Pro Debut Delayed For Aspiring World Champion: Interview with Dalia “La Pantera” Gomez
By: Ron Scarfone
Promoter Blanca Gutierrez is known for her Beautiful Brawlers all-female amateur tournaments. Gutierrez wanted to use the experience she gained to promote all-female pro boxing events as well. Her first pro boxing event would have been on December 3rd in Pacifica, California. However, illness and injury to a few of the boxers forced the fight card to be postponed. One fight had already been cancelled due to one boxer being sick, so only four fights remained on the card. Gutierrez assured me that the event would continue because I had made plans to cover the event. I was on an airplane about 35,000 feet in the air when I received a text message from Gutierrez that two boxers got hurt. The event was going to be postponed for a few months. However, I did get to meet Gutierrez and a few of the boxers such as Dalia Gomez.
Former world champions Melissa McMorrow and Martha Salazar were scheduled on the card as well as Gomez who was going to make her pro debut against Samantha Salazar (no relation to Martha Salazar). Gomez competed in the Beautiful Brawlers amateur event and also fought in other amateur tournaments. Gomez works at the East Oakland Boxing Association (EOBA). Gomez is known as “Coach G” at the EOBA. According to the EOBA website, Gomez was awarded a basketball scholarship to attend The Evergreen State College and is the first to graduate from her family. In the women’s basketball team records for the college, Gomez is one of the leaders in steals and averaged two steals per game from 2004-2006. Gomez is also tied for fifth in steals in a game with 6 steals which she achieved twice. I watched a few videos on YouTube of Gomez being interviewed. Gomez talked about organic gardening in one of the videos. Gomez looks younger than her 34 years of age, but she has gained wisdom from her life experiences which have made her the person that she is today. I met Gomez at the Babyface Boxing Gym in Pacifica, California which is owned by Gutierrez. This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Below is a transcript of our conversation.
Boxing Insider: How long were you an amateur boxer?
Dalia Gomez: Four years straight. About twelve years ago, I did fight for a couple of months just because I was on a break from my basketball scholarship. My first fight was actually against Queen Underwood who was an Olympian. I have been pretty much sparring for the last four years. I just won the Beautiful Brawlers and I won an international championship in Puerto Rico. I won the Golden Gloves.
Boxing Insider: You were at the Golden Gloves last year?
Dalia Gomez: Yeah, 2015.
Boxing Insider: In Fort Lauderdale, Florida?
Dalia Gomez: Yes, I was there, but I didn’t win that one. I did okay, but I didn’t win the split decision. I won the California State Golden Gloves.
Boxing Insider: When you won the California one, you qualified for the national one in Fort Lauderdale.
Dalia Gomez: Right. I didn’t have a coach. Everything happened these last four years. I trained myself until I finally found my pro coach who actually was training me for the last two or three fights and I have not lost with him. I definitely love his passion and his support.
Boxing Insider: So when you went to the amateur events, you didn’t have a cornerman?
Dalia Gomez: I did. Sometimes, Martha (Salazar) would help me or other coaches. When I went to the Olympic qualifiers, they helped me for a month, but they were always focused with their own fighters. I was pretty much training by myself. When I could, I would come to Babyface (Boxing Gym). Thankfully, Blanca (Gutierrez) always has an open door for me. I call Martha Salazar my tia (aunt in Spanish) of boxing. She is a dear friend to me now, somebody who I can look up to and call if I ever need anything. I’m definitely thankful that now I have a coach. I just work hard every day. I’m doing everything I can to make this pro debut happen.
Boxing Insider: I’m sure you are disappointed with the postponement of it.
Dalia Gomez: Yeah, I’m very disappointed because I’m not a spring chicken, so this is my last hurrah where I feel like this is something very important to me to get off my bucket list as a strong, athletic woman, somebody who has been playing sports all her life. I’m getting a little impatient, but I have to trust the universe that everything is happening for a reason. I feel like today was supposed to be my first win (as a pro), although I respect my opponent (Samantha Salazar) and she has five fights, so she has more experience as a pro in the ring than me, but we were definitely looking to take advantage of this opportunity. I was looking to win.
