ORIGINAL BOXING NEWS FIGHT REPORT, November 4 2006
PERHAPS he was just tired, emotional and hurting, but Floyd Mayweather’s insistence that he would retire after his next fight had a petulant ring to it, as if he felt under-valued and therefore wanted to punish his unappreciative audience.
The bottom line is that if Mayweather really wanted to retire, he would have announced just that.
At the precise moment that he took the dais to talk to the media following his predictably one-sided points win over Carlos Baldomir at the Mandalay Bay, no doubt he meant what he said and therefore was not being deliberately disingenuous, but what he actually did was threaten to quit.
The details of when, where and how, even why, mattered little once he said he would box again, even once.
Like many other masters of a sporting art, Mayweather is blessed or cursed, depending on your view of how much it contributes to his ability to succeed, with a fragile ego.
In the immediate aftermath of his hour on stage, perhaps Mayweather felt the urge to warn those who did not respond with a sufficient level of adulation that they ought to sharpen up before it’s too late.
This kind of ploy doesn’t really work. Each generation of boxing heroes is replaced one way or another. Some lose their talents, some just get old, some retire, some are broken by the business itself.
Mayweather will go, one way or another, and there isn’t really any point in threatening to do what is inevitable anyway.
In the mercenary light of another Las Vegas morning, it might also be considered that this was a negotiating ploy in the long-running saga of his proposed fight with Oscar De La Hoya.
Mayweather and his then-promoter Bob Arum began talking up the idea three years ago when he was about to move up from lightweight.
Following Mayweather’s welterweight win over Zab Judah and De La Hoya’s light-middleweight masterclass against Ricardo Mayorga in the spring of this year, it was talked about for September 15, but an agreement could not be reached.
In the week before the Baldomir fight, next May seemed a probable target, the major question apparently being how the fighters should divide the suggested $50m fortune the occasion might generate.
By declaring he would retire after one more fight in February, it might be seen that Mayweather’s emotional outburst was just a fairly weak attempt to force De La Hoya’s hand.
Or maybe, if he really did mean it, having a taste of boxing a physically strong welterweight in Baldomir, at that precise moment Mayweather was too tired to contemplate the idea of boxing a light-middleweight as good as De La Hoya still is.
For the record anyway, whatever it turns out to mean, it is worth reporting that Mayweather did say he had first thought about retiring after beating Judah in April, and the Baldomir experience had merely firmed this up.
“All I have is one more fight and that’s it,” he said. “Then I’m walking away. I love this sport and it’s been very good to me.
“I’ve been blessed with the talent to do what I do and I’m very happy right now. I don’t need boxing anymore and I don’t need the money anymore.
“I have so much money, I couldn’t spend it in a million lifetimes.
“Boxing got me from the ghetto to the suburbs and I’ve accomplished everything I want to accomplish. I’ll go out on top. I fought everybody they put in front of me and I beat them all. I haven’t ducked anybody.”
He acknowledged he might change his mind but added: “Right now I have nothing else to prove, nothing else to accomplish. I don’t need this anymore.”
For some reason he believed critics had been saying Baldomir would be too strong for him. Not so. Almost everyone felt the rugged, one-paced Argentine would work hard and be systematically out-boxed.
The only pre-fight discussion centred on how much Mayweather might be able to hurt him, confuse him, how decisive the victory would be.
The four-weight champion, here challenging for Baldomir’s WBC belt, was 1-5 favourite.
Mayweather’s take was very different. “He was supposed to be too big, too strong, too powerful,” he said. “And look what I did.”
While still in the ring, Mayweather lost his cool when HBO interviewer Larry Merchant was less than enthusiastic about his performance, demanding he be positive, babbling rapidly but declaring: “Floyd Mayweather’s here to stay. Larry Merchant’s just a commentator. He don’t know nothing about boxing.”
Perhaps it was this serious ruffling that prompted the “retirement” speech a little later.
Baldomir ruefully acknowledged he could make no serious impression on the 29-year-old from Michigan.
“He was too fast and I couldn’t catch him, I felt sluggish and didn’t have any strength,” he said, before acknowledging that the year 2006 had changed his life.
At the age of 35, he has made his fortune in WBC title wins over Judah and Arturo Gatti and now this fight with Mayweather, grossing in turn $100,000, $1m and $1.5m. That’s a long way from scraping together a meagre living from selling homemade feather dusters on the streets of Santa Fe.
Sometimes he even took a bag of dusters with him when he fought, so he could pass through the crowd and try to sell a few more.
In fact, it would have been entirely understandable if it were Baldomir, not Mayweather, who had explained his intentions to retire.
“It’s been a great year,” he said. “I’m 35. I accomplished a lot. I beat Judah and Gatti and I’ve fought a great fighter.”
In the media room, there was a moment of fun when Baldomir spoke in Spanish and the translator said something like, “I gave of my best and I lost to the best in the world.”
A woman, presumably Spanish speaking, called out: “He didn’t say that!” Anything from there on was lost in translation.
Mayweather also said he hurt his right hand, a chronic problem, in the middle of the fight. He guessed at round six. This made some sense because he threw it less as the fight wore on, and although he won beyond argument, it became physically more gruelling for him as Baldomir closed him down the stretch.
