Judah claims narrow victory over Matthysse

boxingBy Steve Janoski: If there’s one thing that Zab Judah (40-6, 27 KO’s) proved on Saturday night, it’s that he’s still got the heart and the skill to hang in during the toughest of fights.

The former undisputed welterweight champion defeated Argentinean Lucas Matthysse (27-1, 25 KO’s) in a controversial split decision on Saturday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, earning him the NABF belt and a #2 ranking by the IBF.

It was Judah’s first fight at 140 lbs. since 2003.

The night started slowly, with Matthysse reluctant to come inside and Judah willing to sit back and counterpunch as the two felt each other out.

In the early rounds, Judah exhibited good movement and a consistent jab, although hard shots were few and far between. Judah clearly respected Matthysse’s power— even after landing solid punches, he refused to jump on his foe..

Judah landed a solid uppercut in the second, but Matthysse simply tapped his chin as if to say that he could take Judah’s best.

The lack of action had the crowd booing early, and it wasn’t until the sixth that Matthysse began to close the distance and open up with his hands.

It was later revealed in the post-fight press conference that this was part of his team’s strategy— stay away from Judah early on when he tends to be more dangerous, and then come hard when Judah starts to fade as the fight progresses.

“My team told me to be careful in the first three, four, five rounds, and that’s what I did,” he told the media after the fight.

But Matthysse was careful for too long, and by the time he decided it was time to fight, he had dug himself a hole on the scorecards that would prove difficult to overcome.

The Argentinean came on strong in the tenth, however, and began landing hard left hooks to the body and straight rights to the head, one of which floored the former champ.

A badly hurt Judah appeared to go into survival mode, clinching often and attempting to dodge Matthysse’s onslaught. Judah did manage to come back with a few of his own hard shots that backed Matthysse off, but it was clear that Zab was in trouble.

“When I went down, I had a deep conversation with the Lord,” Judah said with a laugh after the fight. “It was fast to y’all, but it was long to me.”

Matthysse continued to bring the fight to Judah in the eleventh, outworking and outpunching the older fighter throughout the round.

Judah was looking to land a big left to even the round but could not connect, and Matthysse, looking as fresh as he had in the first round, continued to walk him down and pound away.

With blood streaming down the side of his face as a result of a cut sustained earlier on, Judah attempted to use his footwork and angles to avoid Matthysse’s heavy punches.

Several times Matthysse, looking to end the fight, would catch Judah on the ropes, only to have the southpaw escape and slip away.

In the eyes of the judges, the performance was enough to give Judah a narrow victory.

Judge Waleska Poldan scored the fight 114-113 for Matthysse, while judges Hilton Whitaker and Joseph Pasquale scored the fight 114-113 for Judah.

This observer also scored the fight 114-113 for Judah.

During the post-fight press conference, Matthysse was convinced that he was robbed.

“In Argentina, definitely I would have won the fight,” he said through an interpreter. “I’d love to have a rematch and be sure that he beats me and not the judges…I was in his hometown and he got the home decision.”

Judah later appeared in a suit and sunglasses to address reporters, and commended Matthysse on his performance.

“In the future, you’ll see a lot of Lucas…but tonight was my night,” he said. “You can’t win four or five rounds of a fight and then say you won the whole fight.”

Judah later admitted that if the fight had been in Argentina, the scorecards might have read the other way.

“We probably would have got a different outcome,” he said.

He expressed little interest in a rematch with the hard-punching Matthysse, whom he called “the strongest fighter I’ve ever fought.”

“Nah…they got a couple gorillas at the Brooklyn Zoo he can go tangle with,” he quipped. “We’re going to move on, and see what’s out there next for us.”

Undoubtedly, at 33 years of age, Judah will be looking for fights with bigger names and bigger paydays, and might consider a rematch with the relatively unknown Matthysse a waste of time.

Although it was a good test for Judah, who did not tire in the late rounds as he has customarily done, it was far from the exciting, explosive battle that would leave the boxing world clamoring to watch him fight any of the top junior welterweights.

The division, undoubtedly one of the deepest and most talent-rich in boxing, features such names as Devon Alexander, Timothy Bradley, Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana, and Victor Ortiz; any one of these competitors would probably be too much for him at this stage of his career.

Judah, of course, sees it otherwise.

“(Matthysse) is probably the toughest, hardest hitter in the weight division…I think I got past the toughest guy already and the rest of the weight division will be piece of cake,” he said.

Those are big words indeed. Whether they can be backed up remains to be seen.

Article posted on 08.11.2010

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