Bell Stops Mormeck, Baldomir Decisions Judah! Amazing!

08.01.06 -By Izyaslav “Slava” Koza: Unbelievable is the best way to describe the two fights that were showcased on Showtime tonight. First, we got to see what is sure to be an early candidate for fight of the year in the bout between Jamaican O'Neil Bell and French Jean Marc Mormeck. Then, as if out of nowhere, Carlos Baldomir woke up at the exact half way point of the fight to take what people should undoubtedly see as a deserved decision and not controversial as the Judah camp claims, but more on that later:

Jean Marc Mormeck vs. O'Neil Bell

Wow! Well, Mormeck finally has a nickname, but as the Showtime guys said, it's Bell that now holds the belt. This fight proved precisely why the Cruiserweights could potentially be the best division in boxing, if we consider two distinct elements. As Al Bernstein said, these guys are big enough to score big blows, and they are not big enough to be extremely slow and plodding.

Mormeck, now known as the “Marksman,” started out fast and aggressive winning many of the early rounds on clean and mean punching. He reminded me of a very fit version of James Toney, displaying a very good defense, and patience, and finding the necessary holes in Bell’s game plan to score MONSTER shots on both Bell’s body and his impressive chin. Let me tell you, most other guys would have folded under the hailstorm of punishment Mormeck was dishing out. Based on this performance, it is relatively clear to me that Bell has a very good chin/defense and he ate a lot to get the French bull out of there. The instance that sticks out in my mind most is after a huge shot to the body, Bell hunched over half taunting Mormeck. The people around me thought he was playing around but I knew it was obviously from the body punch, but the key thing is, Bell very wisely, very maturely, exceptionally used that to his advantage. He bent over to recover but kept his distance and used it to taunt Mormeck very impressive stuff.

With Mormeck’s massive attack obviously not having the desired result he had hoped, the Frenchman began to tire somewhere towards the middle rounds. In the 7th, he found himself in huge trouble on the ropes and within seconds of being stopped. Displaying tremendous heart and chin himself, Mormeck fought back with his own (back) glued to the ropes. This round is a leading candidate for “round of the year” and we haven’t even gotten out of January!

However, even though Mormeck was still somewhat competitive, the tide began to turn clearly in Bell’s favor. Mormeck kept to the ropes as he knew he would no longer have enough stamina to chase down the Jamaican, but Bell did the wise thing and tried to stay on the outside, giving himself room to come in when he chose, land his load, and get out. It was clear Mormeck was in huge trouble from the 7th on.

Amazingly, the Frenchman was able to hold on to the 10th, where he was finally stopped on a somewhat questionable barrage of punches. The problem first of all was that he did not know how to take a knee. Again, this is an issue most proud fighters have, but smart ones know that pride can cost fights and big paychecks. Instead, Mormeck completely bent over and left the back of his head open for what were obviously illegal blows. Now, at the end of the fight, in the post fight interview, Bell defended his action because Mormeck was not “defending himself at all times,” and although I partially agree with this, there is a limit as to how far you can really go with this. As Bell was swinging at first, yes, some of the shots grazed that area of the head, but they were interspersed with some clean blows as well. There is nothing wrong with this, as it is not Bell’s job to make sure that Mormeck doesn’t leave the back of his head open. However, as Mormeck was going down, finally, Bell set up what I can best describe as a “Golota-like” combination to the back of Mormeck’s head, something that could have seriously hurt Jean Mark. Bell played with a dangerous fire there as he could have easily been disqualified for said action. It would not really be fair as he would have won but technically setting up a combination like that is really disgusting, even though I understand that Bell wanted to win.

Credit to both guys in the interviews, as Bell explained he would chase a fight with Steve Cunningham a guy that was gracious enough to step aside so this wonderful war can take place. In this instance, I am completely for the defense against the mandatory, as he is in part responsible for the unification bout we saw today. Mormeck made no excuses through his interpreter and gave all the respect to Bell, not even mentioning the questionable rabbit punches discussed above, that shows class on his part and I respect him for it. When all is said and done, a rematch could very well carry a PPV card if the undercard justifies it.

