Does Zab Judah stand a chance against Floyd Mayweather Saturday in a bid for pound-for-pound glory?
Yes, he does. Perhaps a better chance than most people realize.
It's easy to be convinced of Mayweather's superiority after a spectacular 2005 in which he destroyed Arturo Gatti and Sharmba Mitchell, two well respected, former world champions. “Pretty Boy” Floyd looked like the second coming of Sugar Ray Robinson in those bouts, especially the Gatti massacre. By the end of it, “Thunder” was reduced to a virtual club fighter.
How dominant was Mayweather's performance? Gatti, one of the proudest, toughest fighters in boxing, couldn't make it out of his corner for the sixth round.
It was an awesome display of speed and reflexes.
Then, a few months later, Mayweather did the same thing to Mitchell, a prime boxer-puncher who was past his best days.
Mayweather, an underrated puncher, put Mitchell down for good in the fifth with a right to the body.
On the surface, some might say that “Pretty Boy” is unbeatable. Invincible.
He is probably not that, however.
Mayweather, as incredibly talented as he is, has often been afforded the luxury of fighting boxers with styles that suit him best. Usually, they're one dimensional punchers, plodders or brawlers with limited natural ability.
Take as examples his five most noteworthy victims – Genaro Hernandez, Angel Manfredy, Diego Corrales, Jesus Chavez and Jose Luis Castillo.
Hernandez was a skilled technician when he met Mayweather in October 1998, but severely lacking in hand and foot speed. Before Mayweather blanked him, scoring an eighth-round TKO, Oscar De La Hoya did it three years earlier by sixth-round TKO, using speed and boxing ability
The blueprint was there. Mayweather just copied that blueprint. The fights were so similar it was eerie. Hernandez, completely overmatched, quit in both.
Manfredy was considered a legitimate opponent in December 1998, but, in retrospect, this was no contest. Again, Manfredy had good skills, especially at that time. But he couldn't compete with Mayweather in the natural ability department – specifically, speed.
He ended up being a second-round knockout victim.
Corrales to this day remains the most impressive outing of Mayweather's career. It was virtuoso, as Mayweather dropped Corrales several times and registered a 10th-round TKO. But Chico, as elite as he is, will never be confused with Ray Robinson. He is a flatfooted stalker with almost no head or foot movement. He walks in on a straight line and fires power punches.
He is the prototypical slugger.
For someone like Mayweather, who owns perhaps the fastest fists since Sugar Ray Leonard, Corrales represented a walk in the park, style-and-ability wise.
Chavez gave Mayweather a hard time for a while but, again, his style was perfectly suited for Floyd. “El Matador” is not a matador, he is a bull, rushing in wildly to connect with a high volume of punches.
Mayweather, the real matador, simply picked off the big shots and waited for Chavez to tire.
Better in every department, Pretty Boy wins by 10th-round TKO.
Then there's Castillo – easily the most accomplished of all of Mayweather's foes. And the only one who got close.
April 20, 2002 was the night Castillo pushed and shoved Mayweather around the ring and probably should have won a decision. It was the first time a slugger-type got the best of Mayweather, and it happened because “El Temible” was naturally bigger and stronger. Further, Castillo is an underrated boxer himself, and he had the skill to get past Mayweather's jab and flashy combinations, force his way inside and pound the body.
By the rematch, Mayweather – a brilliant fighter – had figured Castillo out, and simply used more foot movement to avoid exchanges. Again, it was the fast, gifted boxer doing a number on the slower, plodding slugger.
Slow, plodding sluggers have become a staple on Mayweather's resume: Justin Juuko, Goyo Vargas, Emmanuel Augustus, Carlos Hernandez, Phillip N'Dou and Gatti. But when was the last time Mayweather fought someone with the overall skills and ability of a Zab Judah?
Judah is neither slow nor ponderous nor plodding. In fact, he is fast – probably the fastest fighter Mayweather has ever faced. It's a different kind of puzzle than what Mayweather is used to.
Unlike Pretty Boy’s past opponents, “Super” has sharp reflexes, excellent boxing ability and tremendous overall skills. Not only that, he's a southpaw, is naturally bigger than Mayweather and has racked up plenty of big-fight experience.
Could that spell trouble for Mayweather?
Of course, Judah also has what is regarded as a china chin – one that has been exposed by Kostya Tszyu (a great puncher) and Carlos Baldomir (a not-so-great puncher). There are times, however, it has been reliable; Cory Spinks, a big welterweight, never really hurt Judah.
It seems as though Judah can take a punch when he is prepared to take a punch.
And, if that's the case, Mayweather could be in for the fight of his life.
Will the upset happen? At this point, you'd have to say, no. Mayweather is probably the better overall fighter, and he has the confidence of a guy who has never been beaten.
But don't think Mayweather will do to Judah what he did to Gatti and Mitchell. Judah brings more to the table. Instead of a blowout, this will be a good, tough, interesting fight.
With the possibility of an upset.