Boxing is a sport of rumors, exaggeration and lies. 

One of the lighter tales that occasionally gets trotted out on the Manchester gym scene is that had things turned out differently, Michael Gomez Jr. may have ended up playing for his beloved Manchester City rather than fighting for a living. 

“I was pretty decent,” Gomez Jr. told BoxingScene. "Not anymore though. When I was a kid I was very good. I played midfield, striker but I was a striker as a kid. I was a goal-hanger. I was like Luis Figo. Give me a sniff of the net and I’ll score but I’m not passing to anyone. I had Dimitar Berbatov’s workrate and finishing. That’s what I was like as a kid".

“I was playing for Manchester City and a year above myself as a kid but boxing was always going to happen wasn’t it? For years my mum and dad didn’t want me to do it and I think that’s what made me do it.”

If you have seen Gomez Jr. box, it may surprise you to hear that the English super featherweight champion modeled his game on the mercurial but lazy Bulgarian. As a fighter, Gomez Jr., 18-1 (5 KO’s), is a ball of energy and effort who sets a high pace and dares his opponent to match him.

However, one of the rumors and stories that doesn’t need confirming is that the 29-year-old wasn’t always the most dedicated of trainers. 

Gomez Jr. has been a professional for 10 years but it is only over the past 18 months that he has really found his feet and begun to show what he is capable of.

Momentum began to build behind him when he defended his Central Area title by beating Brian Phillips in one of the best fights of 2022. He then overcame damaged hands to outpoint the previously unbeaten Levi Giles for the English title and, in April, Gomez Jnr announced himself to a larger audience by knocking out Kane Baker to successfully defend his belt on the undercard of Zelfa Barrett’s fight with Jordan Gill. 

“I turned pro way too early. That’s what fucked my career up at the start. I’ve been chasing, trying to make things up to the people I let down by fucking around for years. I’m finally there now,” he said.

“Having my kids changed things. I always knew I was decent I just couldn’t be arsed a lot of the time. I owe it to people to get to the level I should be at. I believe I can be - at minimum - British champion. My ability is there but my attitude has got there now. I’m first to the gym a lot these days. We get there half an hour early and I’m last to leave because I want the knowledge.

“I wouldn’t say I was naturally gifted but I was winning fights without training properly. Just easy. When you’re in that sort of mode it’s hard to get out of it.”

Beating Baker in impressive fashion remains a significant moment in his career but in the weeks after the fight, an injured Gomez once again began to lose motivation and drift. This time, however, the more mature side of his character shouted louder and Gomez listened. He made the hard decision to leave his trainer, Marvin Greaves, and join up with Michael Jennings in Chorley. 

There is an element of familiarity to the move - Jennings trained alongside Gomez Jr.’s dad, former British super featherweight champion, Michael Sr., for years at the famous old Collyhurst and Moston gym - but Jennings also has a talented, ambitious stable of fighters and the change of scenery has done wonders for Junior.

“The last four weeks before the Kane Baker fight, it was hard to train. I didn’t say anything to anyone and I don’t know why but I just went flat,” he said. “I needed a change. I was going to try and few things but Kevin [Maree, his manager] suggested Mike and since I’ve been there, everything’s flying again. I’m enjoying boxing again. I love it.

“I’ve just this morning done a session with Mike. Normally everyone’s in and does bits but today it was me and Mike. In the space of one session, the amount of little things I’ve picked up is mad. His knowledge of boxing is ridiculous.

“Nothing fancy, just straight down the middle. He explains straight to the point, he doesn’t go around the world.

“I didn’t want to leave Marvin because of the friendship and everything we had. It was a hard choice but I knew for my career to progress and to get that hunger and desire to go to the next level, I had to do it. I’ll be honest, before I joined Mike I was debating walking away. While I was out I wasn’t training, I was eating, drinking, chilling and living normally. I just enjoyed life.”

If Gomez Jr. was flat before the Baker fight, he hid it well. As soon as he stepped out into the Manchester Arena, he came alive. Baker has one way of fighting and generally comes unstuck when he steps in with quality operators who can tame and outbox him. A fired up Gomez Jr. went about things differently. He boxed with his usual intensity and beat the aggressive Baker at his own game, knocking him out in the sixth round. 

“I’m a big night kind of guy. I knew what that fight was gonna be about,” he said. “All the fights I’ve had before then, I wouldn’t say I wasn’t bothered but I knew I was going to win. With Kane, I knew I was gonna win but everyone kept going on about how tough he is and how he doesn’t get  stopped. I was convinced in my head what I was gonna do. All week, I told everyone that I was going to knock him out. Because I had that in my head I knew I had to prove I was as good as what I was saying. I was bang up for it from the start.

“Everything went how it was supposed to go and I knew what I had to do to make a statement.”

Gomez Jr. made the statement he wanted. He sold well, produced an exciting performance and capping things off by stopping the tough Baker will have made his 130-pound rivals sit up and take notice. He also earned himself a shot at the same British super featherweight title his father so famously held.

His recent change of trainer and an old injury he aggravated during the fight with Baker means that his former opponent, Levi Giles, gets the next shot at titleholder, Reece Bellotti, but Gomez Jr. will be watching intently when the pair meet on July 6th and is determined that when his chance does arrive, he will be in the perfect physical and mental shape to grasp it with both hands.

“It was meant to be the final eliminator for the British title but I got injured in the fight, had six weeks out and then changed teams. They offered it me with four weeks’ notice. There’s no point in me doing all this to get here and then rushing now. Michael didn’t me to take it yet either. He said we need to time to work together and gel,” he said.

“Don’t get me wrong, I still believe I would have won but the way things are now and with people spending their hard earned money to come and watch, I want to be the best I can be so I can go in there and do what I’m capable of.

“The only way I would have lost the fight was through fitness and that’s what I’m known for. My fitness and relentless workrate are my assets. I believe I’m British title level now. This is where I should be.

“The reason I wanted to fight Bellotti was for the simple reason that in my opinion I believe he’s the best at British level at the minute. I believe he’s number one and I’m number two. I don’t think anyone could really argue with that.”