On this date back in 1982, Wilfredo Gomez and Lupe Pintor helped write another thrilling chapter in the long saga of glorious violence that is the boxing rivalry between Puerto Rico and Mexico. No list of the best fights between those two great pugilistic nations, nor of the most exciting clashes of the 1980s, is complete without this classic: Gomez vs Pintor, a barn-burner from the opening bell, testing both warriors to the utmost and leaving fight fans limp after almost 14 rounds of non-stop, back-and-forth barbarism.
Gomez of Puerto Rico, one of the greatest super-bantamweights of all-time, was rebounding from a crushing upset loss the year before to Hall of Fame Mexican featherweight champ Salvador Sanchez. He had already recorded a busy 1982, scoring five wins including three successful defenses of his world title. He knew capping the year with a win over Mexican bantamweight champ Pintor would go a long way to restoring his fearsome reputation after his thrashing at the hands of Sanchez.
Mexico’s Pintor, having enjoyed a series of title wins since his controversial victory over champion Carlos Zarate in 1979, was in search of bigger game. A victory over Gomez meant a huge step up in terms of reputation and earning power and Pintor was determined to win his second divisional title. A showdown between dominant champions, astonishingly this guaranteed thriller was not the main event on Don King’s “Carnival of Champions” card at the Louisiana Superdome; instead Thomas Hearns vs Wilfred Benitez would serve as the anti-climax after Gomez and Pintor had waged their unforgettable war. In retrospect how could anyone have expected Hearns vs Benitez to not be upstaged by some Latin “macho” fisticuffs, Mexico vs Puerto Rico style?
Gomez got off to a fast start, jolting Pintor with an uppercut in the opening round and dominating the second. It appeared Gomez had seized the initiative and his higher punch output along with his advantages in size and power would carry the day. But the third round, one of the great action rounds of the year, saw Pintor reverse the momentum. After absorbing a shellacking on the ropes for a full minute, the challenger abruptly took the play from Gomez, landing with both hands. The two traded toe-to-toe for the rest of the round, Pintor getting the better of it.
And once Pintor began connecting, the flesh around Gomez’s eyes immediately began to swell, reminiscent of “Bazooka’s” battle with Sanchez. Still, Gomez never stopped attacking, taking the fourth round on pure aggression, before dropping the fifth to Pintor who stayed off the ropes in that round and used his left hand effectively. The next three rounds belonged to Gomez who continued to attack, expending more energy than the challenger as he sought to overwhelm the smaller man. By contrast, Pintor fought patiently, waiting for opportunities to come. And come they did.
Gomez vs Pintor was already a fast-paced, all-action war, but the real drama began in the later rounds. The ninth and tenth belonged to the Mexican, who appeared to have more zip than the tiring champion both in his legs and in his punches. It was now clear that the longer the contest went, the worse it would be for Gomez as his face continued to puff up, his corner frantically applying ice between rounds. But time appeared to be in Pintor’s corner as the back-and-forth action only intensified.
Round eleven was another slugfest, both men having their moments but Gomez’s edge in power taking it. Pintor’s resilience was now emerging as the story of the fight as, astonishingly, he appeared unmarked and amazingly fresh after eleven rounds of a brutal battle. He needed all of his toughness to survive the next round as a desperate Gomez unloaded everything he had in a bid to finish the fight, but at the end of the round Pintor was still there, firing back, stunning Gomez with a left hook at the bell and “Bazooka” had to be helped back to his corner.
Had it been scheduled for 12 rounds, the champion surely would have taken a decision, but there were three to go and Gomez looked to have nothing left. Round thirteen was the slowest of the match and with the Puerto Rican’s eyes now almost completely closed, Pintor appeared to have the momentum. Which made the finish all the more surprising.
In round 14, a frantic Gomez once again attacked with all he had and finally managed to inflict some serious hurt on the tough Mexican. The champion, who could barely see and later confessed to be fighting strictly on instinct, struck home with a vicious left to the body and a right to the head to score the first knockdown of the fight. Amazingly, Pintor rose but he was finished. That left to the body had decided the contest. Gomez chased a hurt Pintor to the ropes where the Mexican went down again after taking a hard left to the jaw and the referee immediately halted what still stands as perhaps the greatest of all the great Mexico vs Puerto Rico battles in boxing history.
— Robert Portis