Gamache confounds opponents and critics 2-time champ headlines Save-A-Heart event

November 01, 1995|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Two-time former world champion Joey Gamache pulls no punches when it comes to discussing the obstacles he has faced in his nine years as a professional boxer.

"I've been fighting the critics throughout my career," said Gamache, who will headline the Save-A-Heart charity show at the Hyatt Regency on Nov. 8 in a 10-rounder against Tony Enna of Kansas City, Mo.

"The game today is ruled by Hispanics and blacks. If you're a white fighter who can fight, you become a commodity and have to keep proving yourself because you're out of the ordinary. They don't expect that. They forget about the old days -- the LaMottas, Basilios and Giardellos.

"What people don't know about me is that I could always fight. If you look back on my career as an amateur, when you get a good idea whether you're a pro prospect, I was No. 1 in the country, a national champion, fourth in the world, and a bronze medalist in the 1984 Olympic trials, where I lost to Pernell Whitaker.

"When you turn pro, you want to pick the right matches," Gamache said. "But I was fighting the same guys coming up as Whitaker and Hector Camacho -- tough guys like Jackie Beard and Jeff Franklin, and knocking them out quicker than they did."

Gamache won his first 24 pro bouts, mostly waged in his home state of Maine. A superior boxer with deceptive power, he then challenged Jerry Ngobeni in June 1991 for the World Boxing Association junior-lightweight championship and knocked out the South African in 10 rounds.

Fighting the scale, Gamache moved up to the 135-pound class. In 1992, he captured the WBA lightweight crown by stopping Chil-Sung Chun of South Korea. But his title reign lasted only four months before he lost to Tony Lopez in Portland, Maine.

"The judges had me winning the first 10 rounds," Gamache said. "I got knocked down in the 11th. When I got up, my eye was closed, and the referee stopped it.

"It was a controversial ending. But, ironically, in losing that fight I proved myself to the critics. They finally said, 'This is a white kid who can fight.' "

Gamache could never coax Lopez back into the ring and spent two years pursuing another title shot. He finally got the chance in Portland last December against Orzubek Nazarov of Russia, and was flattened in the second round, again disappointing his Maine supporters.

There were rumors that Gamache, at 29, might quit. But he says retirement never crossed his mind; he only needed a change of scenery and a new focus.

Gamache found a new trainer in Diego Rosario, who handles WBA heavyweight king Bruce Seldon, and a new manager in Lenny Shaw, who also took him in as a house guest at his home in Paterson, N.J.

"I've gone back to square one, like fighting in the preliminaries. Lenny has a crazy streak to him, and I need that," Gamache said. "I need people around me who keep me loose. We're like a team going on the road now, and I enjoy the camaraderie. But if I wasn't progressing, I'd quit."

With veteran matchmaker Johnny Bos as his booking agent, Gamache has scored four straight knockouts over journeymen. He has his eyes on challenging Whitaker for his welterweight title or Frankie Randall for his 140-pound crown.

"I'm not fighting for money now," said Gamache, whose biggest purse to date was the $140,000 he earned for fighting Lopez. "All I want is an opportunity to fight for another title. But I want to be 100 percent. It could be the last chance I get."

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