Which Judah Will Show Up Against Cotto?

zab judah06.04.07 - By Nick Mathur: On April 13th, Zab Judah is scheduled to take on opponent Ruben Galvan in a tune-up fight that will be televised on ESPN2. If Judah wins, he will then take on welterweight boxing titlist and rising star Miguel Cotto in June in a fight that should present an interesting stylistic matchup between the measured Cotto, a devastating body puncher, and the incredibly fast southpaw Judah, who is also capable of punching with authority. Many boxing fans seem to think that Judah has a slim chance of winning this fight. Cotto has looked sensational in his last couple of bouts, while Judah is coming off of consecutive losses to Carlos Baldomir and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

However, people who dislike Judah because of his brash behavior should not overlook the fact that he is likely the most dangerous fighter that Cotto will have faced in his boxing career to date, and might be capable of pulling off the upset. It is evident that Miguel Cotto is a better fighter at welterweight than he was as a junior welterweight.

The perceived size and strength advantage at the lower weight class was clearly negated by the fact that he had to starve himself to make weight, and was severely dehydrated prior to the weigh in.

It remains to be seen how Cotto would fare against the elite fighters of the boxing division. When we have seen him at his best, Cotto is a skilled, calculating boxer who selects his shots well and breaks opponents down with a degenerative body attack. But he has also been hurt on a few occasions, which raises questions about whether or not he is durable enough to stand up to some of the hardest punchers at 147 pounds.

It is generally difficult to pick a fighter to win when he is coming off consecutive losses. However, there are reasons which explain why Judah lost to both Baldomir and Mayweather, and why he has a legitimate chance at being the first person to blemish Cotto's undefeated professional record. Against Baldomir, Zab was unfocused and did not train diligently because he was unaware that his opponent was a very competent fighter; few people knew how good he was up until that point. Zab assumed that there was no threat because of Baldomir's unspectacular win-loss boxing record, and because of his low knockout percentage, did not believe that Baldomir had the power to hurt him. He took what appeared to be an easy opponent lightly, and paid the price for it in losing a close unanimous decision.

After that disastrous showing, Zab was able to partially redeem himself with a strong performance against Floyd Mayweather. Disregarding the idiotic behavior that led to the tenth round melee, many people forget that there were stretches where Judah was in control of the fight. I remember thinking after the first four rounds that Mayweather may lose for the first time in his career. Aside from having to overcome the deficit on the boxing scorecards, there was the sense that Zab was clearly capable of hurting Floyd if he caught him at the right time. Mayweather overcame adverse circumstances and found a way to win, as all great fighters do, by a margin of seven rounds to four on my scorecard, with one round being scored even. However, Zab showed what he is capable of when he comes into a fight fully prepared. He is talented enough to compete with the best fighters in the world when the focus is there as well.

Judah has shown throughout his career that he has very good punching power. But in my opinion, the most significant factor that should be taken into consideration when analyzing this matchup is that there have been many times where he was unable to finish off hurt fighters (Pineda, Corley, Spinks, Weis, and some would argue Tszyu as well). All of these opponents were able to recover from being hurt and eventually got back into the fight. Judah won split decisions over Pineda and Corley, and a fairly comfortable decision against Weis in a fight that was nevertheless competitive. Zab lost a decision in his first fight against Spinks, and was knocked out in the second round by Tszyu.

There are still questions that have yet to be answered about Cotto's chin. But what he has shown is a remarkable ability to recover after being hurt, and has eventually stopped his opponents afterward. I predict that Cotto will be hurt by Judah at some point early on in the fight, and might even be as badly disoriented as he was against Torres. It is during these opportunities that Zab must be able to finish him off, or he will likely get knocked out himself. He has to be able to show enough maturity and poise to be able to capitalize on these kinds of situations, should they arise. What it comes down to is which version of Zab Judah shows up against Cotto. If he has not learned anything, and is still the petulant, undisciplined fighter that fell apart against Baldomir, Miguel Cotto will dismantle him in brutal fashion. If Zab is able to improve his instincts as a finisher and stays composed during key moments of the fight, we may see a surprising upset in June.

Article posted on 06.04.2007

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