SALT LAKE CITY — In front of the largest, loudest crowd of the night, Larry Gomez fought fiercely for the dream he’s been nurturing for the last 18 months.
He dominated the first round, but Iowa fighter De’Andre Harris battled back in the second and third rounds as Gomez’s family chanted his name while he competed in his first-round fight at the National Golden Gloves Tournament Tuesday night.
“I could hear them screaming for me,” the 20-year-old West Valley fighter said smiling. “It was kind of hard to hear, but I could hear that. It kept me going.”
Gomez said before the fight he knew he had to be patient as he stepped into the ring with the best 152-pound boxers in the country who all want what he does — a national title.
He admits that his adrenaline, fueled by the hometown crowd, may have caused him to push too hard at times.
“I need to wait a little bit, take my time a little bit more,” he said. “Throughout the rest of the week, I’ll get that down.”
The support of his family and friends provides inspiration, but it also puts pressure on Gomez, who is competing in his first national tournament this week at the Salt Palace.
“I’m having fun, but I was nervous because this is my first year,” he said. “I feel like I’m good enough to take it. When you go out of state, you feel better because you don’t have so much pressure on you. You just go in there and do your business. Here I have to do it for my family and my crowd.”
If a raucous section of family and friends wasn’t enough pressure, Gomez met Jazz forward Paul Millsap before his bout.
“It was cool,” he said, the smile returning to his face. “I was happy he came to watch me, so that felt good. We went and met him before, and he said he was going to come watch me fight.”
After Gomez was declared the winner in a decision, Millsap congratulated him.
Gomez said he’s trying to take in everything while still maintaining his focus. At one point his uncle warned him about being more patient and not getting himself worn out by going too hard too fast.
“I’m going to work on it,” he said. “I’m going to take my time and land good ones.”
Gomez will fight again Wednesday night, as do all winners. The only other Utahn to advance was super heavyweight Jesse West of Ogden, who had a bye in the first round. Francisco Lopez lost his 132-pound bout to Joshua Jones of Pennsylvania, while Nathan Kinsman lost his 178-pound fight to Joacquin LaGree of Florida.
Wednesday's bouts begin at 6 p.m. and tickets are available at the door.
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