At the end, it was just a matter of how much credit you wanted to give Baldomir for his pressure: judges John Keane and Chuck Giampa gave him none, with 120-108 while Paul Smith was a touch more generous: 118-110. I was more in line with the latter.
The CompuBox punchstats were a surprise. My impression was that Baldomir had landed more than the 79 punches he was given credit for over the whole 12 rounds (out of 670 thrown). Mayweather scored with 199 of 458.
The gist of it reflected what happened though: Mayweather was much more precise, accurate and economical, while Baldomir never stopped trying.
The weights were interesting. At the weigh-in 30 hours before the first bell, Baldomir was on the 10st 7lbs limit, Mayweather comfortable at 10st 6lbs.
When they were weighed as they entered the hall, Mayweather had put on only 3lbs at 10st 9lbs. Baldomir was a whopping 11st 8lbs, a rise of 15lbs.
When they actually fought, it was a welterweight against a middleweight.
Mayweather’s ring entrance was tacky in the extreme. Perched on a bizarre throne, clad in gold-painted fake body armour, holding a gladiator’s helmet in his glove, he was carried into the arena proceeded by three women carrying flowers. Not sure why. Like everybody else, Baldomir walked in.
In the first clinch, Baldomir landed a right hand, but once the round got underway properly Mayweather pecked way with feeling-out jabs, feinting, making him miss, pulling away from sweeping left hooks, coming inside looping rights, and countering. His best shot of the round was a fast right hook. Baldomir finished the session with a graze over his left eye.
Mayweather seemed to feel the weight of a right over the top in round two, and he took a couple of left hooks to the body, but his better foot work already made the WBC champion lunge in.
Although it was an improvement on round one for Baldomir, the pattern was set: he threw more, landed a lot less, Mayweather outboxed him, mostly with single punches.
In the third, after using jabs for the first minute, Mayweather demonstrated his defensive expertise when he was trapped on the ropes, making Baldomir miss by fractions.
Referee Jay Nady, who had told Mayweather he was a great champion in the pre-fight dressing-room talk, which came across very badly, annoyed Baldomir several times by warning him for petty infringements.
When he was ticked off for something that happened in a clinch, Baldomir shrugged angrily as if to tell the referee, ‘It wasn’t me.’ Mayweather won the round but didn’t want to stand and trade.
At this stage it looked a decent start for Baldomir. He was losing rounds but was in the fight, working the body, not seriously exposed, not hurt or bewildered.
In the fourth, Mayweather demonstrated a few more of the classy moves that had taken him, pretty much unmarked, to world titles from super-featherweight up to welterweight. He stood in front of Baldomir for lengthy spells and beat him to the punch, though Baldomir had his successes too.
Mayweather punch-picked beautifully in the fifth as well and for the first time Baldomir reacted, more or less abandoning defence in a show of bravado. Mayweather avoided the WBC champion’s head shots and blocked most of the body punches, placing relaxed counters without being over-busy.
The sixth was more of the same. Baldomir landed a couple of body punches here and there, wasn’t particularly worried by anything coming his way, but had a slight cut on the bridge of his nose and just couldn’t make a dent in Mayweather’s defence.
Mayweather bounced hooks and crosses off Baldomir’s head, playing the matador to the bull. At this stage it was an enjoyable exhibition.
Round seven was closer: Baldomir’s crowding advances brought him more success. He didn’t win the round but for the first time his strength seemed to be having an effect.
Perhaps it was because of the right hand injury, but Mayweather didn’t do much for the first minute, then landed just enough to pick up another round.
Mayweather also quietly stole the eighth, concentrating on single punches, sliding away from Baldomir’s steady, solid attacks, but by now it was far from the masterclass some had expected.
Baldomir was still coming in, trying, working as best he could. Mayweather, for whatever reason, took as few risks as possible.
In round nine, Nady warned Baldomir a second time for rabbit punching but again this looked harsh. Baldomir soaked up a solid right lead, trundling forward, getting nowhere. Mayweather’s work took on a lazy look.
I gave Baldomir the 10th and 11th for forcing the pace. Mayweather’s negative outlook provoked some boos in the crowd and some among the 9,427 paying customers began to drift away.
Baldomir landed a good left hook in the 10th, crowded forward and outworked Mayweather for me in the 11th, with Mayweather content to defend and pot-shot. There were boos again.
The last brought more of the same, except that Mayweather was a little more accurate on the move. Again he didn’t do much, Baldomir kept crowding forward and hoping, but in truth the fight was well beyond him and he knew it. Sadly the final bell was a relief because as a spectacle, it had all but petered out.
Mayweather won for the 37th consecutive time without defeat, with 24 inside the distance, while Baldomir, losing for the first time since 1998, dropped to 43-10-6, 13 inside.
Incidentally, Mayweather had his old friend Leonard Ellerbe leading his corner in the absence of his Uncle Roger, whose licence is suspended in Nevada following his outburst in the Judah fight when he protested too vehemently about foul tactics, and who anyway is in jail for assault at the moment.
As usual, Baldomir’s corner included the legendary trainer Amilcar Brusa, who guided Carlos Monzon.