Fighting Words: The quick and the dead meat
David P. Greisman
It will be high noon on a Saturday night when Carlos Baldomir and Floyd Mayweather meet for a gunfight with gloves.
On one side will be Baldomir, the underdog champion who must rely on his more powerful weaponry to take out the challenger standing opposite him, Mayweather, a man who is fast on the draw and deadly with his accuracy.
In a showdown for a welterweight championship that isn't big enough for the both of them, the odds are highly in favor of the brash, slick Mayweather triumphing over a Baldomir who, in the eyes of many, will be cashing out with a one-sided loss.
After upsetting Zab Judah in January, Baldomir's celebration seemed short-lived, much like Buster Douglas' vulnerability after knocking out Mike Tyson and shocking the world. The talk was of one or two title defenses and then retirement, but after getting paid and getting a victory over Arturo Gatti, Baldomir is not yet ready for his Cinderella story to strike midnight. Against one of the best boxers in the sport, Baldomir refuses to lie down as a tune-up for Mayweather's hopeful May megafight against Oscar De La Hoya, vowing instead to be an ever-willing obstacle.
"It will come down to me, my willingness to be able to push him throughout the whole fight," Baldomir said through translator Gabe Ruelas on a conference call last week. "And coming forward, throwing punches throughout the whole fight without giving him a chance. It's going to be me coming forward the whole time."
Hoping to crowd Mayweather with the kind of aggression that some have prescribed as the best medicine to ground the pound-for-pound denizen, Baldomir believes Mayweather's high-speed hands and swift feet won't prevent defeat.
"He's fast, but I will be able to knock him out," Baldomir said. "His speed (will) not bother me at all ... because before he was 130, 135, (but at 147) his speed is not going to be the same."
Baldomir believes that his being a career-long welterweight will give an advantage over a fighter who turned pro divisions below, one reason that his minimal career knockout percentage seemed deceptive once his heavy hands struck the chins of Judah and Gatti.
But Mayweather is neither Judah nor Gatti, not with his obsession over working on stamina, conditioning, speed, power and skills in the gym until he is faultless while carrying out his savvy strategy and science within the ring.
Judah's lack of discipline left him out of steam and in front of Baldomir rounds after easily out-boxing the Argentine, while Gatti unwisely chose to trade blows with his sturdier opponent.
Despite his rise to welterweight, Mayweather is still quick enough to outbox Baldomir just like Judah began to, but he's also slick enough to elude slower, wider punches on the inside like James Toney deking against Samuel Peter. Judah and Gatti came at Baldomir; Mayweather will make Baldomir come at him until the counters and potshots break Baldomir physically or mentally, whichever comes first.
"One thing about fighting Floyd Mayweather is this: you cannot make no mistake," Mayweather said on a conference call last week. "If you make one mistake, it can cost you the whole fight and it can mess your whole career up."
In viewing some of Baldomir's past fights, Mayweather said that the Argentine was flat-footed and not on his back pivot, that his shots were "too wide" and that "conditioning-wise he can't reach higher than four rounds."
To Mayweather, the difference is that he is the professional football team with complex formations and plays and reactions perfected through countless days of practice and studying film. Baldomir, meanwhile, is the sandlot team that thrives mostly on going long and wins games against people who could never compete at the highest level.
Even without his usual trainer — his uncle Roger Mayweather, who was sentenced in September to six months in jail for felony battery — Floyd's experience has taken him to a point similar to Bernard Hopkins in his latter years where he is always professional and always prepared.
"Being in this sport 20 years and having ... 126 fights, I figure I should be able to go out there and conduct myself in an orderly fashion and put on a hell of a performance for 45 minutes," Mayweather said.
That's if the fight even goes the distance. Baldomir is vowing knockout. But in pulling his gun from the holster, Baldomir opens himself up to the danger of a Mayweather who is quick on the trigger and whose speeding bullets will make him dead meat.
The 10 Count
1. Since promoters are finally taking seriously the interval weigh-ins that the WBC requires 30 and seven days before title fights, Manny Pacquiao stepped on the scales last week in accordance with the WBC's semi-followed but poorly enforced rule. According to reports, Pacquiao — wearing a shirt and shoes — registered in at 138 3/4 pounds, well within the 143-pound limit for the 30-day weigh in. Never mind that the weigh-in, supervised by a WBC representative, took place 25 days before his Nov. 18 rubber match with Erik Morales.
2. Days later, Carlos Baldomir took the scales at his seven-day weigh-in for this Saturday's welterweight championship defense against Floyd Mayweather, coming in at 153 1/2 pounds. This means Baldomir lost 7 1/2 pounds in the 23 days since his 30-day weigh-in and that he must lose another 6 1/2 pounds in seven days. We wouldn't know this, of course, if not for press releases from Goossen Tutor Promotions, because the WBC only mentions these things sporadically in half-hearted attempts at regulation following the Corrales-Castillo III and Corrales-Casamayor III controversies.
3. After all, how can we possibly expect the WBC to get the interval weigh-ins correct in practice when they can't even get them right within their official policy?
In section 4.6 of the World Boxing Council Rules and Regulations under the heading of "Safety Weigh-Ins," the WBC mandates "extra official weigh-ins to be held 30 and 7 days prior to the official 30-24 hour weigh-in." Under that language, Pacquiao's 30-day weigh-in would have actually taken place 24 days before his official pre-fight weigh-in while Baldomir's seven-day weigh-in would have been right on time.
But in the subsections, the WBC asks for the 30-day and seven-day weigh-ins to take place not 30 days and seven days prior to the official pre-fight weigh-in, respectively, but instead "4 weeks prior to the bout" and "7 days prior to the bout," also respectively.
