Zab Gets Zapped
Underdog Kostya Tszyu separated Zab Judah from his senses--and his
If you're of the opinion that Zab Judah is a coming franchise,
one of those properties that can move through boxing and generate
money and fame at every stop, you might want to reevaluate your
position. Following last Saturday's surprising defeat at the
hands of Kostya Tszyu, after which Judah threw a glorious tantrum
(and a stool), the would-be superstar dropped from everybody's
core holding of blue-chip fighters. He's not in any danger of
being delisted, but boxing has enough undefeated prospects that
it doesn't need to sell kids who lunge after referees when the
real fault is in their own chin.
Judah was surprised, as was most of the public, when the much
slower Tszyu caught him with two crisp right hands in the closing
seconds of the second round in their bout at the MGM Grand in Las
Vegas. The 24-year-old Judah, who came into the bout undefeated
in 27 fights and much the quicker (not to mention more heavily
promoted) boxer, was a 3-to-1 favorite to beat the 32-year-old
Tszyu (now 28-1-1) and unify the 140-pound division's three
titles. The fight was supposed to be, essentially, a
certification of Judah's star power, the consolidation of
championships meant to announce his coming out into boxing's
However, that second right hand, which the Russian-born Tszyu
called a "really easy, nice, flash right hand," put Judah on his
can. He had been there before but had never experienced the
comprehensive failure of the nervous system that sometimes comes
with a knockdown. "I was not hurt," he said, "but sometimes your
body does not agree with you." Judah bounced quickly--way too
quickly--to his feet, turned to make some sort of appeal to
referee Jay Nady and then began, as one ringsider observed,
"walking in potholes." With Nady in pursuit, Judah drunkenly
staggered in a semicircle, finally collapsing to his knees, to
all fours, to his face.
When Nady waved the fight off with one second left in the round
(and without a count, as is the ref's prerogative), Judah
regained motor skills, if not composure. He went after Nady,
restrained only by his father-trainer Yo'el, returned to his
corner, stood on his stool briefly, thought better of it, got
down and hurled the stool into the center of the ring.
Judah's camp immediately announced plans for a protest, an action
that does not seem grounded on anything beyond wishful thinking,
and announced the fighter's apologies, although the fighter
himself remained irate over the early stoppage. Gary Shaw,
Judah's promoter at Main Events, recited a number of rules he
felt had been overlooked, but probably all of them were correctly
superseded by the fighter's actual knockout and the ref's
inclination to preserve life.
It was an odd turn of events, especially because Judah had begun
the bout in overwhelming fashion, swarming the seasoned Tszyu. "I
thought I was fighting in 3-D," said Judah, who was rightfully
impressed with his multidimensional attack. He said he decided to
calm down for the long haul, and it was either for that reason or
because of a straight right hand from Tszyu toward the end of
that first round that Judah fought the second more cautiously. In
any case, Tszyu began taking the action to him, winning the round
even before his knockout punch.
Tszyu, who now holds the IBF as well as the WBC and WBA belts,
also holds the upper hand in negotiations for a rematch. He might
remember that he made only half of Judah's $1 million for the
bout. A rematch appears inevitable, though, for Judah has nowhere
to go but toward redemption, and Tszyu has no bigger paydays to
chase than a second meeting with Judah.
In the case of a rematch the circumstances of Saturday's fight
may benefit the loser. Judah might have gone on to win had he
been given an eight count (although he didn't deserve one). Given
the self-protective thinking that is absolutely required in
boxing, however, he does have what every young fighter needs
coming off his first loss: an excuse.
Mosley Needs a Date
Who's Next for Boxing's Best?
Last year's win over Oscar De La Hoya may have secured Shane
Mosley's reputation as one of boxing's premier talents, but it
doesn't seem to have done much for the advancement of his career.
Since that victory, when he seemed on the precipice of glory,
he's beaten three no-name opponents (Antonio Diaz, Shannan Taylor
and Adrian Stone) before ballroom-sized houses and nothing
ratings. It hasn't been the payoff either he or HBO figured on.
Part of the reason was De La Hoya's refusal to agree to an
immediate rematch. "Mosley was severely hurt by that," says HBO
boxing chief Kery Davis. "We all anticipated that fight. It was a
natural." Yet another drag on Mosley's ascension was caution on
the part of his camp, which until recently meant father-manager
Jack's decision to opt for easier opposition.
Mosley, who is playing a bigger role in negotiations these days
(promoter Cedric Kushner may be gone after the next fight,
according to Mosley, and Jack's input will be reduced), says he's
now throwing caution to the wind. Last week he was still trying
to maneuver his way into a junior middleweight title bout with
tough IBF champ Winky Wright, which might pave the way for a
154-pound tournament similar to the middleweight unification
series Bernard Hopkins recently won. "I want that so bad," says
Mosley, who had already moved up one division to take on
welterweights. "It would be spectacular--me, Winky, [Fernando]
Vargas, Oscar, [Felix] Trinidad."
Wright was waffling in contract talks, however, leaving the
proposed Jan. 26 fight in jeopardy. Should the bout fall through,
Mosley will be left at welterweight with only Vernon Forrest to
fight in that division. A nice match, but until Mosley can trap
the bigger names who have long since left the 147-pound division,
his name will never catch up to his talents.
The 10 Count
1. ZAB JUDAH Best Saturday-night pratfall since Chevy Chase.
2. FRANCISCO BOJADO First-round KO of Mauro Lucero on Tszyu-Judah
undercard moves 140-pounder to 9-0 (all knockouts); only 18, the
Baby-faced Assassin looks to be the cream of the Olympic crop.
3. RAHMAN-LEWIS II Will Lennox Lewis, who says a lucky punch and
a short count beat him in first bout with Hasim Rahman, take the
Rock too lightly again in Nov. 17 rematch? Can Rahman, living
large since his upset win in April (he recently shed 20 pounds in
a week), avoid Buster Douglas syndrome?
4. HOLYFIELD-RUIZ III Bounced from Beijing, now set for Dec. 15
in a Connecticut casino--and generating the kind of fevered
anticipation that greeted Rocky V.
5. ROCKY, THE MUSICAL Sylvester Stallone is reportedly seeking to
put a singing Balboa on Broadway. Can't referee Jay Nady stop
6. SUNSHINE BOYS Fifty-one-year-old heavyweight Joe Bugner,
loser to Ali and Frazier, is weighing an offer to fight Larry
Holmes, 52. Couldn't they just sing and dance for Stallone?
7. MIKE TYSON Still the most dangerous, and marketable, opponent
for the Rahman-Lewis winner but slated to fight ossifying Ray
Mercer in January. Who's next, the winner of the Bugner-Holmes
8. OSCAR DE LA HOYA Big matches for the Golden Boy: secret
wedding last month to singer Millie Corretjer of Puerto Rico and
possible 2002 bout with 160-pound king Bernard Hopkins.
"[Hopkins] is the man, except for the man," said De La Hoya,
presumably referring to himself.
9. TRINIDAD FAMILY FEUD Mother and wife want former middleweight
champ Felix--who hasn't been in the gym since his loss last month
to Hopkins--to call it a career; father (and manager) hopes to see
Tito back in the ring.
10. ANTHONY MUNDINE Australian super middleweight contender was
stripped of his No. 26 ranking by the WBC after he said Americans
"brought [the Sept. 11] attacks on themselves." Apologized on his
website, saying he's "against any form or any shape of violence."