Three years ago, Vernon â€œThe Viperâ€ Forrest attempted to regain the Welterweight Championship in a highly anticipated rematch against an iron-chinned, pressure fighter by the name of Ricardo Mayorga. Hindered by a damaged left shoulder, Forrest was unable to utilize his highly touted jab and keep Mayorga off of him, ultimately losing a heartbreaking majority decision before fading away from the boxing limelight. Saturday night, Forrest faced a similar fighter and former undisputed Welterweight Champion in Carlos â€œTataâ€ Baldomir for the vacant WBC Junior Middleweight Championship. This time, with no injuries holding him back from performing at his best, he was a dominant fighter once more.
Before the setbacks to Mayorga, Forrest was heralded as, pound for pound, one of the best in the world. Capitalizing on a height advantage he held over most of his welterweight foes and a consistently effective jab to set up powerful combinations, Forrest looked terrific in claiming two decisive victories over Shane Mosley. Since dropping the decision to Mayorga, Forrest had fought only three times in the last four years, culminating in a controversial win over Ike Quartey that the fans in attendance and most viewers felt he had lost. Against Baldomir, Forrest finally looked to have retrieved a larger portion of that which made him great years ago.
Baldomir’s reign as Welterweight Champion was equally short-lived, making only one defense of his crown, but, unlike Forrest, he was an overachiever in defeating Zab Judah and Arturo Gatti before relinquishing his throne to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Fighting for the first time at the Junior Middleweight level, Baldomir was unproven in his new weight class, but thanks to Mayweather vacating the belt he won against Oscar De La Hoya in May in order to compete full time as a welterweight, the two former champions from a weight class below had the opportunity to become champion of a division devoid of big names. Few experts and even less fans were expecting much to come out of Tacoma, Washington, but Forrest and Baldomir begged to differ and put on a terrific fight that eventually progressed into a showcase for the skills of a rejuvenated Forrest, looking to recapture the interest of the boxing world.
After a cautious opening, Forrest began catching Baldomir coming in with left hooks to claim the first round after which Baldomir, perhaps flashing back to his utter domination at the hands of Mayweather, already appeared a bit disheartened on his stool. To counter the blind charges of Baldomir, Forrest spun his man about on three separate occasions in the early going, prompting Baldomir to complain to Referee Mike Ortega. The action that ensued from there was more than anyone was expecting as they traded with each other. Forrest landed the better shots, but Baldomir refused to let up and managed to edge the second round with quantity, including a good straight right hand to the face of Forrest at the bell. Forrest returned to his corner, swelling under his right eye for his troubles. He must have been feeling good, however, because he had no problem slugging it out with Baldomir and even nodded to his corner and his opponent to confirm that he liked the way the fight was unfolding.
A big straight right hand to the jaw snapped Baldomir’s head aside early in round 4, the biggest punch of the fight. Forrest proceeded to grin at his man and pop him with some stiff jabs. When Baldomir attempted to answer back, Forrest ripped him to the body before coming up with a vicious left hook across Baldomir’s face. Forrest began teeing off on Baldomir’s vulnerable head in a way Mayweather refused to commit to, but the immovable Baldomir responded by grinning back as the crowd ate it up. The fighters eventually pushed their luck too far, and their heads collided after Forrest landed a right hand. While both appeared to feel the effects of a bad one, Ortega thankfully ruled that there was no significant damage. A fight this unexpectedly pleasing couldn’t be marred by one of boxing’s biggest buzz killers. Baldomir went for a big right hand once he recovered, but Forrest caught him with one of his own over the top of the head, and suddenly, Baldomir appeared stunned as he froze with his gloves in the air and ate a left hook across the face. As Baldomir started to fall back, Forrest leapt in and hammered him with another one to the jaw to send Baldomir staggering back into the ropes. A follow up assault from Forrest failed to finish the job as Baldomir hung on, complaining, until the bell. Baldomir appeared unhurt but irate, throwing his glove up and shouting at Ortega as he gestured to the timekeeper, accusing him of failing to do his job.