Boxing Insider: What weight were you going to be for this fight?
Dalia Gomez: 120 (pounds).
Boxing Insider: Super bantamweight. How many years do you plan on being a pro?
Dalia Gomez: I think three or four years, max four years, because I would be 38 (years of age). I do want to (eventually) settle down and have a regular job, just live a comfortable life. I do have a (college) degree, so I want to dedicate the next three years to just fight consistently. I’m the type of person, it doesn’t matter what name you throw out there, I will fight. I don’t know if that is just all women that are fighters that are not afraid to fight anybody. Yes, I do want to play the game and protect my record, but I think that I’m too old to be scared about anybody. It’s not about me calling out people, but I’m down. If I do what I am supposed to do and all the talent that I have, then I can win almost every fight. My coach always says “You got it, you do it.” You’ve got to believe in yourself. It’s so simple, but it is profound. Your mental and your heart which is your physical have to work in unison. That’s something that we’ve been working on in this camp. Physically, I was great. I’ve been knocking some sparring partners around with my power. If I freeze up, that’s not going to work. Just like anything in life, if you freeze up, you don’t make decisions, you don’t move forward, you are just stagnant. My opponent wasn’t going to be Sammy Salazar. My opponent was myself. I was going to give myself that win.
Boxing Insider: Do you have any aspirations to become a world champion?
Dalia Gomez: Yes, no doubt. I am lucky that in women’s sports, you are able to have that opportunity a lot faster than men. I am willing to do whatever. I am down to fight whoever, but also I think that you have to still play the game. I might have to maybe say no to certain fights and listen to my coach here and there, but in the end still, I just want to fight.
Boxing Insider: To get up to a world title fight, you know you have to fight 10 rounds, 2 minutes each.
Dalia Gomez: I’ve sparred 10 rounds before.
Boxing Insider: I’m not saying you are not capable of doing it. I know that the boxing commissions like the California State Athletic Commission want a gradual progression, like go from 4 rounds to 6 to 8 to 10. If you go from 6 to 10, they have to give special permission. Regarding the time that you have available, you want to get those fights that are increasing in rounds gradually from year to year so that you can be able to qualify for a 10 round fight.
Dalia Gomez: That’s something that I want to talk to my coach about. I’ll mention it to Blanca (Gutierrez) if she is willing to help as well. If it played out right, 2017 would be 4 rounders and maybe the last one (next year) would be 6. Maybe the beginning of 2018, 6. If we could push it that way, I will. I’m open to any way we want to chase to the world championship belt. We’ll see what happens.
Boxing Insider: Do you want a belt in particular? Does it have to be from a major sanctioning body or can it be from one of the lesser known ones?
Dalia Gomez: I’m open to anything because exposure is exposure. My thing is to be able to also expose the program that I support and work at which is East Oakland Boxing Association. It is a youth program that offers more than boxing which I’m definitely proud of because it sets us apart from other boxing gyms (like) helping kids with homework, all these other things. You can check our website out (eoba.org). The green (WBC) belt would be awesome, of course. That’s the monster belt that everybody wants. As a Mexican, I would love to fight in Mexico. I really would like to fight in Guadalajara, Jalisco where my dad is from. I’m open for anything, any opportunity to just do great and make anybody proud, I’m hoping for that. Everybody wants the best.
Boxing Insider: Yeah, but why do you think the WBC belt is the most desirable?
Dalia Gomez: Who knows? It is what it is. It’s got the hype. It’s up there. They have the backing. They have the money.
Boxing Insider: The sponsors, the television.
Dalia Gomez: Correct.
Boxing Insider: Regarding what happened with Martha (Salazar) and Melissa (McMorrow), going to Mexico and losing by probably biased decisions, do you think about those things? Of course, you want to go to Mexico and fight there for a world title, but do you think about whether you will be given a fair shot?