Not that it truly matters. This rule is less a regulation than an expectation for fighters and their camps to either follow rules in order for the WBC to take credit for their contributions to the Sweet Science, or for camps to break the rules while the WBC looks away, rarely informing anyone.
The WBC continues to allow the fox to guard the henhouse, keeping "boxers, managers, and trainers ... solely responsible for the pre-fight safety weigh-ins and medical examinations required by the WBC, and the failure by the boxer, manager and trainer to comply with this rule is their sole responsibility and not that of the WBC."
The sanctioning body attempts to regain face by concluding, "In the event that the boxer exceeds the weight qualifications stated above, the WBC may, for the safety of the boxer, refuse to sanction the bout." But really, when was the last time any of these groups turned down their percentage cut of the boxers' purses?
4. As we've seen time and again, it can be difficult for great boxers as they age to come to the conclusion that their best days are past and that they should retire. This time it is former flyweight and junior bantamweight titlist Mark "Too Sharp" Johnson, who returns to action on Dec. 9 against the experienced TBA.
Johnson is coming off of two straight knockout losses — to Ivan Hernandez in 2004 and to Jhonny Gonzalez in February — and in the Gonzalez bout Johnson could not even make the bantamweight limit.
Now Johnson is jumping up two divisions to featherweight, hoping to eventually challenge IBF titlist Robert Guerrero, according to a recent press release. It wouldn't be the first time that Johnson challenged an up-and-coming beltholder — he outpointed Fernando Montiel in 2003 — but Johnson is now much older and slower. With his inability to drop down to the lowest weight classes, Johnson's opponents will be stronger and more capable of doing damage to a man who should instead be enjoying the fruits of a long, successful career.
5. Eighteen months after being clobbered by Antonio Margarito, Kermit Cintron fought his way back into contention by knocking out Mark Suarez. With the fifth-round stoppage victory, Cintron earned the IBF welterweight title — a belt vacated by Floyd Mayweather after "Pretty Boy Floyd" captured the paper title from improper holder Zab Judah.
Whereas the junior welterweight division was once packed with talent, much of it has since moved up to the 147-pound weight class, giving Cintron many options for his next bout. A war with Paul Williams would be brief but thrilling — Cintron's stoppage wins this year over Suarez and David Estrada have not failed to entertain — but I would love to see Cintron face Zab Judah once the latter's suspension runs out in April.
It's not like Judah should have any issue being ranked by the IBF once his suspension for April's in-ring melee runs out. If Judah was allowed to retain his IBF trinket following a loss to Carlos Baldomir, he will probably be allowed a chance to regain it despite losing twice in a row.
6. Similar to Cintron, Joel Julio is another formerly undefeated welterweight attempting to work his way to the top after being convincingly beaten. And unlike Jeff Lacy — who seemingly disappeared after being given his first loss at the hands of super middleweight Joe Calzaghe — Julio returned to the ring just four months after Carlos Quintana out-boxed him in a one-sided decision.
Julio's first fight back was no proverbial walk in the park, however, as Cosme Rivera went to war with the once highly touted prospect, knocking him down in the twelfth round. Julio, however, escaped with a controversial split decision victory. Though his last two bouts show that all the praise was premature, the adversity may only help him to eventually fulfill his potential.
7. Last week, Seminole Warriors Boxing and Sycuan Ringside Promotions announced an effort to pool enough money together to win the purse bid for the bout between IBF lightweight titlist Jesus Chavez and the sanctioning body's interim beltholder Julio Diaz — the latter of whom is co-promoted by the two groups.
The purse bid was necessary after Chavez turned down the bout contract offered by his own promoter Golden Boy Promotions, but the result favored none of the fighters' promoters.
According to scribe Dan Rafael, Don King won the rights to promote Chavez-Diaz with a bid of $501,000, far higher than the $312,000 and $201,000 respectively bid by Seminole Warriors/Sycuan Ringside and Golden Boy.
8. Sticking with promotional misfortune, last week I wondered which pay-per-view would have the fewest customers — the Mike Tyson exhibition against Corey Sanders or the Golden Boy Promotions card headlined by Daniel Ponce De Leon-Al Seeger — and whether the promoters would release their remarkably low buy rates. Thanks to the aforementioned Rafael, we have partial answers.
"Buy rates aren't being released for either show, which is never a good sign," Rafael wrote in his weekend notebook. "Some industry insiders believe neither cracked 20,000 buys."
But at least Golden Boy can use the logic that they were merely keeping their fighters busy for later bouts that will give returns on their investments. What about those funding Mike Tyson's supposed world tour? If few people cared enough to spend their hard-earned cash on Tyson's first exhibition, then it is highly doubtful that much if any money will be made on future attempts.
9. Former heavyweight titlist Trevor Berbick was murdered Saturday in Kingston, Jamaica, according to the Associated Press.
A 1976 Olympian, Berbick was Muhammad Ali's final opponent, and more than four years later he had a short reign as heavyweight titlist, outpointing Pinklon Thomas in March 1986 and then being knocked out by Mike Tyson eight months later.
As of this writing, the Jamaican police have arrested an unidentified 20-year-old man and recovered the weapon believed to have been used to kill Berbick, who was discovered with four wounds to the back of his head, possibly from a machete.
Berbick was 52.
10. Hedging His Bets: Logic dictates Mayweather will easily defeat Baldomir, but this scribe can't help but remember the dream he had weeks ago of watching Baldomir-Mayweather and seeing a Baldomir knock "Pretty Boy Floyd" through the ropes. Tune in next week to find out if I know boxing better when my eyes are closed.