As it turns out, Baldomir thought he heard the bell and that Forrest’s shots, therefore, were illegal. Though the rowdy Tacoma crowd thought he was nearly gone, Baldomir was never in serious trouble, but his face bared the markings of a tough fight as he was bruised on the cheek and suffered a slight cut on the forehead from the headbutt. Forrest continued to outclass Baldomir, landing picture perfect shots throughout rounds 5 and 6. The beating Baldomir was taking was so shocking at times that Ortega quietly observed Baldomir’s condition in the corner between rounds. In round 6, Forrest hit heads with Baldomir while landing another right hand, but this time, the headbutt appeared to get the best of Forrest, who rubbed his head a little longer. It didn’t throw him off his game, however, as he continued to dominate Baldomir. Forrest switched things up by mixing in a huge uppercut in round 7 that nearly took Baldomir’s head off, but the Argentinean amazingly remained unfazed. As Baldomir grew more desperate, Forrest grew more accurate, tagging Baldomir with counter shots from both hands. At the end of the round, Forrest appeared to taunt Baldomir by leaning towards him, but Baldomir didn’t back down, nearly walking through Ortega to stand up to Forrest until they were separated from one another.
Forrest moved around the ring, tagging Baldomir at will with counter punches in round 8 until Baldomir grew tired of the chase and dropped his gloves, unwilling to put in the effort anymore. Forrest responded by dropping his gloves and popping the unsuspecting Baldomir with a straight right hand through the guard. Round 9 was yet another dominated by Forrest until he missed an uppercut and paid the price with a hard right hand to the side of the head from Baldomir that momentarily buzzed him. After slipping the follow up shots, Forrest retaliated with a big low blow to Baldomir that seemed intentional. Despite trying to make his case to Ortega, Forrest was immediately docked a point for his actions by the referee, who was actually a bit premature with the decision as Baldomir was pulling Forrest’s head down at the time of the foul; furthermore, the shot wasn’t low enough to cause any serious damage to Baldomir, who confirmed this by barely taking any recovery time. It didn’t take long for the fighters to start trading wild shots again, but Forrest continued to land the more telling blows. As Forrest grinned, Baldomir pounded his chest to suggest his heart and then beckoned Forrest to slug with him further, but the invitation went unaccepted. The crowd booed as both fighters lowered their gloves and resorted to a staring contest even though the breather was well deserved.
Forrest peppered Baldomir with every punch in his arsenal over the last three rounds, knocking Baldomir’s head all about and stifling any chance of a come-from-behind knockout. The twelfth and final round was particularly devastating for Baldomir, who ate hard, crisp punches from all angles as Forrest refused to take his foot off the gas and coast to a points victory. By pursuing a knockout even in the waning seconds of the fight, Forrest denied Baldomir the chance to score one himself by putting him on the defensive. Of course, Baldomir was never close to being stopped either, and the expected decision eventually arrived, to no one’s surprise, as a lopsided unanimous one in favor of Forrest. Official scores were 118-109 twice and 116-111 in a fight that returned Forrest to form after a three year hiatus.
Baldomir and Forrest embraced following the announcement, but the similarities in their demeanors ended there as one fighter looked forward to a bright future while the other acknowledged that he was at the end of the road in his career. Baldomir, accepting Forrest’s words of praise, conceded his likely retirement from the sport. While Baldomir has been ushered out in respectable fashion, Forrest’s impressive victory has given him the proverbial shot in the arm; in this case, a shot in the shoulder. The victory lands him right back in the thick of things, the heir apparent to a rather uncontested Junior Middleweight throne. Few would argue that Forrest is not the best man in his newfound division. Even if the public accepts Forrest as the recognized champion in that division, however, all paths should lead through IBF Champion Cory Spinks in a unification bout to rightfully determine the man at 154 pounds. Comparing the excitement of his win over Baldomir to the shameful performance Spinks put up against Jermain Taylor in May, Forrest would certainly have most fans on his side should that fight come off in the near future.