Spinks-Judah II: Slick Southpaws Slashing Swords On Saturday

03.02.05 - By Janne Romppainen: As we look back at the best fights of the year 2004, the ones that probably come to our minds first are the brutal and exciting punch-outs such as Pacquiao - Marquez, Trinidad-Mayorga or Barrera-Morales III, which we were lucky enough to witness. Among all these great fights a bout in last April for the undisputed welterweight championship between Zab Judah and Cory Spinks went with relatively little notice. Even so, that fight was one of the best of last year too at least for puritans who like to see boxing matches with skills and tactics included. It was technically a high-levelled fight which was very close and exciting one literally until the final bell, and it was climaxed in the last rounds where both participants had to listen to the count. At the end of the day Spinks retained his crown via close, some thought questionable, points verdict. In the upcoming Saturday these two ringmasters are going at it again, and the beforehand-predictions about the winner are nearly even.

The New York based 27-year-old challenger "Super" Zab Judah has gone through many different periods in his career. He launched his professional career already back in 1996 and he was noted pretty quickly as a promising young comer. He won his first world title in 2000 as he defeated Jan Bergman in a bout for the vacant IBF light-welterweight belt. The victories kept rolling, and soon Judah was mentioned as one of the most talented fighters pound-for-pound in the world and his name also was mentioned close to the top-10 listings. One well-known boxing commentator went so far that he described Judah as "the new Pernell Whitaker with Mike Tyson's punch." While the later events demonstrated that such comparison was way overboard, it could not be denied that Judah was a real natural talent and looked very impressive indeed in the turn of the millennium.

Judah's unblemished march to the stars came to its brutal end in 2001 as the other champion of light-welterweight, Kostya Tszyu, who now is commanding the division as sovereign, easily knocked him out in two rounds. As we remember, Judah lost his head totally after realizing the result and got himself a six-month suspension with his childish behaviour. The loss seemed to effect him mentally also afterwards, because his first fights after his return were far from impressive. It was actually the fight against Spinks that made Judah a really interesting name once again, although he did come close of blowing his next fight after that against Rafael Pineda. Last time Judah was seen in the ring was against a hopelessly overmatched Wayne Martell whom Judah bounced around in last October.

As mentioned before, the southpaw Judah is a real natural talent and child of nature in boxing, both with his strengths and weaknesses. He has a combination of great speed, marvellous reflexes and especially in the light-welterweight division he also packed a good punch. From the point of these physical attributes he is comparable with anybody in the world. Judah's weaknesses are mostly on his mental side and also his punch resistance and the errors he makes with his defence are something he could work on. Judah is at times way too uninspired in the ring and thus he makes the fights more difficult to himself than his opponents would be able to do. Also he sometimes forgets his defence in his eagerness to fight, and because his chin is not among the best of the sport, he has been down on several occasions. Because of his all-around talent Judah is a fighter with good variety of working tactics, he is able to both box tactically and also attack sharply. Judah also punches hard with either fist and his punch arsenal is wide. His ring record stands at 32 wins with 23 knockouts against two losses.

The defending champion Cory Spinks, 26, usually appears on the pound-for-pound top-10 lists these days. The son of the former heavyweight champion Leon Spinks began his career in 1997 at light-welterweight. He soon stepped up to the welters where he has created his reputation although he has also visited a couple of times at light-middleweight. His career followed the normal paths for long, although it must be noted that he was very active from early on, in 1998 he fought no less than 12 times winning all but the last bout where solid Antonio Diaz defeated him. In the next year Spinks gathered the experience from eight more fights and climbed slowly towards the championship bouts. His problem with breaking through was his careful boxing style and the lack of a knockout punch, which is why he never became a real fan favourite. As he kept winning against better and better level of opposition, he got into a title fight in 2002 for the IBF welterweight title vacated by Vernon Forrest. The Italian Michele Piccirillo was bit too much for him at the first try, but in the year following Spinks levelled the scales and captured the title. In December 2003 Spinks fought for the undisputed welterweight title against Ricardo Mayorga. Spinks was the clear underdog against the Nicaraguan bomber who had just risen to stardom, but with his mixture of skills, movement and also bit dirty tactics Spinks conquered the crown on a majority decision. Spinks has then defended his three title belts twice, against Judah and in last September with an easy decision victory over veteran Miguel Angel Gonzales.