Dalia Gomez: I feel, which is surprising to me because this is the way I felt about Martha (Salazar) because of her personality and her heart, but I feel like I can get the love that (Oscar) De La Hoya gets who is from East L.A. (East Los Angeles, California), Southern California. I’m originally from Oxnard (a city in Southern California). I used to live in Mexico for four years. I used to play for a semi-pro basketball team in Guadalajara, Jalisco. I feel like people will be able to reach and touch my passion and respect for my people. This is still Alta California which was Mexico. (Writer’s Note: In 1521, Spanish forces led by conquistador Hernan Cortes captured the capital of the Aztec empire which was called Tenochtitlan. The land was named California and was divided into Alta California which was Upper California and Baja California which was Lower California. Alta California was a colony of New Spain. Many people did not like Spanish rule and unfair laws that gave power to wealthy people from Spain. As a result, The Mexican War of Independence began in 1810. The war lasted for about a decade and Mexico gained its independence in 1821. Alta California accepted Mexican rule and became a province of Mexico in 1822. United States President James K. Polk’s expansionist policy of manifest destiny was based on the belief that the U.S. was destined to spread and expand across the North American continent to the Pacific Ocean. The U.S. wanted to buy Alta California, but Mexico refused to sell it. Consequently, the Mexican-American War began in 1846. In 1848, The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed which ended the war and Alta California was ceded by Mexico to the United States. California became a state of the U.S. in 1850. Baja California is now part of Mexico.) I feel like once people understand that I respect and love my culture, my passion for the warrior within us, I think that I don’t have to worry. If I fight my fight, I will win and I won’t have to worry about the judges. That’s where that mental practice, that mental training will have to continue into play because if I think about the fights that Melissa had gotten robbed or Martha had gotten robbed, then that’s not going to help me. I cannot think about that.
Boxing Insider: When did you fight Queen Underwood?
Dalia Gomez: I was 21 years old.
Boxing Insider: What tournament was it?
Dalia Gomez: It was just a regular show, like a random little show. I started boxing because I lost my basketball scholarship because I made a mistake. The coach kicked me off the team. I was very sad because I was going to be the first to graduate (college) in my family. I was, by the way, because I got my scholarship back because I proved to her that I could be responsible. To stay in shape, I was working at the YMCA. I saw this boxing coach upstairs, but I didn’t respect boxing at the time. I went to him two or three times a week. I was young and the coach said “Do you want to fight?” I said “Sure.” I used to get into fights when I was a kid, so I thought I could do this. You can’t play boxing. I realized this as soon as the first round. My legs felt like Jell-O. I couldn’t defend myself and she just went 1-2-1-2. She had two years of experience. I had like two or three months of experience. At the time, they just said “You’re a girl, you’re a girl, about the same weight, fight.” Now, they would not put us together.
Boxing Insider: Did they put you two together because back then they didn’t have as much talent?
Dalia Gomez: No (other) girls and I happened to be in the same weight class at that time.
Boxing Insider: I see. Does Queen Underwood still fight?
Dalia Gomez: I think she is going to turn pro. She wasn’t in the 2016 Olympics. Only in the 2012 Olympics.
Boxing Insider: What is your job at the East Oakland Boxing Association?
Dalia Gomez: I’m the head USA Boxing coach and I’m also a Care Coach. I Care Coach five kids. I basically mentor them, help them get through the school year. I’m basically a counselor, like a high school counselor.
Boxing Insider: Is it a school?
Dalia Gomez: No. It is an after school program. It started as a boxing gym. Then, they opened different activities for the kids. If it wasn’t for boxing, we wouldn’t have all these other activities for the kids.
Boxing Insider: Do you eat organic food all the time?
Dalia Gomez: I try to, but it’s hard. It gets expensive. I grew up eating really well. (With) my dad, our fun meal was eating a lot of fruit. Maybe like the cantaloupe with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, but we were always loving fruit. I love my garlic and my onions.
Boxing Insider: And you have your own garden?
Dalia Gomez: At the East Oakland Boxing Association, we do. I don’t have a garden. I need to learn. I’m not a green thumb like my dad or my uncles. Maybe with time because it requires time. You have to take care of them. You have to water them.
Boxing Insider: Yeah. They grow weeds, so you’ve got to pull them out.
Dalia Gomez: (laughs) Yeah.