“If there’s any justice in the world
I would be your man.” – Lemar
We live in a world where the undeserving are often rewarded. Politicians break the law, lie about it and remain in office. Radio talk show hosts make up their own versions of reality that have nothing to do with actual facts and are paid millions. Athletes cheat and remain in the record books. And popular fighters receive decisions that they didn’t earn.
Until Saturday night.
For one night at least, it seemed all was right in the boxing world, even if it had turned into the Bizarro world (and we’re not talking about Lou). Carlos Baldomir, a no-hoper journeyman (who had won his last 19 in a row) was going into the backyard of the immensely talented Zab Judah, to try to win the welterweight championship of the world. About the best thing people could say about Baldomir is that he is tough.
Although he wasn’t handpicked, he might as well have been. Baldomir has little power, a good chin and a respectable track record. He’s the kind of boxer Zab should have pummeled for several rounds before the referee mercifully stopped the fight.
The Showtime announcers reported that Baldomir locked himself up in training camp for four or five months in preparation for this fight, staying away from his wife and children. Judah, on the other hand, barely showed up to camp. A source close to the Judah camp told me that he didn’t bring in any sparring partners – that the only sparring Zab had was with local amateurs. To say Zab took the fight lightly would be an understatement.
I believe that he knew how out of shape he was before the fight started. The smack that he gave Baldomir during the referee’s instructions was meant not only to intimidate, but maybe to help slow his opponent down just a little.
It always astonishes me when boxers don’t take a fight seriously. Carlos Baldomir was the only thing standing in the way of Zab Judah making millions. The boxing media had been full of praise for Judah’s newfound maturity. But it is immature not to acknowledge the risks to your (and your family’s) livelihood.
What was perhaps most astonishing to me was not the performance but the decision. Even before the fight started, when it was announced that two of the judges were from New York and one of them was the inept Melvina Lathan, I said to myself, there is no way Baldomir can get a decision here.
I was actually nervous before the decision was read. I wanted Baldomir to win. I was angry with Judah for blowing this opportunity. He had a chance to make an impression that would result in the boxing community demanding that Floyd Mayweather sign to fight him. I hoped that just this once, justice would be served.
When Jimmy Lennon Jr. announced it was a unanimous decision, once again I thought, no way does Baldomir get the decision. Perhaps the judges too were upset with Judah’s effort and unconventionally awarded the close rounds to the challenger. Perhaps the judges realized that like Mayweather, despite having all of the talent in the world, his Q-rating just isn’t all that high.
Judah did himself no favors with his post-fight interview in which he made no excuses but then blamed Don King for not being prepared. It wasn’t Don King that kept Judah from doing roadwork or sit-ups or sparring with qualified partners. Don King gets blamed for a lot of things in this game – perhaps some of them accurately. Keeping his star champion from being in shape for a fight isn’t and shouldn’t be one of them.
The normally unlikable Jim Gray did a nice job of not letting Zab off the hook and pointing out that blaming King in fact is an excuse.
There are some boxers whose personalities enable them to attract fans and the big dollars that go along with them, at any time in their career. Ali, Tyson, and Pacquiao are a few examples. Few fighters have that kind of charisma. Unfortunately, talent and charm don’t always go hand in hand. If they did, Mayweather and Judah would be two of the most popular boxers in the sport. Instead, they are revered by boxing insiders and hard-core fight fans (Judah, obviously less so now) and anonymous to the average sports enthusiast. Those kinds of fighters can not afford to take the chances that Judah took. And for all of the complaints about Mayweather’s personality and outside the ring behavior, when it comes down to boxing he is the consummate professional. I’ve never seen him out of shape or ill prepared. If Pretty Boy is supposed to win a fight easily – he does. While he still needs a popular foil to generate the big dollars, he is at least in that position because all he does is win. Judah will have to go back to fighting for short money while he gets his career back on track.
I feel a little bad that this column is all about Judah and nary a word about Baldomir – but that’s what this fight was. Baldomir was the right guy at the right time. He put in a great effort and didn’t buckle under the pressure. But it was Judah that lost this fight, not Baldomir who won it.
I’m glad the judges noticed too.
* I, and a lot of other people, were wrong about O’Neil Bell. He was in great shape, which helped him weather a few storms. Mormeck is no joke and hits hard, but Bell was clearly the better man Saturday night. He has explosive power, is articulate and fights in a competitive division. And the fact that he falls behind in practically all of his fights makes them exciting. I’m looking forward to his next outing.
* What was referee Wayne Kelly thinking when he let the Bell–Mormeck fight continue, while Mormeck had about 8 inches worth of loose tape dangling from his glove? Someone could take an eye out with that thing.
* Corrales–Castillo on February 4th and then the Super Bowl on February 5th. Are they trying to get us all divorced?
Until next time, obey my commands and protect yourself at all times.