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Articles of 2005

Zab Judah’s Last Chance at Lasting Impression




This is the one where he promises to finally put it all together. The rematch with Cory Spinks (Saturday, February 5, 2005, 9PM ET/PT on SHOWTIME) will reveal the true Zab “Super” Judah, the one that was referred to as “baby Pernell” and “Pernell Whitaker with power” throughout his stellar amateur career. After years of waiting, there is finally reason for Zab to rise to the occasion.

I know, I know… stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

But talking to the Zab of today, one gets the sense that for the first time in a long time he now finally realizes that he is not living up to his full potential. He also realizes that, especially in today’s market, you only get so many chances before you are permanently written off in the public eye.

“The moment I even heard rumors about this fight happening, me and my pops (trainer Yoel Judah) hit the gym and prepared for war,” Zab told during a recent exclusive interview. “Ever since my last fight (KO1 Wayne Martell – October 2, 2004), the only thing I wanted was a rematch with Cory Spinks. Nobody else wants to fight me, which is fine because the Spinks fight is the only one that matters to me, anyway. Now I can start off 2005 by getting revenge.”

Perhaps it’s fitting, then, that his latest – and perhaps last – shot at greatness comes in Spinks’ hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, with Missouri of course being known as the “Show Me State.” Many critics have insisted that it’s high time Zab shows them that he’s still worthy of the early hype that surrounded his career. More than just proving the critics wrong, Zab feels that he now has all the motivation he needs to live up to the early press clippings.

“They messed up big time by putting this one in his hometown. When they first asked me where I wanted the fight, I told them I didn’t care, so long as it wasn’t in Vegas. So when they chose St. Louis… that was all I needed to hear. I already knew going into the rematch that I have to knock him out just to win. With the fight in his backyard, now I know what I have to train for. An early night.”

Perhaps not as early as his last fight – a first round stoppage over cannon-fodder Wayne Martell last October in Madison Square Garden. But after dropping a heartbreaker to Spinks and then following it up with a closer-than-expected fight with Rafael Pineda, Judah is no longer interested in allowing his opponents to last the distance or fighting in Sin City anytime soon.

“What bothers me about the fight with Cory is that the eleventh round knockdown took the fight off of the table for the judges. I was winning the round, and simply got caught. No big deal. I got right back up and finished the round and took it to him at the end of the fight. But even putting him on his butt didn’t matter, because the judges had me way behind somehow. I didn’t think it was a fair decision. Nor was that crap the judges came up with a month later.”

The “month later” fight he refers to is the Pineda fight, which also took place in Las Vegas. Wanting to head into the summer on a winning note, Judah agreed to take on Pineda on very short notice. In fact, it came after he was willing to accept a short notice fight with WBA “regular” welterweight champion Jose Rivera, only to have Rivera to pull out because of the money being offered. Instead, Judah wound up with Pineda, and as the fight wore on, there was little motivation to go full throttle.

“I admit, one major flaw I have is that I get too comfortable in the ring at times. When I got a cat like Pineda, I know it won’t take much to beat him, so I get a little lazy and lose focus. My dad was there to let me know that I was slipping, at which point I responded by putting him on his butt. But I knew that fight was just to get me a win, and the Martell fight was for me to end the year with a knockout while waiting for this rematch to pan out. Knowing that Cory is in the other corner, there’s no excuse for me to not be focused for this one.”

Perhaps not, but many critics will quickly point out that his penchant for losing focus is not so easy to correct. After all, it has nearly plagued what was once considered a gleaming bright career, one that was jumpstarted by an incredible run in the amateurs, where he racked up numerous Golden Gloves titles en route to finishing with an eye-popping 110-5 career record in the non-pay ranks.

The suspicions started in his twenty-third pro fight. It was also his first world title fight, and his first appearance on Showtime Championship Boxing, having appeared on SET-PPV the year before. And despite cruising to a fourth round stoppage of Jan Bergman, he suffered the first knockdown of his career. It was a flash knockdown that came in the second, but he was able to bounce right back up and take care of business. It wasn’t good enough, though, as people suddenly questioned his chin, and mental makeup.

Two fights later, Judah was once again reacquainted with the canvas, when power puncher Terronn Millett dropped Brooklyn’s Finest in the first round of their August 2000 encounter. Millett had come to reclaim what he felt was stolen from him – the IBF junior welterweight title. Unfortunately for him, Zab got up and for the next three rounds proceeded to beat the truth into him – that the belt was his and was heading back to Brooklyn with him, stopping Millett in the fourth round of what was Judah’s first main event on Showtime.

Subsequent stoppages of Hector Quiroz and Reggie Green would feature moments of disinterest on the part of young Judah. So much so, that toward the latter stages of the Green fight, Hall-of-Fame referee Arthur Mercante, Sr. had to urge both fighters to mix it up, and for Judah to stop clowning. Zab heeded the words of wisdom and blasted out Green shortly thereafter, as if upon request. It seemed to carry over in his next fight, a third round stoppage over mandatory challenger Allan Vester. Of course, on the line in that fight was a potential undisputed showdown with then WBC and WBA champion Kostya Tszyu. The thought of becoming the division’s first ever undisputed champion was all the motivation Judah needed in order to take care of business as fast as he did. Ironically enough, it was Tszyu who struggled mightily in his fight; a closer-than-expected points win over then-undefeated but unknown mandatory Oktay Urkal.

As they say, a win is a win is a win, and a pair of wins on that June, 2001 Showtime telecast meant a November showdown was looming. Zab came fully prepared, giving Tszyu a boxing lesson in the opening round. Holding his own in the second round, Judah was out to prove that he was ready to take over. Then suddenly – it happened.