Spinks is pretty tall for a welterweight standing at 5'9", but his reach is just huge at 78", which equals the measures of the biggest heavyweights! This is the attribute that Spinks mostly builds his game plan on. With his vast reach he tries to control the action from outside pumping out a right jab from his southpaw stance. In addition to being rangy Spinks' jab is also a very quick and snappy one and that has been the key factor to his success. Spinks is quick also from his feet and his basic technique is exemplary. He lacks some toughness though, his punching power is not very good and his chin doesn't seem to be necessarily among the best in business, he came close of losing the last fight against Judah via one-punch knockout. Spinks has gathered 34 victories with ten knockouts against only two losses.

The last bout between the two was such a close one that guessing the winner here is extremely difficult. Last time Spinks proved out to be the close winner on points, but the fight was totally winnable also to Judah, who gave away too many early rounds and couldn't quite catch up Spinks' lead. Spinks controlled the fight clearly for about five rounds and Judah didn't seem to get much of anything going. Before the halfway point the command changed however: Judah adjusted very well to Spinks' style and with his speed and accuracy he controlled in turn the fight clearly for the next rounds and evened up the points before the last three rounds. The fight culminated in the last two stanzas: in the eleventh Spinks downed Judah with a quick left as Judah was backing away too carelessly and took a two-point round. In the last moments of the last round the challenger put Spinks down with his left and the champ had real trouble making it to the final bell. In addition of being bipartite, the fight included plenty of very close rounds too, and judging those rounds was what finally decided the outcome in the eyes of the judges and fans who had different opinions. In those rounds Spinks' scrupulosity eventually came to its worth.

In the upcoming fight it seems that the one holding the keys to victory is Judah. Judah at his best looks to be slightly better than Spinks at his best, and the question is whether or not Judah can employ all his know-how. To take the win Judah has to take more chances from early on and try to get inside. At close distance his shorter, quicker and harder punching will take its toll. Also due to the first fight he knows that he can both hurt Spinks and even knock him out, which should boost his confidence. Judah needs to control the centre of the ring and keep the pressure on Spinks. He also has to take care of not wasting any rounds to unnecessary waiting game. Unfortunately all this is so often easier said than done when it comes to Judah: you never know how he will perform until the fight actually starts. In any event Spinks is too good a fighter for Judah to beat by fooling around.

Spinks on the other hand should be more careful than he was last time. He should employ his size and reach advantages to stay outside and keep Judah's attacks under his control. If Judah gets close, Spinks shouldn't try to defeat him at his game but rather clinch and again make his weight difference tell. Spinks also has to retain his typical good work ethics, steal every close round he can and despite being careful he should also be in place to make Judah pay if his concentration starts to slip. This way the road is open for Spinks too to another points verdict.

The winner of the bout has no time to take rest, that is if he wants to hold on his title. If Judah takes it, a rubber match between the two might be on making. Also there are names such as Paul Spadafora and Kermit Cintron at welterweight, both top challengers who have been waiting to get their chance to fight for the crown. In the light-welterweight there is a whole bunch of skilled fighters looking to move up, Tszyu, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto or maybe even Floyd Mayweather among them. Also the rumours are suggesting several top-notch fighters to move back down to their old division: Oscar De La Hoya, Sugar Shane Mosley, Vernon Forrest and Ricardo Mayorga might soon come to the nightmares of either one. The throne of the welterweight champion is a high but desperately shaky one.


Article posted on 03.02.2005

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