On January 8th, 2006, the boxing world was introduced to Carlos Baldomir, when the unknown Argentinian pulled off the most shocking upset in recent memory, by whipping Zab Judah and winning a unanimous decision before the stunned masses in Judah's hometown arena at Madison Square Garden. Written off so badly that there weren't even Vegas odds available for the fight, Baldomir pressed fearlessly through Judah's early flurries to nail him flush in the face in the seventh, sending Jab into the now infamous "chicken dance" as he wobbled, jello-kneed around the ring, fleeing from Baldomir that round and much of the rest of the bout (here's a video clip of the chicken dance).
I loved every minute of it. I only wish Baldomir would have caught him with that big one and took him out all the way. Still, I went through the roof when the UD was announced. I was sure the hometown crowd and judges were going to unfairly give it to the much-hyped Zab Judah. But justice was served that night.
Punk Judah gives boxing a bad name. Instead of touching gloves with Carlos he popped him a low blow that hit his thigh. During the run-up to the fight, he bitched that Baldomir wasn't worthy, and after the fight he blamed his loss on Don King. Now that he's been dispatched by Mayweather, hopefully we won't have to see his whiney ass stinking up the joint for a long time. Carlos "Tata" Baldomir earned quite a few fans that night, and since then we've been wondering, who is this guy?
He ain't nothing fancy, but watching Baldomir, blood streaming down his face from a headbutt, pointing to his chin and taunting Judah, as he walked unflinching through his punches and stalked the faster man around the ring, you couldn't help but love the guy. So I've been talking about him to every boxing fan I know and trying to find out more. At a local sports pub, watching the World Cup, I was talking with someone who happens to be from Argentina, so I asked him: "Are you a fan of Carlos Baldomir?"
"Baldomir!" he said, rolling his eyes, "none of us can believe this guy! He was one of the most mocked boxers in the country for years, then suddenly he just turned it around and became this unstoppable force of nature." I nodded, trying to show I wanted to hear more, and he continued (I'm paraphrasing a bit here), "It's all about him becoming the fighter of Amilcar Brusa. Before that, Baldomir was nothing. Since then, he has been unstoppable. Brusa is the greatest trainer ever from South America." Then he turned the tables on me: "Are you a fan of Carlos Monzon?"
"Um, sure" I said, ruffling through my mental rolodex. I remembered the great middleweight's name and reputation but little else. "Middleweight, right? Fought in the 60s?"
"The 60s and 70s, yes," he said. "Carlos Monzon is Argentina's Mike Tyson and Muhammad Ali in one. We believe his only comparison at Middleweight is Sugar Ray Robinson. And Brusa was his trainer. He's got to be in his 80s or 90s by now, but he still trains. When he picked up Baldomir, we all thought he was insane. Baldomir had lost something like a third of his fights then. But Brusa said he would be great, that he just needed the right training and confidence. This was about five years ago. Baldomir has not lost a fight since, and now he's beaten that asshole, what's his name..."
"Zab Judah is the punk-ass clown you're thinking of," I said. "Right," he went on, "I didn't see the fight, but I read the headlines. It was a very big deal back home. People are comparing him to Monzon in Argentina now, but that's crazy. Carlos worships Monzon. He is his hero and talks about him constantly. And Baldomir has became a tough motherfucker, but he isn't a Monzon."
I told him how impressed I was with Baldomir against Judah, how he has an awkward style that works to his advantage, how he seems strong for a welterweight, and how I was surprised he doesn't have more knockouts. I told him I was rooting for him in his next fight against Arturo Gatti. "Everyone in Argentina will be watching that fight," Baldomir is the new hero."
Gatti fights Baldomir this Saturday on HBO, and I'm pumped. It's rare that I get to watch a fight where I like BOTH boxers, but this is one of those match-ups. It's going to be blood and guts all the way, mark my word. These two are going to beat the shit out of each other, toe to toe. I admit that I don't know that much about Baldomir, but watching him fight Judah, he seemed to a have a chin of stone and a heart of gold-just like Thunder Gatti. When was the last time you saw a headline fight on HBO where the two boxers have a combined 16 losses? To the casual fan, it looks like an embarrassment, but I predict that both boxers honor the sport and the fans this weekend by giving us a tremendous bout.
And my call? Flame away, Gatti Nation, but I'm calling Baldomir to win this one by decision. I see Gatti winning the early rounds, then slowing down enough for the physically stronger Baldomir to pressure him. Baldomir seemed utterly unphased by Judah's punches, and I doubt Gatti has much more oomph. Baldomir walks through Gatti's middle and late round attacks to score more power punches and just barely outpoint him in front of Gatti's hometown crowd.
And at nearly 2 to 1 odds in favor of Gatti, I'm putting my money where my mouth is. See you after the fight.