Dead boxer's family want answers
By Tom McRae
New Zealand's Professional Boxing Association says the Auckland boxer who suffered a fatal collapse less than a minute into his first bout should never have been in the ring.
Willman Rodriguez-Gomez, 29, died in Tahiti on the weekend.
Now his family wants answers after an autopsy proved inconclusive.
Willman Rodriguez-Gomez had been kickboxing since he was 14.
“He was tough,” says brother Chino Rodriguez-Gomez. “He has never got knocked out, and he's quite short, so he'd always fight bigger guys and it wouldn't faze him. He'd just keep going.”
But he went down 32 seconds into his first boxing fight in Tahiti over the weekend.
“We're in denial,” says his brother. “We can't believe my brother's over there by himself alone with no family and everyone's here waiting for him.”
His brother wants to know why he was there in the first place, fighting Karihi Tehie, a boxer who had fought more than 80 times and won gold at the 2011 Pacific Games.
“On paper it's a mismatch,” he says. “Anyone could see that, and we want answers. Who picked my brother out of the bunch to say he could fight this person?”
Tahitian newspapers are reporting Rodriguez-Gomez took a left hook, fell heavily and couldn't be revived.
“It's dangerous just putting him in there,” says Lance Revill of the New Zealand Professional Boxing Association. “He's not an experienced fighter.
“He's gone over with a very small punch, so it sounds like he's had some hard sparring in his gym prior to going over there. He's had some head knocks and he hasn't had a medical clearance leaving the country to fight in the first place.”
His trainer Eugene Bareman travelled with him. The Professional Boxing Association says he has plenty to answer for.
“Something doesn't wash with us,” says Mr Revill. “One thing is you look after your own fighter.”
He trained at City Kickboxing. Those involved with the incident are meeting with the family this evening to discuss what happened.
Rodriguez-Gomez's body is expected to be back in the country on Sunday.