AZTEC — After more than a year without a win in a boxing ring, Joe Gomez is hungry.
Gomez, 28, headlines The Aztec Warriors boxing card against Albuquerque's Cristian Cabral this Friday night at the Albuquerque Convention Center.
"The biggest reason I am excited is because I am back at 147 pounds. That is where I dominated and it is where I won the WBC Intercontinental Mundo Hispano title," Gomez said during a training session at his 1:16 Gym in Aztec on Tuesday.
Gomez (18-7-1, eight knockouts) hasn't fought since a split decision loss to Josh Torres on July 27 of last year. Cabral (5-0-1, three knockouts) is coming off a unanimous decision victory against Donald Sanchez on March 30.
Though Gomez may have to shake off a bit of ring rust, he certainly has the advantage when it comes to experience over 19-year-old Cabral. Gomez has boxed 139 rounds as a professional to Cabral's 24, according to BoxRec.com.
"My experience is my advantage. Picking and choosing when to throw punches, my timing and everything else. With him being so immature, he is probably going to come out fast," Gomez said. "My conditioning is going to be there. Either I will stop him, or it is going to be him getting battered for six rounds. I don't make predictions, but I am going to win."
Cabral isn't phased by the difference in experience levels in the two fighters.
"It really doesn't bother me," Cabral said in a June 12 news conference at the Albuquerque Convention Center. "I've sparred with some other guys that have more experience. ... This is a big step up for me, and I'm ready for anything he's gonna bring."
Gomez's head trainer Larry Whitey warned Cabral's camp not to look too much into Gomez's loss to Torres, and said fans can expect a much better Gomez in this fight.
"These guys are looking at Joe as a stepping stone, which is a big mistake because all of Joe's losses have been at heavier weights where he isn't 100 percent. At 147, he is probably undefeated," Whitey said. "For them to overlook Joe, with their guy being 19 and with only six fights, that is their mistake. I am glad they took the fight. I have no doubt Joe will dominate."
Gomez has lost six of his last eight fights dating back to a 2009 loss against Elco Garcia at the Sky Ute Casino. His camp views this fight as an opportunity to jump start his career once more.
"It is a career step up again. We are not looking at it as a comeback so much as a rebirth," Whitey said. "His footwork is looking good and we are enforcing the jab to get it going more. The main focus for us is to get everything to work off the jab and follow everything else up behind it. We are also getting down to body work. As an amateur, Joe has a tremendous body shot. We are getting that back in the game and trying to get him back to doing what he did that worked so well when he was an amateur."
Though Friday night's fight is in Cabral's hometown of Albuquerque, Gomez isn't worried about Cabral having a home crowd advantage. He also hopes San Juan County fight fans make the trip to Albuquerque instead of Sky Ute Casino's Rumble in the Rockies II card featuring heavyweight James Toney.
"I like to fight for the fans. Their cheers pump me up and get my adrenaline going. It might be Cabral's hometown but, in a weird sense, I consider it my hometown, too, because I have fought so may times down there," Gomez said. Albuquerque fans aren't biased toward fighters. They just want to see a good fight. I know they spend their hard-earned money, and I am ready to go down there and put on a heck of a fight for them. I would love to see everybody come watch me fight. If they don't, just go watch boxing period wherever it is because the sport is not dead. Everyone thinks it is around here, but it is not."John Livingston can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 505-564-4648. Follow him on Twitter @jlivi2.