Guts, determination, resiliency, and an all-around refusal to lose are often played up to a huge degree in boxing circles. They're the things that make a star out of an Arturo Gatti or a Diego Corrales, and the things that make a career like Carlos Baldomir's possible.
It wasn't but a year and a half ago that Baldomir was a lightly-regarded mandatory challenger for 147-pound champion Zab Judah, as Zab worked his way toward a megafight showdown with Floyd Mayweather, Jr.
But Baldomir's guile and fortitude allowed him to score the 2006 Upset of the Year by beating Judah in January, shocking everyone but perhaps Carlos, his family, and his handlers. They knew what kind of fighter he was, though most boxing fans simply did not. He didn't come into the fight with a pretty record, nine losses to his credit. He showed the type of spirit that makes an underdog a champion, and he dethroned Judah, which in turn made Judah/Mayweather something of a dud. After pummeling Arturo Gatti, Baldomir took on Floyd. We all knew he'd lose, and he did, and it wasn't close. But Baldomir never relented in the fight, doing anything he could to get inside on Floyd and work his way into the fight. It never materialized, but he put forth a lot of effort just to not get completely overwhelmed. In the process, he earned Mayweather's respect for giving him the shot at the welterweight title that Floyd was to have against Zab.
We know about Carlos Baldomir's will, even though he's been out of the ring since November's fight with Mayweather. How about Vernon Forrest?
Vernon Forrest has had an interesting career. Maybe not as interesting as Baldomir's, but it's a different story, to say the least. Forrest has been both kryptonite to the great Shane Mosley and defenseless against the mediocre Ricardo Mayorga. He's lost two fights out of the 40 he's fought professionally, both to Mayorga. He's struggled through numerous injuries, which have led to large periods of inactivity. His record is pretty. Baldomir's is not. Forrest has the pedigree, Baldomir doesn't, really.
So why does it seem to me like Baldomir should be considered a rather heavy favorite?
There are several reasons, really. First off, Forrest has not had a truly quality win since the last time he beat Mosley, which was five years ago. Since that fight, he's lost to Mayorga twice, then was out two years due to injury, and came back to beat Elco Garcia and Sergio Rios. Then he was out for 10 months, and he fought Ike Quartey last August.
Ike Quartey won that fight. I don't care what the judges' scorecards said at Madison Square Garden last summer, Ike Quartey won that fight, and it wasn't particularly close. Forrest won unanimous on scores of 96-93, 95-94, and 95-94. I had a 97-92 card for Quartey. New York booed it. We booed it. Almost everyone I read booed it. I think only Vernon Forrest thinks he won that fight.
And not only did he lose, he just didn't look good. There was no magic of the Forrest of old, nothing that would take you back to the two Mosley fights, which will always stand as the peak of his career.
At 36, "The Viper" is the same age as Baldomir, who you'd think is the older of the two. But it's easy now to forget, sometimes, that Forrest turned pro in 1992, 12 days after Evander Holyfield suffered his first career loss to Riddick Bowe. And though he doesn't have the wear and tear of the fight game weighing on him as much as Baldomir might, Forrest's injury problems are going to be chronic, making his 36 years likely closer to 40, or even older.
A lot of people have dissed this fight, and I'm guilty of doing that, too. I don't think anyone was clamoring for this, but the more I've considered it, it's simply that I no longer have any desire to watch Vernon Forrest fight, if the Quartey bout was any indication of what we can expect from him now.
But, I'm going to watch. Why wouldn't I? It's the WBC 154-pound title up for grabs on Boxing After Dark, two name fighters that are probably passing their prime (at best). But I don't expect a lot from Vernon Forrest on Saturday night, and I don't expect a ton from Carlos Baldomir, either. I do think Baldomir will beat him rather convincingly. But we'll see, huh? Maybe Vernon conjures up some magic. Maybe Baldomir will be even better at 154 (something I do think is very possible).
It's a test of wills for these two guys at these stages of their careers. Who wants it more? Whose body can take it? I'd put my money on Baldomir.