While sizing up former welterweight titleholder Carlos Baldomir as an opponent for the young Saul “Canelo” Alvarez nearly a year ago in September, Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez considered it to be “a risky fight.”
“Obviously when we first discussed the fight, and I feel that we have a great team of matchmakers when it comes to Saul “Canelo” Alvarez headed by Oscar De La Hoya himself and [matchmaker] Don Chargin, we’re always being very careful,” said Gomez.
“But we have to get the experience. And when we did that fight with Baldomir, we all knew that it was a risky fight. Because if there is one thing that he has is that he has a chin, and he keeps coming, and you have to be in great shape to fight Baldomir.”
But their collective concerns were quelled by the then-20-year-old Alvarez, who out-boxed the rugged Argentine before knocking him senseless with a short, yet powerful overhand right.
Baldomir pitched forward face-first, sat up and rolled to his right. But he failed to beat the 10-count of referee Jose Cobian, resulting in a stunning sixth-round knockout by Alvarez.
“What Canelo did was very, very impressive. It was incredible. Because you could see Baldomir coming after him, and he was trying to set Canelo up for something. And then all of a sudden, Saul catches him and it was game over,” said Gomez.
“So I think that it was a great experience for everybody, and a great experience for him. He’s developing nicely, and obviously we feel the same way about this next fight.”
The 21-year-old Alvarez (37-0-1, 27 knockouts) defends his WBC junior middleweight title against Alfonso Gomez (23-4-1, 12 KOs) on Sept. 17 at Staples Center in Los Angeles — where he KO’d Baldomir — on the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Victor Ortiz pay-per-view broadcast.
Gomez, 30, believes he was carefully chosen to face Alvarez, owing to his being a natural welterweight who is not known for his punching power. He has won five straight bouts, including a sixth-round stoppage of past-his-prime former beltholder Jose Luis Castillo, since he was stopped by Miguel Cotto in April 2008.
Gomez also defeated the late Arturo Gatti by a sixth-round knockout in July 2007.
“This is a tough guy and one of the toughest that he’s faced,” said Eric Gomez. “You’ve got to do this, and you’ve got to develop a fighter to be ready for these kinds of fights.”
“That [Baldomir fight] was exactly a year ago at the Staples Center. In many ways, I think that was the coming out party for Canelo here in the United States,” said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer.
“Not a lot of people had heard his name and heard about him. So what a first impression that was. It clearly stole the night.”
In defeating Baldomir, Alvarez stopped for only the second time in his career a man who had gone the distance with Mayweather and the late Vernon Forrest.
Baldomir’s biggest wins had come against Joshua Clottey in November 1999, Zab Judah for the WBC’s welterweight belt in January 2006, and Gatti in July 2006, respectively, by 11th-round disqualification, 12-round decision, and, ninth-round knockout.
Baldomir had been stopped only once prior to facing Alvarez, and that was in the second round by Paulo Alejandro Sanchez in the seventh fight of Alvarez’s career, in May 1994.
“Carlos Baldomir said it best after the fight when he spoke to Oscar,” said Schaefer. “Baldomir said, ‘You know what? In all of the fights that I’ve had, I’ve never been hit as hard as I’ve been hit by Canelo.’ That statement coming from Carlos Baldomir shows you how special Canelo is.”
But Alvarez doesn’t just seem to think that he can do better than he did against Baldomir — he knows it.
“I don’t think that it was my toughest fight. I’ve had other tougher fights There are at least three other ones that I feel were tougher fights,” said Alvarez, reeling off Euri Gonzalez, Michel Rosales and Ryan Rhodes, who he stopped in the 11th, 10th and 12th rounds.
“These guys were tough guys who were able to take my punch, and they kept coming. Yeah, he [Baldomir] was talking, and he said that he was going to do this and that, but I think I think that I proved that I was better than him. It goes to show that I like to do my talking in the ring.”
Alvarez has fought on American soil just five times. He debuted in Las Vegas by stopping Jose Miguel Cotto in the ninth round at the MGM Grand in May of last year.
Jose Miguel, the older brother of WBA junior middleweight champion Miguel Cotto, was knocked out for the first time in his career on the undercard of Mayweather’s unanimous decision over Mosley.
After defeating Baldomir, Alvarez earned a unanimous decision over South African-born ex-titleholder Lovemore N’dou of Sydney South Wales, Australia.
“Saul Alvarez is strong, with good combinations,” said N’Dou, who briefly held the IBF junior welterweight belt and has gone the distance with beltholders Cotto, Kermit Cintron, Paulie Malignaggi, Junior Witter and Sharmba Mitchell. “Saul Alvarez is a tough customer and is the best fighter that I ever faced.”
Alvarez followed up the win over N’dou with a decision and a 12th-round knockout, respectively, over Englishmen Matthew Hatton and Rhodes in March and June.
Alvarez earned his WBC belt over Hatton, ending his 8-0-1 unbeaten streak that had included three knockouts. Rhodes was riding a 10-bout winning streak that included eight knockouts.
“It’s really amazing what Canelo has done as a 21-year-old young man in the period of just under one year,” said Schaefer. “If you think about what he’s done since he beat Baldomir in a very short period of time, he’s captured the world title, defended it against a very tough guy, and now he’s headlining a card at the Staples Center.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]