Carlos Baldimir’s win against Zab Judah is reminiscent of Carlos Monzon’s victory over Nino Benvenuti. Not only because Baldomir is Argentinian like Monzon (who, coincidentally, is Baldomir’s idol), but because nobody gave him a chance to win. In his career, Baldomir had compiled a record of 41 wins (only 12 KOs), 9 losses and 6 draws. He had lost every time he fought for the Argentinian welterweight title and got just a draw against Dingaan Thobela in his first attempt to become WBC international champion. Eventually, Carlos Baldomir won the WBC international belt against mediocre Dejan Zivkovic (in Arezzo, Italy) and successfully defended it 7 times. No big deal compared to what Zab Judah had accomplished in his career. In fact, Zab Judah was a 16-1 favorite. Before facing Nino Benvenuti, Carlos Monzon never impressed anybody and most people thought that his chances of beating the already legendary Italian were zero. On November 7, 1970 Carlos Monzon shocked the world. Carlos Baldomir did it on January 7, 2006.

That’s why I asked Nino Benvenuti what he thinks about Carlos Baldomir.

Mr. Benvenuti, how dou you explain Baldomir’s victory? 

I think that Carlos Baldomir didn’t want to waste the opportunity of a lifetime and gave his best. When a fighter from a country like Argentina (which is out of the big business of boxing) gets the chance to become world champion and make a name for himself in the United States or Europe, he trains harder than ever before and fights better than he ever did. I’m sure that the people who selected Baldomir as Judah’s opponent thought that Judah would have won easily. I’ve been many times in Argentina and can tell you that those guys cannot be underrated. Most fighters come from the poorest neighborhoods of the big cities and are used to making sacrifices. For them, training every day is no big deal. Unfortunately, many American and European fighters don’t take training seriously. Besides, in the so-called rich world the youngsters want to get everything easy and it cannot be done. Fighters from Latin America know that nothing worth a dime comes easily in this life. Finally, Argentinians are very strong physically and can still be dangerous in the final rounds. Probably, Carlos Baldomir’s best weapon was that Zab Judah underrated him, just like I underrated Carlos Monzon.

Carlos Baldomir won only the WBC title, because of fee problems with the WBA and the IBF. What’s your opinion about this situation?

I think that’s a ridiculous situation. Carlos Baldomir is the undisputed champion because he beat the holder of the WBA, WBC and IBF belts. Who cares about those sanctioning problems? This confusion makes me understand that the executives of the various organizations don’t understand how much they are harming the sport. If they did, they would make an unification bout every six months, so in a short time there would be only a world champion in each weight division. That’s what the fans want. That’s why the general public knows my name 35 years after I retired: because I was a legitimate world champion in two divisions (light middleweight and middleweight).

Let’s talk about your career. Who was the best boxer you ever faced?

Emile Griffith. He was very fast and intelligent; he knew what to do at the right time. His punches didn’t hurt because he was a welterweight who put on some pounds to enter the more lucrative middleweight division. In fact, he was much shorter than most middleweights. When I met him for the first time, I felt like a giant. If Emile had the right physique, he would have easily beaten every middleweight champion including Carlos Monzon.

What was the toughest fight of the trilogy against Emile Griffith?

The second one, which I lost by majority decision. Two judges scored it 9-5-1 for Emile, the third official had it 7-7-1. It happened on September 29, 1967 at Shea Stadium (Flushing, New York). Emile was at his best that night and knocked me down during the 14th round. I felt overconfident because of my previous win and that was my mistake. I didn’t make that error in our third battle, on March 4, 1968 at Madison Square Garden: I knocked Emile down during the 9th stanza and won on points: 8-6-1, 8-6-1 and 7-7-1.

What about your loss to mediocre Tom Bethea?

It was one of those incidents that happen in boxing: during the eight round, Tom Bethea broke one of my ribs and I couldn’t move. I was mad, but I really couldn’t keep on fighting. I was sorry for the fans that paid good money to see me winning. The fight took place in Melbourne (Australia), on March 13, 1970. I was welcomed by thousands of Italians who organized many events in my honor. The sports complex was full of green/white/red flags. I wanted to win to make the Italian-Australian community even prouder of me. But, you know, in most champions’ records you will find an unexpected loss against a no-name fighter. I wanted to avenge that loss fast and put my WBA/WBC middleweight titles on the line. The rematch was held in Umago (Croatia) on May 23, 1970. I KOed Tom Bethea in eight rounds. I knew he didn’t have a chance. He just got lucky the first time. I try to learn from my mistakes, that’s why I also beat Doyle Baird who gave me an hard time in our first battle.

Tell us about that.

Doyle Baird was much better than what most people think. I remember our first match in Akron (Ohio) on October 14, 1968 quite well. It was a very tough fight and ended up being the only draw of my professional career. The rematch was held in Bari (a city in the Puglia region of Southern Italy) on September 12, 1970. I knocked him down once in the 9th round and twice in the 10th, forcing the referee to declare him TKO.

Recently, you said on a TV show that you had many unexpected problems after you hung up the gloves. What did you mean?

When I was a prizefighter, I was focused on fighting. My manager took care of everything. To me, flying to New York meant telling my manager to buy the first-class tickets. When I retired, I had to do the job by myself. When I went to the travel agency for the first time, I discovered that there were various prices for plane tickets according to the air company, the class, the month and so on. It was like this for many other things as well. I had to learn how to survive at 33 years old. I never complained, I just learned what I needed to.

Many fighters have an hard time adapting to the normal life.

That’s because they don’t understand that their career is over. They should think about their present and future, not just about their past. I started working a very short time after I announced my retirement. I knew nothing about my new job and paid my dues like everybody else. During those years I had many different experiences. Right now, I’m happy to be a boxing commentator for the Italian television.

Thank you for your time, Mr. Benvenuti.

It’s always a pleasure to talk about boxing and being in touch with the readers of The Sweet Science.

Nino Benvenuti

Birth Name: Giovanni Benvenuti

Birthplace: Isola d´Istria, when it was part of Italy; today, it belongs to Croatia

Division: Light Middleweight and Middleweight

Born: April 26, 1938

Stance: Orthodox

Height: 180 cm

Manager: Bruno Amaduzzi

Trainer: Libero Golinelli

Record: 82 Wins (34 by KO), 7 Losses and 1 Draw

Light Middleweight Titles: WBA and WBC World Champion

Middleweight Titles: Italian Champion, European Champion, WBA and WBC World Champion

Inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1992