Honduran Boxer Spars With Hunger Pangs

Eddie “Eboy” Gomez trains hard to take down opponents — but for a guy who loves to eat, making weight might be the tougher fight.

Eddie “Eboy” Gomez getting ready to dig in to his Sopa de Caracol after weighing in for his Dec. 1 fight at Madison Square Garden. CREDIT: Coral Garnick

Eddie “Eboy” Gomez loves to eat. The first time I spoke with him, the 20-year-old was slumped down in a gray loveseat in a hotel suite, asking his father for food.

Pulling a black plastic bag out of his backpack, Eddie Gomez Sr. began unloading a makeshift picnic, opening a large Keebler cracker tin and popping the lid off a container of rice. With plastic disposable bowls and spoons, Gomez Sr. quickly served up Sopa de Caracol, a traditional Honduran soup full of plantains, shrimp, mussels and fish. His son quickly picked out and ate the only shrimp that made it into his bowl, then spooned the plantains and broth into his mouth — careful not to spill a drop of his mother’s homemade delicacy.  Then he went after the mussels with his fingers, tugging the meat from each shell.

Loving food is a bit of a problem for the younger Gomez because of his job. He’s a boxer. And not just any boxer – an undefeated, junior middleweight boxer who has to stay under 152 pounds to qualify for many of his fights.

Not easy for someone who appreciates a good meal.

Gomez spent a month training for a big Dec. 1 fight at Madison Square Garden. His opponent, Luis “La Roca” Hernandez, was also undefeated. But more than the man he would face in the ring, Gomez warily anticipated the weigh-in the day before. Could he keep himself at or below 151 pounds? If not, he risked a fine or the possibility of the fight being cancelled.

The youngest of nine children, Gomez grew up in the East Tremont neighborhood of the Bronx. He has been fighting since he was eight years old, trained by his father and Jose Cotto Talavera. Gomez Jr. said he started fighting as a way to stay out of trouble, but he always loved it and felt like it was in his blood – especially because his father had been a boxer in his home country of Honduras.

“My first time ever getting in the ring, I made the other guy cry,” Gomez Jr. says. “I was eight years old and I was like, ‘I need to stick to this – this is what I want to do.’”

With an amateur career of 90 wins and one loss, Gomez is a two-time national Junior Olympic champion and won the 2010 New York Golden Gloves. He signed on with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions in 2010, going professional at age 18 while still a junior at JFK High School in the Bronx – even though he had to opt out of qualifying for the 2012 Olympic games in London to do it.

“Now, I’m two steps ahead of the guys who went to the Olympics,” he says.

Eddie “Eboy” Gomez at his hotel suite the day before his fight at Madison Square Garden. CREDIT: Coral Garnick

Every boxer needs a nickname, and Gomez’s team calls him “Eboy” because he’s his father’s son – “E” for Eddie, “boy” for junior. Gomez Sr. says times have changed since his days in the ring, and his son has been forced to work a lot harder to succeed. “Now he knows a lot more than I ever did.”

Every morning, “Eboy” starts the day with a three- to five-mile run and hits the gym for an hour to an hour and a half each afternoon to train with his coach. He jabs, hooks, uppercuts, dodges, ducks and practices his quick feet.

When training, Gomez cuts down his food portions and drinks a lot of water, while also sticking to healthier foods like whole wheat breads and yogurt. He drinks protein shakes before and after intense workouts for muscle rebuilding.

“He likes to eat a lot,” says Talavera, his trainer. “He is responsible and makes his weight – but he works hard to do it.”

Gomez admits that he does let go when not training for his next fight. His favorite foods are seafood, chicken and rice, and he loves Twizzlers and Jolly Ranchers. In 2010, after wining the New York Golden Gloves, he went to Honduras with his mother and spent three weeks on the beaches with his cousin, eating whatever he wanted. When he got back to the New York he weighed 175 pounds. But he trained hard, watched what he ate and lost the 23 pounds to be back down to 152 for his first pro fight in Puerto Rico – the max for that fight was 154 pounds.

Weigh-in for this month’s Madison Square Garden fight took place on Friday, Nov. 30, in the Fitzgerald Ballroom of the Affinia Manhattan Hotel. The room was full of press, along with the boxers’ friends and family. Most people were there to see Miguel Cotto and Austin Trout, who would be fighting in the main event to determine the next super welterweight champion of the world.

Gomez had spent the last three weeks eating healthily, training hard, and waiting for this moment.  He ate little but cereal and yogurt in the mornings and his protein drinks before and after the gym. He was careful not to overindulge on Thanksgiving; as a test of his self-control, he took small portions because he knew his fight was right around the corner and he didn’t want to take any chances. On the day of the weigh-in, he didn’t eat at all. His friends know to avoid him when he’s trying to drop pounds before a fight — or at least give him a pass when he gets cranky.

“Eddie is a nice kid — full of energy,” said Jisset Pena, who went to the weigh-in to show her support for her friend. “But he can be a little grumpy when he hasn’t eaten.”

More than a dozen boxers were weighed before Gomez got his chance to step up on the scale. He stood in his black Champion boxer briefs, flexed his biceps, and stared seriously into the cameras as he waited 30 seconds for the scale to display his weight. He was confident, but you could still see the look of relief on his face when the announcer called out his weight at 150 pounds.

But the relief wasn’t at making weight (he had weighed himself in private earlier, just to be sure.) It was at finally getting to eat again. “I was just thinking, ‘Let’s get this thing over with, so I can get some food,’” he said.

Gomez stepped to the side of the stage, slipped his black sweatpants back over his boxer briefs and posed for more pictures while waiting for his opponent’s weight. Hernandez stepped onto the scale to a bitter reality: 152 pounds … one pound over.

When a boxer doesn’t make weight, he has two options: pay a fine or be reweighed in an hour. Hernandez chose to pony up $500.

After posing for more photos and doing the traditional trash talk with his opponent, Gomez rode the elevator to his hotel room, looking forward to his mother’s soup. He felt good to know his opponent wasn’t disciplined enough to make weight — maybe it would give him an edge in the ring.

Eddie “Eboy” Gomez v. Luis “La Roca” Hernandez at Madison Square Garden on Dece. 1, 2012. Gomez won by unanimous decision. CREDIT: Coral Garnick

Sitting in the loveseat, finally back in his room, with the hood of his black Nike sweatshirt up over his head, Gomez quietly, but without spilling a drop, finished off a second bowl of his mother’s soup. He got comfortable on the couch and let his usual charismatic smile spread across his face as the soup settled in his stomach. As friends and family stopped by to wish him luck, he munched on some Twizzlers, getting excited for the next day’s fight, which lasted six rounds and resulted in a unanimous decision for Gomez.

When the final bell sounded, he ran a lap around the ring, jumped up on the ropes and pumped his fist to cheering fans chanting “Eboy!” throughout the stadium. Then he headed back to the locker room for his real reward – more Twizzlers! – and ordered a basket of chicken tenders and fries to eat while watching the main event. He’ll fight again at the Barclays Center in a month or two, which means he’ll be back in the gym and on his healthy eating regiment soon enough. Until then, he had time to celebrate. Gomez finished off the night back at his hotel with a pepperoni pizza.


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