For Derrik Holmes, his championship shot tonight against the devastating punching of Wilfredo Gomez was an object lesson in the cruelty of the sport of boxing.
As he stood in his dressing room holding his jaw (later found to be broken) after being knocked down seven times, an upper molar was hanging loose in his mouth and he was catching hell for failing to follow instructions.
Referee Joey Curtis stopped the bout after 2 minutes 29 seconds of the fifth rorund when Gilbert Ware, Holmes' manager, tossed a towel in the ring. It marked the 30th straight knockout for Gomez in 31 bouts, as he retained his World Boxing Council super bantamweight title.
Holmes won the second round on all three of the judges' cards and the first round on two of the three cards. Three judges score fights in Nevada. The referee does not.
Holmes was taken to the hospital for a checkup, but only after explaining it all to the media in a group interview.
"I was in tremendous pain from the second round on," Holmes said in recalling the effects of a hard overhand right to the jaw by Gomez near the end of the round.
The irony was that Holmes had staggered the champion earlier in the same session by stepping in with a short right that caught Gomez on the chin and drew a roar from the crowd at Caesars Palace."
"It was a good shot that he hit me in the second round," Holmes said. "He was much stronger than I thought he would be. I was confident after I hit him good, but I got careless."
It was because trainer George Benton thought Holmes got "righthand crazy," as he put it, that the trainer lectured the veteran of only 15 pro bouts, who was losing his first tonight.
"He just died in there," Benton said of Holmes."You had taken charge in that second round." Benton said to Holmes. "you hurt him with a second right hand, but then you did everything wrong, like an amateur.
You should have straightened up (from bobbing and weaving) and jabbe him."
A visitor to his dressing room suggested the challenger, who was to suffer an unhappy 25th birthday in a couple of hours, should have his jaw examined.
"That's right," Benton said. "The hell with sending him to be interviewed; get him to the hospital."
But then Holmes went to the group interview first and heard Puerto Rican Gomez, sitting beside him, say, "Holmes great fighter; he needs experience. He too new. A little more experience and he could be a champion."
Holmes opened up and tried to slug it out with Gomez, but the challenger was knocked down once in the third round, five times in the fourth and once in the fifth round before the bout was halted.
Referee Curtis was asked to explain why he let Holmes take so much punishment.
Holmes was examined in his corner by Dr. Donald Romeo of the Nevada Athletic Commission between the fourth and fifth rounds.