At one point, I considered covering my eyes at ringside.
This was the World Boxing Council welterweight title eliminator?
I didn’t want to believe Carlos “Tata” Baldomir and Miguel Rodriguez were the best the WBC had to offer up to reigning undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah.
Admittedly, Judah’s belt still has that new-champ smell after earning it less than six months ago. Call it a flaw in the boxing business or not, it’s OK for him to take a softer opponent.
But has he no decency?
Baldomir’s extensive 12-round decision displayed just how short his meeting with Judah later this year will last. Indeed, the Argentinean can take a punch. For 17 straight fights, he has taken plenty of punches and all of the victories.
The latter rounds of the eliminator exhibited a stunning weakness in Baldomir. Rodriguez, after running away from his opponent through most of the fight, became the aggressor in the last two rounds. The sheer quantity of punches took effect, leaving Baldomir in a slight daze until the end.
Rodriguez won’t frighten many opponents with his hand speed, but Baldomir is even less imposing. Baldomir doesn’t telegraph as much as he sends his fists via Pony Express.
In his earlier retreats, Rodriguez did little to get away from Baldomir’s punches. Instead, he braced for impact and wobbled to the canvas twice.
Even with a few hard shots to down Rodriguez, overpowering opponents isn’t Baldomir’s game. He’s claimed 41 bouts since his professional debut in 1993, but only recorded 12 knockouts. Please note, Judah is 33-2 with 24 knockouts.
Baldomir still earned a gracious endorsement from Rodriguez after the fight.
“It was the hardest fight of my career,” Rodriguez said. “He was uncomfortable to fight.”
It was uncomfortable to watch; knowing one of them was going to be dished up like a side of potato salad to the champion. Witnessing “Super” Judah’s assault on Baldomir will be even more unsettling for those spilling big money on a bout destined to last no more than four rounds.
In the meantime, the No. 1-rated WBC contender Shane Mosley hasn’t even uttered the words “Super,” “Zab” or “Judah.” It’s an eerie silence, which prompts one to wonder if beating No. 14 David Estrada in April is all he aspires for without Oscar De La Hoya.
Then again, taking consecutive junior middleweight beatings at the end of Winky Wright’s fists may have taxed his ego beyond recovery.
The real answer to the top contender not even being visible consideration may rest in Judah’s camp, which hasn’t muttered “Sugar,” “Shane” or “Mosley” in public. A fair speculation would be the champ is entertaining a rubber match with Spinks.
Spinks and Judah are even in squaring off since 2004. Spinks claimed the first meeting with a unanimous decision at Mandalay Bay last spring for the undisputed championship. Judah spent the next sixth months collecting the vacant WBO title before scoring a technical knockout of Spinks in the ninth for a clean sweep.
Judah may also have revenge in mind. Kostya Tszyu, who faces Ricky Hatton on Sunday, could be an object of the champion’s scorn.
Controversy shrouded their 2001 bout after referee Jay Nady waved the fight in Tszyu’s favor before Judah could regain his feet. An enraged Judah threw a stool and threatened the official with his glove, all of which led to a six-month suspension and $75,000 fine by the Nevada Boxing Commission.
Tszyu may not be a top contender, but he’s doubtless a black mark on Judah’s record the 27-year-old champion would like to avenge.
Unfortunately for Baldomir – or anyone watching – he’s merely an afterthought as a challenger.