Zab Judah - Carlos Baldomir

Well, Zab Judah showed off his newly acquired “focus antics,” as I like to call them, but as I suspected somewhat, they had little affect on Baldomir. After Judah’s loss to Spinks, he reinvented himself to the point where he would act very intimidating in the stare downs, and talk downs before the fights. Although, Zab smacking Baldomir’s thigh in the prefight stare down surprised the Showtime crew, they must have missed when he did to guys like Martell and Rangel, I believe. Obviously, he thought this would be a pushover fight, and doing that would scare and pushover his opponent, even more. When Baldomir tried to ignore this and look away, many believed that this was a sign of fear from the Argentinean. In fact, that is not always the case.

A lot of fighters, and rightfully so, know they cannot play these mind games, and stare down their opponent, and trash talk, so they simply do the smart thing and not pay attention to it. If Baldomir pays no attention to Zab then Zab only entertains the fans and does not acquire some sort of mental edge. Now, this doesn’t mean Baldomir wins the fight outright or anything but just because a guy refuses to play the stare downs games it doesn’t mean he is at some sort of mental disadvantage. This is really something the media cooked up and the promoters fried to a well down crisp in order to garner ratings. Some fighters like Tyson used to, and Toney, and some others, do get a benefit out of it, others do not, so just because a fighter looks away doesn’t mean he is not ready to fight it out.

The interesting thing is that actually cost Judah the first battle because the referee got on his case about professionalism and sportsmanship way before the bout. Thing is, if Judah acts like a heel, as some fighters do, if he gets on the ref’s nerves, then subconsciously he is making an enemy of the third man in the ring. Compare this with Hopkins, who is usually very polite and nice and friendly with the referee. Why? Simple, because then maybe he can get away with some extra dirty tactics, as he has done most of his career, in my opinion. I understand Zab is an aggressive guy, who tries to bully his opponents with that stuff, but he should be mindful of the referee as well is all I am saying.

Now, as for the fight, it was really pretty boring up until the 7th round. Zab was slowly but surely building up a points lead throughout the first six, although to be fair it was not a clean shutout. Though he landed the better punches in most of those rounds, Baldomir kept banging his chin as his own method of mental bullying and coming forward. On my card through the first six, it was five to one in favor of Judah with the 4th round going to Baldomir. This might have been a key factor in the fight.

As I was almost falling asleep through the seventh round with Judah in command of a humdrum affair, a less then stellar looking punch caught Zab’s attention. Judah fell into the ropes, with his legs doing some sort of funky cross between the dance he did in the Tsyzu fight, and the dance Cotto did when Corley clipped him hard in their bout. Judah was obviously hurt, but Baldomir has some of the worst finishing technique I have ever seen and so Zab was able to survive. I do want to point out though that Judah was doing so much running and was so hurt, landing very few punches, that it could very well have been a 10-8 round. Now, I did not score it this way but I could see where the argument could be made, and although the Judah corner may not agree with it, if a judge sees it that way (and I do believe Melvina Lathan did as her score was 115-112) hey, that is a 2 round swing in Baldomir’s favor.

From that point on, the bout turned into Baldomir’s favor. First off, Judah was obviously fatigued. I don’t know if this was a by-product of nerves, or under training, or getting hurt, but it was obvious. As soon as he felt he was hurt, he crawled into a defense shell, and even though Baldomir was not really doing anything, Judah was doing even less. Rounds eight and nine went to Baldomir, on my card and at that point, it was 5-4 in favor of Judah if the rounds are scored 10-9, as I had them. Round ten was a somewhat close issue for me, again, Judah did not land a lot or do a lot but Baldomir was not landing cleanly either and winning based on aggressiveness, although I do distinctly remember Judah scoring 2 or 3 nice blows in that one. The question is, where those enough to sway the judges?

