Thanks to Don King and his crew, boxing year 2006 starts with a big bang instead of a whimper. Saturday night on Showtime, broadcast live from the MSG Theater in NYC, undisputed welterweight champion Zab Judah defends his titles against Carlos “Tata” Baldomir, and WBC/WBA cruiser champ Jean-Marc Mormeck fights a highly-anticipated unification bout against IBF cruiser champ O'Neil Bell. There ought to be plenty of action in both fights while they last, and the winners definitely move on to bigger and better things. This is how The Sweet Science writers see things transpiring.

Don't know much about Baldomir, except that he rarely gets knocked out and isn't afraid to fight in other people's backyards. The excitable Judah will most likely try and give his fans a quick knockout, which might be a problem if he runs into a counter, which he has been known to do when he tries for these quick KO's. Since I heard that Baldomir isn't much of a puncher, I'll bet Judah gets rid of him in under two rounds even if he absorbs a couple of shots in the process … I was shocked when Mormeck destroyed Wayne Braithwaite, one of my favorite fighters, last year in a performance that reminded me of the old Tyson. Mormeck has scary power and he if he lands on Bell, who was once stopped early in his career, it could be over in a heartbeat. Mormeck TKO 5.
Mitch Abramson

Whenever I hear the name “Judah” I think of Goober Pyle on “Andy Griffith.” Judah, Judah, Judah … If you don't get it, then check out some more B&W television. Never saw Aunt Bea or Mrs. Cleaver put up for anybody named “Mormeck.” Judah in a cakewalk.
Tim Graham

There are welterweights who will always figure to give Judah trouble (see Spinks, Pineda, Chop-Chop, and don't even mention Floyd), but Carlos Baldomir does not appear to be one of them. If he doesn't lose focus over the impending Mayweather fight (or get caught up in showboating for his ever-expanding posse), Judah should win a comfortable decision. If Zab stops his Argentine foe, he'll be the first guy to do it. Baldomir has been around to hear the final bell in all 57 of his professional fights … Mormeck impressed us in his fight against Wayne Braithwaite, and by any measure we can devise, Braithwaite was a more formidable foe than O'Neill Bell figures to be. Many witnesses don't think Bell beat Dale Brown, and he looked to be on the way to losing to Sebastian Rothman before he took him out with one punch. Bell might not even be the second-best cruiserweight on Don King's card Saturday night (See Cunningham, Steve). We like Le Grenouille Sauvage by a mid-round stoppage.
George Kimball

Unless Judah looks past Baldomir to a potential fight with Mayweather I see Judah being too fast and too strong for the limited Baldomir. Judah is blessed with so much natural talent the question is only how he beats a fighter with 9 losses and 6 draws on his record (Carlos Baldomir). Baldomir doesn't have much power and throws wide shots which leave his solid chin exposed. Defensively his chin has saved him in the past, but it won't be enough as Judah overwhelms him to help sell the superfight against Floyd. With a good chin but questionable defense it says here that Judah gets a stoppage win on cuts or an unanswered barrage that forces a referee’s stoppage … Mormeck vs. Bell is an awesome fight on paper and it should be an excellent one in the ring. Neither fighter knows how to take a backward step and to call either a defensive wiz would be a stretch. Bell has been stopped and dropped in the past but has demonstrated great courage and heart in winning tough fights. Mormeck is a tough cookie who seems to thrive as fights wear on and his opponents get weaker. It will be bombs away as the two end up trading; boxing fans win, but I think Bell losses.
Joey Knish

Judah is extremely dangerous to anyone in the first couple of rounds. We all know that. And he's going to try to make “short work” of Baldomir so he can be as boastful as possible when hyping his mega-match with Mayweather. But if Baldomir can survive the early onslaught, and time the fastest hands in Brooklyn, I wouldn't be shocked if he gives the champion a hard night, going the distance. I've never seen Baldomir fight, but he hasn't lost in seven years, fighting mostly in other guys' backyards (Denmark, England, Germany, Mexico). He won't be intimidated by his surroundings Saturday. While I can't really talk styles, I suspect Baldomir is as good or better than Omar Weis, DeMarcus Corley or Rafael Pineda, all three of whom went the distance with Judah in '02, '03, and '04, respectively. In spite of his great victory over Cory Spinks, I'm not sold (yet) on this supposedly “mature” and “focused” Zab. Judah by majority decision … Mormeck's relentless pressure, strength, and sound fundamentals will quickly exploit Bell's technical shortcomings. “Le Tank” (Michael Katz's invention, not mine) will trap him in the corners and do serious damage. Bell will last into the middle rounds do to his grit and formidable punching power. TKO 7 Mormeck. Welcome to the heavyweights Jean-Marc! Have you met Lamon?
Zachary Levin

