It wasn’t Floyd Mayweather’s most thrilling fight, nor was it one of his biggest, but a decade ago (Nov 4, 2006), “Pretty Boy,” as Mayweather was still calling himself at the time, scored a good win that led to a genuine super-fight. In November of 2006 at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay, a 29-year-old, 36-0 Mayweather boxed his third fight as a welterweight and he picked up both the lineal and the WBC 147-pound titles.
Mayweather faced teak-tough Argentine warrior Carlos Baldomir, the man who had shocked Floyd’s buddy Zab Judah in a huge upset to take the title in January of that year. 35-year-old Baldomir, 43-9-6, followed the decision win with a stoppage victory over Arturo Gatti. It was these two wins that earned “Tata” the big-money Mayweather fight, and some good judges actually felt Baldomir might severely test Mayweather, maybe even become the first man to beat him.
It was not to be, and Floyd, boxing a near masterpiece that was only lacking the punctuation mark of a stoppage, won every single round on two of the three official score-cards. The win led Mayweather to a huge fight with superstar Oscar De La Hoya and the boxing master became the biggest name in boxing – and the new pay-per-view king as far as pulling in massive numbers – with the much closer points victory he registered in May of 2007. But first came the Baldomir fight.
Entering the ring dressed as a gladiator, Mayweather put on a show, for seven or eight rounds pleasing the fans with his speed, his accuracy and his zinging punches. The latter third of the fight saw a safety-first, cruise-control Mayweather opt to take zero chances in going for the stoppage, instead boxing carefully. Fans began to trickle out of the arena, more interested now in losing cash at the tables. Baldomir never stopped coming forward, trying his best, but he was out-speeded and outclassed every step of the way. At times, ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ were omitted by the attending fans, as Floyd raked the defending champion’s chin with a hard shot that sent sweat flying.
Baldomir, sluggish and slow on this night, always had a great chin. Mayweather later claimed, as he was giving out 1,000 limited edition, custom-made watches to the media at the post-fight presser, that he injured his hand at some stage in the fight; hence the lack of a KO. Not too many people seemed to believe him, but Mayweather – after bursting into tears as he spoke of his desire to call it quits and retire (again with no-one really being convinced) – was now on his way towards the biggest fight of his career.
As for Baldomir, who cut a demoralized figure after the fight, he had seen his biggest fight and payday come and go. Baldomir did feature in a couple more biggish fights – losing to Vernon Forrest in a WBC 154-pound title chance in his very next fight and, three years later, being stopped for one of the few times in his career by Saul Alvarez – but his time as a big player had ended.
A decade on, Baldomir says, unsurprisingly, that Mayweather is the best fighter he ever faced. The 45-year-old, who retired with a 49-16-6(15) record in April of 2014, also agrees with those who say Mayweather is TBE, The Best Ever.
“Oh, Mayweather was and is the best fighter,” Baldomir told this writer recently.
“What went wrong in the fight? I just could not hit him! Also, I hurt my neck in the fight. I couldn’t fight the same way I normally did. I did not feel as strong or as physically fit as in my other fights. He was fast! Mayweather was much faster than Zab Judah.”
Floyd’s speed certainly dazzled on November 4 2006, even if his performance did not satisfy the bloodlust of some fans. Baldomir experienced first-hand how special Mayweather was at practicing The Sweet Science.
Today, Baldomir is getting involved in promoting and in working with up-and-coming fighters. The former champ’s life would have been so different if he had somehow managed to do what 48 other fighters also failed to do: solve the baffling, frustrating Mayweather puzzle.