This marks the debut of writer Chris Mannix's weekly feature, "The Five Count." Each Thursday "The Five Count" will include previews to upcoming fights, a Q & A, a mailbag column and either a video or a podcast. Mailbag questions can be sent to email@example.com
NEW YORK -- Last month, Zab Judah walked into the press center at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas with a smile on his face and a spring in his step. It was fight week for Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez, but Judah worked the room like everyone was there for him. He ran through a series of interviews and posed for pictures, grinning and goofing with a roomful of reporters along the way. It was a far cry from the scene just a few days earlier, when Judah, at a press conference to promote his February 9th junior welterweight title fight with Danny Garcia, was a primary participant in an ugly melee.
In a way, it was fitting because when Judah is in the ring, you don't know what you are going to get, either. At his best Judah is fast on his feet with blurring hand speed and deceptive power. In 2005, Judah went to Cory Spinks' backyard in St. Louis and knocked out Spinks to become the undisputed welterweight champion. Just last March, Judah mopped the floor with undefeated Vernon Paris, knocking out the top prospect in the ninth round.
At his worst, though, Judah is tough to figure out. Last summer, Judah was spanked by Amir Khan over five lopsided rounds that ended when Khan put him down with a body shot. In a loss to Floyd Mayweather in 2006, Judah's repeated low blows incited a riot in the ring. Judah has won plenty of big fights but most of the biggest ones -- against Mayweather, against Miguel Cotto, against Kostya Tszyu -- he has lost.
When Garcia's father, Angel, who doubles as his trainer and has a history of antagonizing opponents at press events, brought up Judah's past failures, Judah lost it.
"It wasn't one particular thing that he said, it was the variety of what he said," Judah told SI.com. "It was 'He's a bum. He's nothing.' Man, I've won five world titles in three different weight classes? What has your son done? I've lost more than he is ever going to gain. He says he is this epic knockout puncher? I have more knockouts than he has fights. It was almost a situation where I felt I was being overlooked, that everything I have done and worked hard for and get to this level meant nothing to them."
Indeed, when Judah challenges Garcia on February 9th, it will be Garcia's show. After being built up by HBO, Showtime has picked up Garcia and tabbed him as the network's next star. The 35-year-old Judah is being used for his name, for his hometown -- Brooklyn, which is where the fight will take place, at the Barclays Center -- and for his ability to generate ratings.
"It's a great marketing strategy for a network because he is a young guy who can fight for another ten years, which I can't and won't do," Judah said. "I know I probably have another two or three years, maybe, and that's it. But this guy is not the one. Everyone, HBO, Showtime, this is not the one. He is not the one."
Despite Garcia's meteoric rise, Judah sees flaws. He sees a fighter that relies on the mistakes of his opponents to win. He sees a fighter that was getting picked apart by Amir Khan before Khan, foolishly, walked into a big shot.
"Khan was hitting him so easy that he said 'I'm going to knock him out,'" Judah said. "Khan was premature jumping into that kind of brawl. You have to know what you are doing. I've been in there with Cotto. I know how to handle big punchers. I know how to slip em and dip 'em. When you are talking about speed and accuracy, there is no one faster than Floyd, and we went twelve rounds. Think Danny could go twelve rounds with Floyd? I know he can't."
Judah said he made mistakes in his fight with Khan, mistakes that won't happen again. Hall of Fame fighter Pernell Whitaker trained him for that fight, and Judah feels Whitaker's strategy took away some of his strengths.
"I love Pernell, he is one of my idols," Judah said. "But I went into the Khan fight trying to do something that wasn't me. When the bell rang, I went backwards. And if you know me, I don't do that. All of my first rounds are insane. Cotto, Mayweather. They are epic."
Judah reunited with his father and longtime trainer, Yoel, for the Paris fight and that, Judah says, "was the Zab Judah you should expect to see."
"I'm going to punish Danny Garcia for twelve rounds," Judah said. "Every second, he is going to know he is in the ring with Zab Judah. These young guys, they are good. But these young guys haven't seen a good seasoned veteran. Garcia's father is talking about how this isn't my time, how I had my chance. This is my time. This is my generation."
Introducing: Alantez Fox
Years ago, Paul Williams became the most feared fighter in the welterweight and junior middleweight division because his size (6-foot-1) was something no fighter at that weight class could match. Junior middleweight Alantez Fox could soon follow in Williams's footsteps. The 20-year old Fox stands 6-foot-5 and has a whopping 79-inch reach. Fox (8-0-1) is untested but if he has a stiff jab and can move his feet, he will be hard to beat.
