Along the road to Zab “Super” Judah’s journey of defending his welterweight titles this past weekend there were signs everywhere that Judah was taking a dangerous path in underestimating suspected “speed bump” Carlos Baldomir.
But we all forgot to read the signs.
To be sure, there is no debating whether or not Judah took the defense of his WBA, WBC and IBF welterweight titles lightly. He did. Most of the pre-fight talk was about potential bouts that “Super” might set-up against the likes of “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather and Kostya Tszyu. Sure, Baldomir told us he had what it took to beat Zab “The Blab” but, really, they all say that. Opponents are supposed to help sell the fight too.
Judah, now 34-3 with 25 KO victories, is a boxer-puncher with speed to burn and can make everything look so easy sometimes. Whether setting the pace of countering his foe, Zab can hit and make his opponents miss utilizing his blazing and swift feet. Confidence is never waning when it comes to a fighter with such natural talent and potentially taking an opponent like Baldomir (42-9-6, 12 KOs) lightly was the biggest obstacle to overcome.
Carlos Baldomir has always liked to dictate the pace of a fight and it appeared that Judah would be able to counter Baldomir’s high output attack by stinging the Argentinean and moving away. It worked for the early part of the fight and it seemed a matter of time before Judah would pick up the pace and stop his strong jawed opponent on cuts or under a flurry of fire. Baldomir’s below-average power wasn’t likely to hurt Judah, as was the case against heavy-handed Tszyu had back in 2001, nor was he a slick boxer-mover such as Cory Spinks who defeated Zab in 2004.
In the end, Carlos Baldomir didn’t do anything different than what was expected. He came forward pressing the pace of the fight taking Judah’s shots on his sturdy chin. The 34-year-old veteran threw a lot of punches, often the looping variety, didn’t move his head much and plodded forward at Judah. Heck, he even got cut up over both eyes as he was prone to do. All that, just as expected, yet he still took the WBC 147-pound title (neither the IBF nor the WBA offered their belts to Baldomir) from a fighter most had regarded as the second best welterweight in the world. But how?
Zabdiel Judah gave the fight away.
“This is the most focused I have ever been in my career. I am older and more mature now,” Judah said. “I see the business aspect of this sport when in the past I didn't. I am up for this fight. Don't worry. I hear people talking about which Zab Judah is going to show up. Tune in this Saturday and you will see which Zab Judah shows up.”
Perhaps when he stated that he saw “the business aspect of this sport” he was really trying to say: “I’m looking ahead to a monster payday against Mayweather.”
What we really found out is that Judah still hadn’t learnt a thing and that his supreme athletic ability continues to be a liability. Being such a gifted boxer has lead to sub-par performances in the past as he has fought down to the level of his opposition. His 2004 bout with 38-5 Rafael Pineda should have never gone to the cards where anything can happen – and almost did. Judah came out ahead earning a razor-thin split decision victory (115-112, 114-113, 112-115). Looking at the bout with Baldomir we had seen Judah underestimate an opponent before, but still never took it as a sign of things to come.
The Friday weigh-in should have provided us with an indication of how the 28-year-old from Brooklyn had prepared himself as Zab was always in excellent shape. Tipping the scales at 148 pounds may have suggested that the slick southpaw wasn’t completely focused on the fight ahead. Sometimes that is a sign, but you have to take it as one for it to have any meaning. It happens often that a fighter comes in slightly heavier on the first try, so it was easy to dismiss the notion that Judah might not have been best prepared for Baldomir.
Early on Saturday night there was a rare sighting. Zab Judah, hours from risking his three titles, was working the corner of his brother Josiah Judah on the undercard. A 5-0 super middleweight trained by Yoel Judah, Josiah “Godzilla” Judah was fighting a four round bout against a journeyman named Frank Armstrong who sported a 3-8-3 record. It wasn’t a major bout; in fact it wasn’t even supposed to be much of a test. So why was Zab Judah there? It was a bad sign.
A problem with traveling the super highway to the top of sweet science is that if the trip is taken too fast you miss the advisory signs ahead. The road taken by Carlos Baldomir was bumpy and long, but he got there and is now the WBC welterweight champion. Zab “Super” Judah took the fast lane and had his eye on where and what his next stop would be, but now is without a title to his name. Nobody really saw it coming but there were signs, signs, everywhere signs.