Carlos Baldomir: From Feather Dusters to Dust

By Michael Katz


Carlos Baldomir: From Feather Dusters to Dust

Watching guys throw water on each other at boxing press conferences usually puts me to sleep, but it was amusing to see Carlos Baldomir, who has made an unexpected splash in the welterweight division, go from boredom to anger when Floyd Mayweather Jr. anointed him with water and then back to boredom.

The odds are dropping. Mayweather opened at minus $8 (you have to risk $8 to win $1), but it was announced by the happy promoters at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas that boxing's best was now only a 5-1 favorite - with Baldomir a plus $3.50 (bet $1 to win $3.50). Enough arithmetic. High odds usually drop when the underdog is a legitimate world champion who hasn't lost a fight in eight years, has already scored two impressive upsets in 2006 and is so confident he put $25,000 on himself.

Standing face to face with the 35-year-old welterweight champion after the press conference's formal pissing session, cleansed no doubt by the substitution of Evian, you could see he was made from the same steel that helped forge Carlos Monzon in the same city, Santa Fe, Argentina.

His face was stoic, in the Monzon style. Monzon didn't look AT people, he looked through them. I was introduced to him in 1971 before the first of his 14 successful middleweight defenses and he just walked right by me. There I was, a reporter for the New York Times, standing in the middle of a Monte Carlo street with my right hand sticking aimlessly in the air. His people - including now 84-year-old trainer Amilcar Brusa, who works Baldomir's corner - explained that Monzon did not feel like talking. I was the only reporter there, but from the way he looked, I didn't feel like talking, either.

There wasn't much to talk about. This was the rematch with Nino Benvenuti, who had given up before the start. In the first round, the Italian playboy hit Monzon with a perfect left hook, short and powerful, right on the chin. Monzon just kept looking through him. After a fairly even second round, Benvenuti threw in the towel before the third. He hit Monzon with his best shot, nothing happened and he'd be damned if he was going to subject himself to the same kind of beating he had taken six months earlier.

Baldomir said, through an interpreter, that Monzon had inspired him to take up boxing in the first place. No, he didn't remember too many Monzon fights. He hadn't been born by either of the Benvenuti fights, though he said he did get to see a couple before Monzon retired in 1977, by which time Baldomir was five years old.

In terms of boxing, Baldomir bears little resemblance to his hometown hero. Like Monzon, he moves forward, constantly and menacingly, but without the middleweight champion's arsenal. Unlike Monzon, Baldomir is not much of a puncher - only 13 knockouts in 58 pro fights (43-9-6 record).

In a sense, that makes his rise even more appealing. He is not a suave boxer, does not have silky moves and, yes, if you prick him he will bleed. He is that most mortal of warriors, whose success resides in the bounty of his intangibles. Baldomir is willing to walk through fire to throw water - actually, it was his manager, Javier Zapata, who first went to the well at the press conference when Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather's best friend and lead cornerman, offered the Argentines a third way to end Saturday night's pay-per-view event ("he can go out on his face, or he can go out on his ass," said Ellerbe, trying to hand the Baldomir camp little white flags of surrender.)

Zapata threw water at Ellerbe, Mayweather dived right in by throwing more at the Argentines, then quickly withdrew, saying it was good fun, might sell some tickets, which is probably needed, and then offered his right hand in friendship, to be accepted by Zapata and by Baldomir. No way Monzon would have shaken that hand, though.

While he may not have Monzon's fire, Baldomir is a much more sympathetic figure. Monzon, it should be remembered, was on a prison furlough when he was involved in his fatal auto accident. He was in prison for doing the macho thing of beating up a woman, having pushed his longtime lady off the balcony and failing to catch her on the first bounce.

Baldomir is a family man. Wife, four kids, hard worker. His father makes feather dusters, used to sell them in the streets. The fighter used to sell them on the streets of Santa Fe, too. And after he became a professional boxer, he continued selling them on the streets of Santa Fe. He usually made more money selling feather dusters than he did by boxing. He was selling dusters as recently as four years ago, he said. And this is a fighter who has been undefeated eight years, a road warrior who would take a suitcase of the dusters with him to hustle an extra buck. He would fight in Copenhagen, against a Dane, after spending the afternoon selling dusters.

He is a true Cinderella Man - right down to doing dirty work. You don't need an evil stepmother and evil stepsisters when you're poor. So there was Baldomir at the press conference, fed up already with the talk - promoter Dan Goossen saying Mayweather was not only the best fighter pound for pound of this generation, but "some" said he may be the "best of all time."

Baldomir would sneer at that, mentioning Sugar Ray Leonard "was the best fighter to me," and we'll go into this more in the next act. Baldomir said he was tired: "Too many questions, too many phone calls. I get annoyed by these things. Let's wait (until the fight) and see what happens."

The big sign hanging behind the dais at the Mandalay Bay Theater, where at night "Mama Mia" plays, had "Mayweather vs. Baldomir." Boxing etiquette, if you pardon the oxymoron, requires the champion's name to be listed first. Baldomir said so what, who cares. Questions, in both English and Spanish, about Mayweather, about being showered at press conferences, were brushed aside as nuisances, the part he has to pay for a $1.5 million purse. I suggested that he might be happy selling feather dusters and got the only smile of the session.

You have to love a guy like Baldomir, the underdog virtually his entire career, just plugging away in the same manner in which he fights. Nothing fancy, nothing terrifying, just hard work by a guy trying to feed his family. Unlike Mayweather, the Cinderella Man doesn't have a ten-bathroom house. Why would anyone want to have to clean so many toilets?

Yeah, he's a nice guy, someone you can't help rooting for in a way. But he has as much of a chance as boxing's original Cinderella Man, James Braddock, did against Joe Louis. The feather duster salesman is about to get a real dusting. Boxing is no fairy tale.

PENTHOUSE: Baldomir, obviously, for being the epitome of the underdog. But let's give a hand to Mayweather, who proved he wasn't a complete drip by quickly shaking hands with Team Baldomir after trying to douse it, saying later "it was fun, it was entertainment, and maybe it helped sell some tickets." Tickets, Mandalay Bay announced, were going well and with a big walkup maybe there'd be a sellout of the 10,080 or so seats. In other words, tickets weren't going all that well and those who stay home and buy the pay-per-view for $50 would also get to peek in on the Showtime card from Phoenix headlined by Sergei Liahkovich's heavyweight defense (which alphabet title doesn't matter, of course) against Shannon Briggs.

OUTHOUSE: Jose Sulaiman obviously can't do enough to ruin the game. Now the WBC has approved open scoring, a well-documented failure. Maybe Jose will get one of his inept judges killed by angry fans. At least, it's only "optional," meaning local commissions can - and SHOULD - forget about it, although the WBClowns said Japan would probably opt for it at its next title card, showing the scores after the fourth and eighth rounds….Does Roy Jones Jr., at 37, really need a week in Philadelphia (second prize, two weeks in Philadelphia) to fight Manny Siaca on Dec. 9?…I'm beginning to believe the moment has passed for Joe Calzaghe and his 15 minutes are up. It's beginning to look like Kevin McBride became the role model for his career - he's followed up the brilliant performance against Jeff Lacy by virtually disappearing. Yeah, he was on HBO last month, but against a stiff and he looked, well, rusty, and probably more fans were watching Jay Larkin.


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