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The Best and Worst of Zab Judah

BY Joey Knish ON April 05, 2006
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There is a saying in gambling circles that no team is as good or as bad as their best or worst performance. Casual fans and bettors tend to look at a team’s best performance and assume they are now unbeatable moving forward. Conversely, a team coming off their worst outing is often labeled a poor team or a team in decline that should now be bet against. In reality, a team’s best and worst games can often be thrown out of the picture completely in order to come to a reasonable conclusion as to their true ability.

In boxing the same holds true, and those writing off Zab Judah based on his most recent performance against Carlos Baldomir are making a mistake.

We have seen Judah, blessed with incredible athletic ability, get careless and lose his concentration in the past. Aside from his opponent this weekend, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Judah likely has the fastest hands in the sport and carries pop in both holsters. He often appears to conduct his business effortlessly in the ring , moving and feinting with ease as he uses excellent reflexes to get in, go to work, and get out. Unfortunately, confidence has never been a problem for Zabdiel Judah and that arrogance has proven to be costly.

We now know that the 28-year-old Brooklyn native didn’t pay the price in the gym nor during the fight against Baldomir (42-9-6, 12 KOs). Judah may have been correct in thinking that Baldomir wasn’t the same class of fighter as he is, but Baldomir proved that preparation and determination can bridge the gap that nature builds. The warning signs were there if one was to acknowledge them as Judah made several mistakes heading into the fight last January, a fight that was designed to be a preview leading to his big showdown with “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather.

First off, despite boxing as a welterweight five times in the past and having settled into the weight, Judah failed to make weight on his first attempt on the scales. He isn’t a big welterweight by any means, but suddenly tipped the scales a full pound over the 147-pound limit. Then, early on Saturday night, Zab was seen working the corner of his brother Josiah who was fighting a four-round bout buried deep on the card. Instead of focusing on the task at hand, Zab was lending a hand to his father Yoel, who trains both Zab and Josiah. The lack of focus and professionalism continued when it was finally time for Zab to fight. When referee Arthur Mercante Jr. asked the fighters to touch gloves, Judah showed no etiquette and popped his opponent with a right to the thigh.

These acts of disrespect left many fans feeling as if the immature Judah got exactly what he deserved in being stung with the loss, and for the most part they are right. Where things get clouded, however, is applying the theory that the Judah we saw against Carlos Baldomir is the same fighter we will see this weekend on HBO Pay-Per-View against the best fighter in the world today, Floyd Mayweather Jr.

At his best, Judah is a speedy boxer-puncher who can adapt to the pattern of the fight and apply whichever strategy will lead to a positive outcome. He is completely comfortable forcing the action or counterpunching as his opponent pursues. Watching the southpaw feint, fire fierce combinations with both hands, deftly take a half-step to make his opponent miss, and then fire back with little offered in response is part of what makes the science of boxing so sweet.

Floyd Mayweather is arguably the best fighter in boxing right now and the chance that Zab Judah will take him lightly is a near impossibility. Mayweather is just too good. Sure, Judah will always have extreme confidence is his ability, being so naturally gifted will do that, but he will definitely be up for this fight.

What that means is we could have a showdown of two slick speedsters with arguably the most God-give talent in the sport. While Mayweather has been able to overwhelm opponents with his speed and precise shots to wear opponents down, Judah is likely the only fighter who matches up well with him in the same categories. “Pretty Boy” Floyd may have a slight edge in speed, chin and defense, Judah likely carries more one-punch power, comes from a southpaw stance, and may be the stronger fighter. Judah will be settling in for his seventh bout at 147-pounds on Saturday whereas Mayweather has only fought once at welterweight. Floyd beat on Sharmba Mitchell for six rounds when he debuted at 147-pounds in November of last year, but Mitchell himself was a 36 year-old career junior welterweight fighting for just the his second time at welter.

It appears the linemakers and betting public have short-term memories judging from the line on this fight – Mayweather has been bet up to a -575 favorite. While Mayweather dominated both Mitchell and Arturo Gatti in his most recent bouts, Judah was out-hustled in his lackluster performance against Baldomir and those results are fresh in the mind of most people.

Obviously Floyd Mayweather is no Carlos Baldomir but on Saturday night we will find out if Zab Judah at his best can beat one of the best.

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