In a sport rarely noted for the modesty of its participants, super bantam-weight champion Wilfredo Gomez paid Derrik Holmes an implicit compliment yesterday by insisting on a neutral (non-United States) referee for the World Boxing Council title bout Friday night in Las Vegas.
Though Gomez has accounted for all of his 29 victories by knockouts, 11 in title defenses, his manager, Yamil Chade, said, "Holmes will be Wilfredo's most dangerous opponent. I'm going to have a big battle with the Nevada commission. They pick the referee and I hear they are ready to name one from the U.S. I want a neutral one.
"It doesn't matter if they have a judge from the U.S. and one from Puerto Rico (Gomez's birthplace).The referee is the only important official.
"The (15-round) bout is not going to a decision. All the referee has to be able to do is count to 10, but we need an honest referee."
Holmes, of New Carrollton, Md., has been in quest of identity in an area dominated in boxing by Sugar Ray Leonard, and by the Redskins, Orioles, Bullets and Capitals in other sports.
He will have the air waves at "bell time," 10:05 p.m., when the "Friday Night Fights" will be shown on WRC-TV-4.
To celebrate his 25th birthday on Saturday as a champion, Holmes has to overcome the odds of facing an opponent with a 1.000 percent slugging average in all but one of his 30 bouts, his first professional fight, which ended in a draw.
Holmes has had only 15 pro bouts, winning 14 and drawing in one, but he gained experience in 139 amateur fights, winning 119, 75 on knockouts.
He knocked out Gomez in an amateur bout six years ago and has suggested that is weighing on the Puerto Rican's memory.
But Gomez said through his manager, "I am not worried at all. That was a long time ago. I know Holmes is very fast, has a good jab, and can punch, but I am going to knock him out. He's good, but I'm better."