If you ever wish to see just what can happen to a fighter’s equilibrium, to his ability to think in any way clearly after taking one perfectly placed punch to a vulnerable point of the head – be it to the point of the chin, or to the temple – the short but very memorable fight that took place 20 years ago today (November 3, 2001) between Kostya Tszyu and Zab Judah ticks the box in one graphic way.
The two rival 140 pounders met in their three-belt unification showdown and the experts were pretty much split down the middle over who would win. It was a great match-up between two peaking fighters. Slick southpaw Judah from New York was unbeaten at 27-0 and he held the IBF belt. Tszyu of Australia was 27-1, the loss coming against Vince Phillips in 1997, and he held the WBC and WBA titles.
Instead of a great fight, what we got was a great KO. An utterly devastating knockout that left the loser in all sorts of trouble.
Zab won the opening round, his speed and accuracy something to behold, and already some fans wondered if Tszyu was simply too slow to be able to compete with “Super Judah.” Then, in the dying seconds of round two, it happened. Tszyu landed a perfect right hand shot to the point of Judah’s exposed chin, the thunderous blow sending Zab down heavily on his back. Judah got up quickly, too quickly, and he fell again almost instantly, this after trying to talk to referee Jay Nady.
Nady waved the fight off immediately after the second knockdown, seeing up close how Judah’s legs had so utterly gone. Judah was inconsolable, crying how he had been okay to carry on and then turning nasty, grabbing the third man by the throat with his gloved fist and then throwing a stool at Nady. It was ugly stuff. One punch, one perfectly executed punch, had ruined a fine fighter to the extent that Judah did not know what he was doing, or where he was at.
It many ways, Judah’s career never recovered. Tszyu’s grenade of a punch exploded and Judah had suffered the kind of humiliating KO defeat all fighters fear. Judah was the victim of all manner of cruel jokes that were cracked at his expense; with fans referring to his “chicken dance.”
All fighters put so much on the line each and every time they bravely set foot in the ring.