Floyd's favored, but Baldomir is champ for a reason

Floyd Mayweather is heavily favored against welterweight champion Carlos Baldomir, but Mayweather isn't taking this bout for granted, Michael Woods writes.

Originally Published: September 7, 2006
By Michael Woods | Special to ESPN.com

On the surface, at first glance, in no way, shape or form should Carlos Baldomir belong in the same ring as Floyd Mayweather.

Floyd Mayweather
Mayweather

Carlos Baldomir
Baldomir

Well, maybe as a sparring partner.

The 35-year-old from Santa Fe, Argentina, has nine losses on his résumé, and we are not talking about the brightest lights in the sport when we pore over those losses.

Alberto de las Mercedes Cortes. Sergio Ernesto Acuna. Soren Sondergaard.

None of those gentlemen, with all due respect, is likely to make his own nation's boxing hall of fame, let alone the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, N.Y. But they've all beaten Baldomir, who is slated to meet the sport's undisputed standout, Floyd Mayweather, on Nov. 4 at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas.

But if you dig a tad deeper, you should note that Baldomir's last loss, to Cortes, came way back in 1998. Since then, the Argentine is unbeaten in his last 21 bouts.

Carlos Baldomir
Mel Evans /AP PhotoCarlos Baldomir, not known for his power, celebrates vanquishing Arturo Gatti for his 13th knockout.

It is his last two victories, against Zab Judah in January and against Arturo Gatti on July 22, that have propelled Baldomir (43-9-6, 13 KOs) from the ranks of the unknown into his current state: the Cinderella Man of 2006.

At a press conference at Tavern on the Green in New York's Central Park on Wednesday afternoon to hype the Nov. 4 show, which will be presented on HBO pay-per-view, the media were informed that Baldomir already has had a stellar year.

If he were to take the rest of 2006 off, he would still garner votes in the Boxing Writers Association of America's year-end awards runoff as Fighter of the Year, based on his stunning upsets of Judah and Gatti. Maybe he didn't fall to the depths of Jim Braddock before his ascension, but Baldomir's rise from anonymity is still remarkable.

One marketing exec at the press conference raised the point that Baldomir hasn't risen as far from the pack of interchangeable pugs as one might expect. Early odds in Las Vegas have Mayweather installed as an 8-to-1 favorite over Baldomir.

Braddock was a 10-to-1 'dog when he beat Max Baer in 1935 at Madison Square Garden for the heavyweight championship.

In fact, Baldomir has seen the movie, according to Scott Woodward, an exec at Sycuan, his promotional outfit.

Woodward, a few months back, asked Baldomir what he thought of the flick and the boxer answered briskly: "It was my life, Scott."

Can a substantial underdog with nine losses against nondescript opposition have a snowball's chance in hell against Mayweather (36-0, 24 KOs), a masterful boxer with a superhero's hand-eye coordination, who has never lost as a pro?

Baldomir, through interpreter Javier Zapata, cautioned those who think his hot streak will come to a screeching halt on Nov. 4.

"Before I fought Judah, I said a few times I was going to win," he said. "Before I fought Gatti, I said I was going to win. I will win this fight and surprise the world again. I will continue winning."

Zab Judah, left, and Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Al Bello/Getty ImagesZab Judah, who lost his welterweight belt to Mayweather on April 8, often found himself on the receiving end of a Mayweather flurry.

Mayweather, with the healthy, earned level of confidence that comes with never having lost, begged to differ. His promoter, Dan Goossen, said that PBF whispered to him as Baldomir proclaimed his intent to continue his molten streak, "Don't worry, I got your back. I'm gonna beat him."

I'm not looking past Baldomir," the 29-year-old Michigan native stated when his turn came at the podium. "I'm not like Judah, going to come half-ass. I'm not Gatti, going to stand there and take punishment. He's fighting the best, not the second- or third-best. They're not pound-for-pound."

No they're not, but the fashion in which Baldomir handled Judah (unanimous decision win for Judah's WBC welterweight title belt) and Gatti (TKO9 win done in dominating fashion) has to count for something.

Two men who have helped craft the event seem certain that Baldomir is no easy mark, a late-bloomer whose momentum will quickly halt at the sonic hands of PBF.

Mark Taffet, the HBO PPV wiz, described Baldomir as the "biggest and toughest Floyd has ever faced." Goossen said that PBF will need to muster "every ounce of his greatness to overcome Baldomir's tenacity and ferociousness."

Boxing historian Bert Sugar was on hand and thinks that Baldomir's size may be a strong factor in the November matchup.

"Baldomir's hard to handicap because we've only seen him twice, really, and he has nine losses," Sugar said. "But he can cut off the ring and he was born at 147 pounds. As Floyd has gone up in weight [he debuted at 131 pounds in 1996], his knockout percentage has dropped. [Mayweather has been taken the distance in six of his last 11 wins]. I think Floyd should only be a 4-to-1 favorite."

Baldomir is in Sugar's camp on the KO matter. He told ESPN.com, "If he hits me, he won't hurt me. In this division, he won't hurt me."

In fact, Baldomir brims with confidence. After he takes care of Mayweather, the Argentine said, he has a wish list for 2007.

"Next is Antonio Margarito or Oscar De La Hoya," Baldomir said, "whoever brings the most money."

Michael Woods, the news editor for TheSweetScience.com, has written for ESPN The Magazine, GQ and the New York Observer.

Michael Woods, a member of the board of the Boxing Writers Association of America, has been covering boxing since 1991. He writes about boxing for ESPN The Magazine and is the news editor for TheSweetScience.com.

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