Al Bernstein gave it to Baldomir, while I gave it reluctantly to Judah, going into the championship rounds. In the eleventh, again, Judah very reluctant to throw, either because of fear, worry, or fatigue, lost the round, again, because Baldomir was moving forward. In the last round, coming down to the wire the round was even until the final seconds when Baldomir scored, as Judah got his arm tangled in the ropes. As the referee broke them apart, it was obvious Zab was almost out on his feet from another punch that did not seem effective but obviously did do damage. With that said, I had it six to six, a draw, thereby allowing Zab to keep his belts, and me personally thinking it would be a score similar to that of the press row judges as Zab was the hometown fighter.

However, as Don King said after the bout, the judges cannot press replay and cannot go back and consider if a 10-8, or a 10-9, or even an even round, should be changed. This is why when Jimmy Lennon said, “and the…new Welterweight,” etc. I had no problem in admitting that Baldomir earned that decision, fair and square. A draw would be okay, too, but again, a judge can’t consider the implication of a close round going to either fighter, the 10th was a swing round, the 7th was potentially 10-8, if the Judah camp can’t deal with it, then they deserve to lose.

Look, Baldomir is nothing special but he did what he had to do. He trained right, came in focused, and pulled out a great fight for a guy who I think is limited. In a rematch, I think Zab would beat him, as I think he would not allow himself to get caught up thinking about Mayweather or anybody else. However, let's remember there is no rematch clause, and Judah and his camp have themselves, and their promoter to blame for that, thinking they would not need one.

Surprisingly, I completely agree with Don King. He said after the fight that he had his man winning, but the judges might have not, and if we consider the issues mentioned, it is clear that it went down that way. Usually, it does not and the champ gets to keep his belt but, hey, this time the challenger got the benefit in close rounds. If Zab was so confident, he would do more to seal rounds like the 4th and 10th that did not go his way, probably.

Joel Judah is a great trainer and knew this was going to be close which is why he did everything in his power to keep his son focused on the prize. Unfortunately, he failed to do that and that is not his fault as a trainer, Judah was too concerned with his own shortcomings to think about salvaging the rest of the bout. Then at the end, the sr. Judah concedes Baldomir won 5 to 6 rounds, but the rest Judah won. Well, look, if you admit he won 6, maybe he won one round you didn’t think he did and there you have it a close win for the Argentinean.

As far Zab’s comments after the fight, I simply don’t agree. Before the fight, he said everything and anything about a spectacular performance, and if that was not what he believed based on the fact that King dragged him around to interviews, he should have said so. He should have said, “I am not so sure about this one because I am talking to you people and not focusing on my opponent.” Of course, we don’t expect him to be this honest, but hey, the truth as I see it is, they thought Baldomir was too weak a fighter and they would steamroll him and an extra interview here or a dinner there would not be an issue. Sometimes it happens this way but for any, ANY upset loss, there is always a reason for why the favorite went down, this should be a lesson to Judah its as simple as that.

If the bout between him and Mayweather comes off, I sincerely have my doubts about how well he would do after watching this performance. Defensively speaking, Mayweather is a much better fighter, and also mentally he is never afraid if he gets hit or gets pushed by an overly aggressive opponent. Judah, on the other hand, goes into some sort of half defensive half passive phase where, even a limited guy like Baldomir can dictate the pace. If Baldomir can do so, I think the best p4p fighter in the world can as well. It's sad, too, cause obviously Zab has great talent but even though he supposedly matured, it took only one moment in a fight and one instance for him to lose all the valuable experience he has gained ever since the Tsyzu fight.

In closing, again thank you to Showtime, Don King and everybody involved, as this was truly inspirational for me to see, a great honest (fair results) card like this. Thank you to the fighters for agreeing to fight each other, and thanks to their teams, for whatever hand they played in tonight’s fights. The future of boxing looks very bright after these bouts.

Article posted on 08.01.2006

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