You obviously have to go with Judah. I'd pick Judah with one hand tied behind his back, which may very well be the case. Zab hurt his hand while training last week (something few people know about). Because of that I'll say this one goes the distance. Judah by unanimous decision … Mormeck-Bell could be a barnburner. However, I think Mormeck's tenacity will be too much for Bell to handle. While Bell possesses one punch knockout power, the accumulation of blows early on will slow him down and perhaps make him hesitant to pull the trigger. Mormeck by unanimous decision.
Marc Lichtenfeld

Zab Judah is not going to look past Carlos Baldomir. Judah fights up or down to the quality of his opposition, but he's out to make a statement to Mr. Mayweather. A blow out of Baldomir may or may not have any affect on Mayweather's non-so fragile psyche but it doesn't hurt to plant the seed. Judah will be in tip-top shape and show exactly why he's to be feared. Baldomir is game but by the 4th or 5th round, the speedy combinations of Judah will take their toll on his face, forcing the referee to step in and stop the slaughter. Baldomir is tough and will be there to win, however he lacks the firepower to keep off a determined Zab Judah. Judah TKO round 6 … In Jean-Marc Mormeck's last five fights, he's defeated Dale Brown, Alexander Gurov, Virgil Hill (twice), and most recently, undefeated prospect, Wayne Braithwaite. O'Neil “Give 'em Hell” Bell has defeated Kelvin “Concrete” Davis, Derrick Harmon, Dale Brown, Ezra Sellers and Sebastian Rothman. Not exactly Murderer's Row for either fighter but both have faced decent opposition. Mormeck, a native of Guadeloupe, is undefeated in the last nine and a half years. Bell, of Jamaica, has his own winning streak of eight years. Odds makers have installed Bell as a 3½ to 1 underdog and make no mistake; he's a very live dog, and definitely has the capability to pull off the upset. Bell via SD12/
Scott Mallon

Very little is known about Baldomir, but a look at his record indicates that he is strong and sturdy. His lack of punching power will probably hurt him against Judah. Although Baldomir will probably survive a few heavy volleys, he will likely get stopped about midway through the bout. Judah TKO 6 Baldomir … Jean-Marc Mormeck is extremely strong and focused and seems much more mentally relaxed in the ring than Bell, who fights a lot more dangerously than he has to. This is a tough call, but I expect Mormeck to survive a few Bell onslaughts and stop him late in the fight. Mormeck TKO 9 Bell.
Bob Mladinich

Mormeck, the man who's done well to imitate Evander Holyfield's expansively chiseled physique, showed significant skill and power in stopping Braithwaithe. Now he gets Bell, who was losing handily against the lightly touted Sebastian Rothman until he landed that big punch in the eleventh round to the end the fight. Bell didn't impress me and shouldn't last against a more talented fighter in Mormeck. Look for an early knockout in this one … As for Zab Judah, he'll likely have a harder workout in the dressing room before the fight. His opponent, Carlos Baldomir, is the WBC's number one ranked mandatory challenger for Judah even though he has nine losses and is unranked by RIng magazine. He gets this title shot because he's a Don King fighter, not because he deserves it. I'll be generous and give him two rounds. Judah needs a better warm-up before for his mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr., but he'll have to settle for an average sparring partner. Good ol' Don King.
Benn Schulberg

Judah-Baldomir: Well traveled challenger finds the end of the road with this reality check. Baldomir may stick around for a while, but Judah should have him reeling within a few rounds. If Judah doesn't win big he's either playing possum or somebody on his team better rethink the Mayweather affair … Mormeck-Bell: Bell will hope to smother Mormeck's assault until Bell can land a big shot, but Mormeck will apply enough pressure to earn a decision. If Bell tries to force the matter or thinks he can hurt Mormeck it could turn in to a two way thriller where Bell has a puncher's chance. More likely, Mormeck grinds him down in a slow paced waltz.
Phil Woolever