I know some of you will call me a fool, ask me if I've lost my fastball, wonder if my pro-New York bias has infected my ability to reason: but all that aside, I'm feeling like Zab Judah might just pull it off on Saturday night at Barclays Center.
Yeah, yeah, I know, he messed the bed against Baldomir, blazed out against Mayweather, couldn't exploit advantages against Cotto, froze mentally against Amir Khan (Judah vs. Khan in above Hogan photo)...I'm familiar with all that. Indeed, history is not on Zab's side, as his recent triumphs have been coming against sub-superstars, like Kaiser Mabuza and Vernon Paris, and his signature W, against Cory Spinks, occured in 2005.
But I heard something in Zab's voice, and from his crew, including dad Yoel and pal Monte Barrett at a Tuesday open workout for press at the Judah Brothers Gym in East New York, ahead of the Saturday Golden Boy-Showtime show at Barclays Center, that makes me believe the hype, hop on to the bandwagon of belief a little bit.
I thought Zab's hand and foot speed was top grade in his last outing, which came last March, against Vernon Paris at the Aviation Complex in Brooklyn. So, I don't think his physical gifts have gone Elvis, and left the building. As always, I'm wondering about his head, his mentality, his focus, his resolve. "This is a huge event, a great opportunity," he said to the press. "Winning in a great style..this is New York, this is Brooklyn...New York fans are very tough." I got the sense he knows expectations are high and he doesn't want to disappoint.
I will know a bit more if the seemingly centered, serene Zab, the on-the-right-spiritual-path Zab is truly in control of the ride on Thursday, when at the final press conference Angel Garcia, the father of junior welter champ Danny Garcia and agent provocateur extroardinaire, tries to get into his head. "I don't prepare for that," he said. "Angel is doing that stuff to support his fighter with limited skills, to make up for the 50% of what Danny is lacking." Later, asked again about button-pusher Angel, he said, "Angel who? We hear him, but we don't...That's his plan." I saw that mindset in action in London last week, when Nathan Cleverly ignored taunts from Team Robin Krasniqi, as he laughed it up when he was handed a skirt by Krasniqi which had "Nathan The Princess Cleverly" written on it. He shrugged it off, got a chuckle out of it, and showed Krasniqi how much of a princess he was in the ring at Wembley Arena and on EPIX. Zab did allow that he would derive satisfaction if and when he stopped Danny, because the father would feel the sting.
Judah finished up by stating, firmly, that there would be no excuses if he came up short on Saturday, and he expected none from Garcia.
Readers, weigh in. This would be a signature win for Zab...can he do it? Can he exploit that lefty stance? Do you think that Garcia's win over Amir Khan was overrated? Would a Garcia win elevate him in your eyes? What sort of bout do you see unfolding? Weigh in, in our Forum.
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