said he didn’t realize what the sport meant to him until he faced every day without it.
“I was just confused,” Gomez said of his feeling that he’d outgrown boxing when he was 14. “I didn’t know what I wanted at the time. I loved the sport. I felt bad every day that I didn’t box.”
So he went to his uncle who’d trained him since he was 8 and asked if he could get back into the sport.
“I’d heard that so many times between my other kids and his brother, that I said, ‘Yeah, we’ll see,’ ” said coach G. Michael Gomez. “I kind of gave up on the fact that he’d be a boxer. I said, ‘I’ll always be there for you, I will always have the door open for you when you’re ready.’ He’s proved to me that he’s more than dedicated.”
In fact, of all of the young men his uncle coached, including Larry’s brother and his own boys, Larry was the last one he thought would ever be fighting for a national title and on the verge of making the sport his profession. “I’m really surprised,” he said after sparring with his nephew last week. “He was the first one of all the kids to stop boxing, and I didn’t think he’d be the one here right now, honestly, because, even when he was younger, he didn’t show the same interest. He’d act like he didn’t care if he won or lost. I thought maybe he didn’t want to box. I thought maybe this isn’t his thing.”
His uncle’s opinion changed when Larry decided to return to the sport 18 months ago.
“Since he’s been back, he’s showed more dedication than all of the kids,” he said.
“It’s taken so much hard work for him,” the elder Gomez said of the boxer who will compete in the 152-pound division. “As far as mentally, it was really hard for him.”
Coach Gomez sat down with the boxers he trains, including his two nephews and son, and told them that in order to seriously compete in the Golden Glove tournaments, they’d have to commit to a rigorous training regimen.
“We basically ate, drank and slept boxing,” the coach said in the West Valley gym he opened a few years ago. “We would train three times a day. We were at the gym almost 24-7.”
While the program proved to be too much for Larry’s brother and cousin, it was what he needed to prepare for the sport’s most prestigious tournaments after five years away from the ring.
“He went through the whole state and four region (tournaments) knocking everybody out,” coach Gomez said. “Nobody could last three rounds with him. So that says a lot right there.”
The elder Gomez, who won state and regional titles but never a national championship, said his nephew will succeed because he has a gift to go with his dedicated effort.
“He’s powerful,” he said. “His best thing is that he’s powerful, especially for his weight, and he’s fast. He’s more of a Mike Tyson type fighter. He comes forward; he doesn’t dance around the ring. He’ll come right at you, and he’ll throw some power punches.”
Larry and his older brother, Joe Gomez, began fighting when they were in elementary school because their father and uncle boxed. His father, also named Joe, had talent, but alcohol derailed his promising career.
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