GAB to review Gomera incident
SPORTING CHANCE - Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) - May 23, 2019 - 12:00am

GAB chairman Abraham Mitra said yesterday he’s waiting for a formal complaint from boxing manager Brico Santig on the shabby treatment that Sultan Kudarat superbantamweight fighter Jelbirt Gomera received from the promoter who arranged his recent fight against Ryan Burnett in Belfast.

Once the GAB reviews the complaint and confirms legitimate grievance, it will demand an explanation from the promoter. Apparently, Gomera wasn’t given the courtesy of a call time for the fight and his hands couldn’t be wrapped properly. A report claimed that he was locked in the dressing room without a monitor so when the promoter called for him “to get up and go,” he wasn’t prepared. Gomera hadn’t warmed up when he was summoned to march towards the ring.

Gomera arrived in Belfast the morning before the fight in time for the weigh-in. His application for a UK visa was initially denied. In fact, the GAB had also denied Gomera’s request for travel clearance but later reconsidered.  Before the Burnett fight, Gomera had won only twice in his last six outings. Gomera, however, had a promising start in his pro career, winning his first 10 bouts since turning pro in 2013.

Gomera entered the ring to face Burnett with a 14-5 record, including 7 KOs. Burnett was coming off a knockout loss to Nonito Donaire, Jr. to lose his “super” WBA bantamweight crown in Glasgow last November. Before meeting Gomera, Burnett’s record was 19-1, with 9 KOs.

Mitra said Gomera was notified of the fight against Burnett last April 7 and requested for travel clearance from GAB last April 15. GAB’s boxing division recommended denying the application and forwarded the case to the GAB Board. On April 22, Gomera appealed to the Board for reconsideration and on April 24, the Board allowed the fight to go on. On April 29, GAB formally endorsed the Gomera fight. On May 6, Gomera and trainer Rod Sarguilla applied for UK visas. On May 8, Sarguilla’s visa was issued but Gomera’s application was denied because of lack of supporting documents. 

Gomera’s denial was explained in writing: “With every application, even when a third party is helping fund the trip, I need to be satisfied of the applicant’s own personal and financial circumstances. You state that you are a professional boxer working for Hardstone Boxing Promotions in the Philippines. However, the documents you have provided do not substantiate your claimed level of income or employment. Based on the documents available before me, I am not satisfied that you have demonstrated that you have ongoing social, financial or employment commitments in your country of residence or elsewhere that may persuade you to leave the UK at the end of your proposed visit. You state that you are planning to spend P15,000 in the UK. The documents you have provided do not show that you have these funds available to you.”

On May 14, Gomera’s visa was finally issued after a reconsideration. On May 16, Gomera arrived at 10 a.m. in Belfast. Gomera made it in time for the weigh-in and scaled 122 1/2 pounds like Burnett. On May 17, he was in the ring to battle Burnett. The fight was stopped by referee John Latham at 2:01 of the sixth when Gomera, who never went down, turned his back on Burnett and walked to his corner. 

Was Gomera’s manager remiss in assuring proper treatment in Belfast? If Sarguilla’s request for a visa was approved on his first application, why was Gomera’s application denied? What could the manager have done to submit more persuasive supporting documents in Gomera’s behalf? Gomera arrived in Belfast a day before the fight – surely not enough time to acclimatize after a journey of about 19 hours. Why was the promoter so antagonistic towards Gomera? Did he deliberately try to intimidate Gomera to make it easier for Burnett to win?

By the way, Donaire was at ringside for the fight. He was enroute to Glasgow to attend the Naoya Inoue-Emmanuel Rodriguez fight the next day. Donaire and his wife landed in Belfast without their luggage which was lost in transit. They had made friends with locals when Donaire fought Carl Frampton in Belfast in April last year and the Filipino Flash was invited to speak to youth clubs and students in school. 

Donaire said he had no chance to meet Gomera before or after the fight. “Nonito was immediately pulled for interviews,” said his wife Rachel. “Gomera left the ring. We were actually the last in the venue when the crowd all got pushed out. Security cleared us all out but it took an hour of interviews.” Besides, if the promoter locked Gomera in his dressing room, there was no access from the outside.

Donaire has championed the cause of Filipino fighters for years. He wasn’t in Belfast to cheer for Burnett. In fact, after Gomera lost, Burnett called out Donaire for a rematch. Donaire was just passing through. Dragging Donaire into this mess is unfair and a squid tactic to sidetrack critical attention on Gomera’s mismanagement.

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