“Even now, I still can’t explain it. I knew I was in control, I knew I could beat him and take all those titles. Then, you slip up for a second and BAM!”

The BAM came courtesy of a big right hand from Tszyu that sent Judah crashing hard to the canvas. It would be the last punch landed in the fight, but not the last time that Zab would hit the canvas. Determined to prove that he wasn’t hurt, Judah got up immediately after he hit the deck. Unfortunately, his head was not aware that his legs were out of the office, as he stumbled across the ring in a sequence that to this day is still discussed – though mostly in mocking fashion – on boxing message boards throughout the cyber world. Despite having not yet reached eight in his count, referee Jay Nady viewed the dance-like action as cause enough to stop the contest.

Vehemently opposed to the stoppage, Judah then set his sights on the referee, who he nearly choked. Zab also threw a stool at Nady after the bout was stopped. His actions cost him $75,000, a six-month suspension, and, apparently, a rematch with Tszyu as well.

“To this day, it pisses me off that I never got that rematch against Kostya. Perhaps there’s still time – maybe he’ll either move up to ’47, or will finally come around and fight me should I ever decide to drop to 140. But until I can get that rematch, I will never be able to fully redeem myself in the eyes of the haters. It sucks.”

A few months after his “comeback” – a ten round points win over rugged Omar Weis – Zab decided that his career needed to go into a different direction. Facing yet another trip to the inactive list, Judah put his career on hold, and allowed his promotional contract to run out before signing with Don King. The nine-month layoff was well worth it, according to Judah.

“Having sat out for seven, eight months, I really wasn’t thrilled about having to go that same amount of time without fighting. But the moment me and my pops met with Don, we knew that was the move. And despite what everyone else got to say about him, he’s done right by me ever since I’ve been back in the ring. This will now be my sixth fight in less than three years, and the third time I’ll be fighting for a world title fight.”

The first came against WBO junior welterweight champion DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley, though it took for some creative marketing to make that fight happen. While in attendance at a post-fight press conference following undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins’ defense over Morrade Hakkar in Philly, Corley decided to introduce himself to Judah, letting him know that he heard rumors of Zab talking junk. Judah responded Brooklyn style, cracking one on his jaw, which set off a brief scuffle. Once order was restored, King was quoted as saying, “Well damn, looks like I’ll have to go ahead and make that fight happen for real.”

Living up to his word, King was able to get Judah both the bout and a slot as co-feature to the Ricardo Mayorga-Vernon Forrest rematch on HBO. Judah dropped Corley in the third round, but injured his hand two rounds later, and had to settle for a less-than-thrilling, albeit decisive points win.

Fully recovered, and now one quick knockout win later, Judah abandoned the junior welterweight division, having grown frustrated in being unable to secure a rematch with Tszyu, or a meaningful fight against any other top fighter in the weight. Upon moving up seven pounds, Judah would be presented the most meaningful fight in the division – a shot at newly crowned undisputed welterweight kingpin Cory Spinks. But once again, an old “friend” would come back to revisit.

“If there is anything that I could change – and believe me, I definitely plan on fixing it for the rematch – it would be that I got off to such a slow start. Once I got going, I took over big time. But spotting a world champion like Cory three or four rounds made things that much tougher for me, and ultimately cost me. I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Whatever it was he was thinking, he apparently changed his mind midway through the fourth round, picking up the pace considerably. Once he got going, he seemingly took over, until he got careless once again late in the fight. This time, it resulted in the first of two knockdowns in the bout. Though according to Zab, everyone knows which of the two knockdowns was the more effective.

“Everyone saw that I wasn’t hurt by the shot. He touched me, and then practically pushed me down to the canvas. It was nothing. I got right back up and then went ahead and took care of business in the very next round. In the end, I lost, but now he knows that I’m capable of hurting him. All I need to do is get off to a quicker start this time, and the rest will fall into place.”

Ah, but what will make this opportunity different from any other?

“There’s too much at stake for me to come in and make the same mistakes I’ve made in the past. Besides Cory, Oscar may be coming back to the division. That’s huge money right there, and what better way to position myself for the jackpot, than by having all three belts around my waist. Even more so than the money, is the fact that he beat my idol, Pernell Whitaker. So, once I get my revenge here, I can avenge that one for Pete.”

Focus, Zab. Focus!

“Don’t get me wrong, though. First thing’s first. I got my business to take care of on February 5. Cory is too good a fighter for me to even worry about anything else right now. I’m feeling good, I’m whipping’ some ass in sparring, and I’m ready to go. I promised everyone that one way or another, 2005 is going to be my year. Once I do my thing with Cory, everyone else after that can either come get me, or get out my way. But make no mistake about it. February 5 will be the night it all comes together. I know that if I blow this, then that’s it. And I’m not ready yet to quit. Not by a long shot.”

Articles of 2005

In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More




A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year

The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.

The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.

The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.

Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?

(More Boxing News Links at

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Articles of 2005

ShoBox Friday Night Fights





Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.

The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round,  will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.

Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.

Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”

When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”

Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”

Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.

Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

The full bout lineup for the evening is:

Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights

Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights

Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights

David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights

Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights

Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights

Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights

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Articles of 2005

Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06




Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!

As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.

It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.

It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.

With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.

Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.

So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.

The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.

Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.

It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.

The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.

Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.

February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.

First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.

As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.

February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th.  This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.

Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.

It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.

Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.

March both comes in and goes out as a lion.

On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.

All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.

It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.

March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.

This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.

This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.

At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.

It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.

On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.

Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.

Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05.  Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.

Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.

This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.

March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.

Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.

Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.

Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.

Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.

The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.

Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.

Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.

If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.

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