Zab Judah: Let´s All Hate Him

09.01.06 - By Wray Edwards: Yeah!! Let’s get him. Everybody pile on. How is it possible that the pleasant, friendly guy we met in Tampa, Florida at the Lacy-Reid fight could now be so reviled and dismissed? As a writer one strives to make generic comments about sportsmen. You are what you do during the time you do it. If boxer X acts like a "bottom feeder" he is literally "making a name for himself" during those actions. There have been times when Zab was complimented and praised for his positive accomplishments.

Accusing someone of acting like a jerk does not mean you "hate" them. You are simply (assuming your observations are accurate) reporting…and that’s the gig. Judah could have redeemed himself at any moment last night by just accepting responsibility for his actions. Instead, he compounded his transgressions and dissappointed us all.

The benchmark moment for the author last night was the smiling face of Carlos as he didn't just touch gloves at the opening of the twelfth, he attempted to hug Zab. What followed that was a perfect demonstration of what makes Boxing so great.

The principle factor is contact. There are two basic categories of sports, contact and non-contact. Football, basketball, rugby, wrestling, martial arts, Boxing and some others come to mind. They all involve powerful body-to-body physical impact. Tennis, baseball (with the exception of plays at home plate), and volleyball do not allow the opponents to touch each other. This difference creates two very distinct categories of sport. Contact sports forge a special bond between their participants and their fans which is unique in human affairs.

Calling in to a sports talk show one time, we asked why baseball players are not usually seen shaking hands after a game, whereas it is not uncommon at all to see footballers hugging, shaking hands and congratulating each other. “Oh they are not allowed to fraternize” was the host’s response, how sad, how sterile, how stand-offish. Don’t get this wrong…baseball has its place. It is, in fact, the perfect game which combines athletic prowess with Catholic mass-like ceremony, and its symbolism would make a French chanteuse blush.

Real men like contact sports, and Boxing is the epitome of that genera, and the more contact the better. As Scott paraphrased Patton, “Real men love the sting of battle.” Is there any more perfect example of that than Baldomir, or Mayorga or Otis Sistrunk (Raider) inviting his opposite to join in mortal combat. It has been estimated that the four quarters of a football game encompass about twelve or thirteen minutes of actual contact action. Compared to Boxing, that’s only three rounds. Nothing in sports can equal the sustained, brutal potential of Boxing.

Football fans marvel occasionally at a good hit or courageous run. Boxing fans gasp in amazement many times in every round if it’s a good match. Sporting passions rise high in team sports, but they are most personal and long lasting in single combat contests. There is a huge difference between fan identification with a team versus an individual. Once you pick your guy (PBF, DLH, Gatti, Lacy, Hatton, Tszyu) and wear his colors, so to speak, all bets are on.

Though fans are not in the ring, they attach great emotional significance to this or that guy before or during the contest. For the boxers themselves there are conscious and unconscious consequences. The act of congratulating your opponent during your victory speech also elevates you as it would not make sense to put him down which would diminish your accomplishment. Likewise, not taking responsibility for your failings casts doubt on the validity of your victorious opponent.

Zab could have salvaged much respect for himself by just letting it go. He did, to his credit, approach Carlos to congratulate him. Then to his discredit, he blamed others. Whether King was or was not culpable in whatever took place in Judah’s training period which left him ill-prepared, it is not good form to try to shift blame. Recently Mike Anchondo confessed his shortcomings in preparing for his title fight with Barrios. This willingness to take responsibility is more effective as a road to redemption than blaming others.

“What have you done for me lately?” is the key to salvation in Boxing. Glencoff Johnson clearly demonstrated that no matter what’s past, it is the future which holds that key. Of course everything in life is timing and location. With no particular thought one way or the other about Zab’s prospects last night, it was possible to be quite objective about what happened to him. As the contest unfolded it became obvious that something was very wrong. To view the match with little or no expectations was a great luxury. It will be a real trick to do this in Manchester as the author is struggling with a pretty severe Lacy bias.

What does a guy have to do to get squared away after such an ignominious defeat? Same as anybody…go home, take a shower, have a beer and talk it over with your friends…assuming you have some. Hopefully “Golden Palace” has learned their lesson about crass exploitation of boxer’s backs. Even before the pre-fight low blow, the Marks-a-Lot blemish on Juda’s torso gave evidence that he had allowed himself to be taken advantage of.

Whether Don King misused his boxer for promotional purposes or not is an object lesson in personal responsibility. When this writer gave excessive credence to Anchondo’s camp regarding his conditioner’s part in the weigh-in fiasco, it became an object lesson in personal terms about how to call ‘em as we see ‘em. Various posters made the point, quite effectively, that if a boxer is truly professional he will see to it that he is always ready. Hopkins, Lacy, De La Hoya and others have proven that it is possible for a boxer to self-discipline.

It is possible to dislike and be dissappointed about what Judah, Ruiz, Toney or Tyson do which deviates from good taste or sportsmanship, without lapsing into self-poisoning hate. Such behaviors should serve as a warning to be more observant about our own attachments to this or that boxer whether it be affection or hatred. If anything, compassion should replace hatred, as hatred only hurts the hater. As Judah compounded his disgrace last night, it was easy to just think back to his victory over Spinks and his calm and friendly nature in Tampa.

Money and power do weird things to people. Worse yet, if that money and power come as a result of demonstrated skills in a blood sport, careful control of personal dynamics becomes imperative. Hopefully Zab will take this defeat with future grace. In retrospect he will find the opportunity presented by last night’s problem to do it better next time. He is really fun to watch when he’s on his game. He’s young enough to turn it around. Let’s all hope he does. See you at the fights.

Article posted on 09.01.2006

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