Five Questions with Steve Cunningham, former cruiserweight champion who lost a controversial decision to Tomasz Adamek last month:
SI: Have you watched the fight?
Cunningham: It took me almost two and a half weeks to watch it. I wanted to watch and see what the NBC broadcast looked like. And I ended up watching the whole fight. My overall view of the fight was we won, clearly. You have to be an idiot, or be blind or be a Tomasz Adamek fan to not think Steve Cunningham won. I landed more telling shots, I controlled the ring, I landed more punches overall. You can't win a fight just by trying to fight for ten seconds, and that's what he tried. I did my job, to almost an A grade.
SI: So did the fight go according to the game plan?
Cunningham: It went exactly to our game plan. We said we were going to box this guy. We watched the first fight. I landed some hellacious shots. I buckled him, and he didn't go anywhere. And you see where that got us. It got us three knockdowns. This guy is not getting knocked out. The game plan was to box his socks off, and that's what I did.
I felt very comfortable in the ring. I had a stomach virus the week of the fight, which is why my weight was so low. My kids had a cold and they gave it to me. The Tuesday before the fight we didn't even work out. But we pushed. And you saw see me controlling the ring and pushing back and stinging this 220-pound guy.
SI: You're 36 -- did you consider quitting?
Cunningham: I just felt total frustration mixed with anger and hate towards these judges. Because I knew how much money we missed out on. The winner would be in line to fight Kubrat Pulev over in Europe. Pulev, he has my old promoter. I know it would have been a $200,000-$300,000 fight. I raised my hands thinking I had another good payday coming. We sealed the deal. They basically took that from me. And say we got past Pulev and fight Wladimir Klitschko. That's a million dollars right there.
SI: Do you want a rematch?
Cunningham: I would take one. Do I think I should? No. But if HBO or Showtime or NBC put up the money, OK. Adamek says it has to be worth money if I fight him a third time, and he is good. If someone said we have to have the trilogy, I think it would be even worse a beating for him. I saw spots in the last fight where I thought we could do a little more. A third fight would be like Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao's last fight. This time I would hurt him. Adamek is a limited fighter. All he can do is slug and brawl.
SI: But you know he is going to move on to Pulev. So where else will you look?
Cunningham: I want to get back in the ring ASAP. I've been hearing from my promoter [Main Events] that this fight doesn't hurt me. It helped me. That's the good part. The good thing is the fans of the sport know who won. It hasn't changed anything on paper: I still have the loss. But when people talk about this fight, they will know Cunningham won. A fight with Alexander Povetkin would be awesome. I would jump on that tomorrow. I think Povetkin is a good, decent fighter, I think we can get in there and mix it up with him. I want that fight. I want that fight bad.
From the Mailbag:
You mentioned in your predictions piece for 2013 that the heavyweight division could be better next year. In your opinion, who is the best?- Mike, Dallas
It's close, Mike. I like Deontay Wilder and David Price's power, Bryant Jennings athleticism and Tyson Fury's size and reach. Not to mention the late Emanuel Steward would often tell me he felt that Fury was the best of the bunch. If I had to pick one though, I'd take Price. I selected Jennings as my Prospect of the Year last year mostly because I didn't look at the 29-year-old Price as a prospect anymore. Price has great size (6-foot-8), concussive power (13 knockouts in 15 pro fights) and an accomplished amateur background that includes a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. HIs chin still hasn't been tested but if it's halfway decent, Price can be a star.
If Robert Guerrero fights Floyd Mayweather, do you give him any chance?- Stephen, Los Angeles
Not really. Guerrero is a good fighter who understands how to fight on the inside. He might make things uncomfortable for Mayweather for a few rounds but he doesn't have a lot of power and his skills don't come close to measuring up to Mayweather's. I think a Guerrero-Mayweather fight could look a lot like Mayweather-Cotto. Mayweather will win, handily, but Guerrero won't look bad in defeat.
Everyone seems to be jumping on the Gennady Golovkin bandwagon. Is Golovkin the real deal?- Phil, New Jersey
You're right: After just one fight on HBO -- a knockout win over Grzegorz Proksa -- Golovkin has been anointed as the next big thing. And no question, he is really good. But I need to see him in against some better fighters before I get too jacked up about him. And Gabriel Rosado, who Golovkin will fight on the 19th, is going to make him fight. Rosado is somewhat limited as a boxer but he never backs up and has good power. If Golovkin isn't sharp, Rosado has the power to knock him out.
Video: How boxing can improve in 2013