It’s not always love at first sight.
There were those who thought Larry Holmes would not amount to much after watching him virtually crawl out of the ring in an Olympic Trials battle with Duane Bobick. Russell Peltz used to tell me that when Marvin Hagler passed through Philadelphia, before becoming Marvelous, he left the impression that perhaps he needed to visit the Wizard of Oz about securing some heart.
Of course, it depends on the eyes of the beholders, too, but I was not very impressed when I saw David Diaz, a tough kid from Chicago with only a modicum of talent, chase Zab Judah out of the ring in the Olympic Trials and then repeat that performance in the Olympic Boxoffs.
Holmes and Hagler showed they had Hall of Fame heart, of course. Judah is still going about it, but I think the question about the kid from Brooklyn was always more about mind. When his wanders, it can appear the heart is not ticking right.
I’m hoping the likeable southpaw was just struggling with a case of prolonged immaturity, the kind that got him in trouble with the Nevada authorities for grabbing referee Jay Nady by the neck in anger. Judah also threw a stool at the poor man, who had committed the heinous crime of trying to save him from Kostya Tszyu.
Zab has shown his immaturity since, sometimes going for walkabouts and allowing inferior opponents to stick around. We begin the New Year with Judah and another of my top 25 pound-for-pounders, cruiserweight Jean-Marc Mormeck (Le Tank from France) in what could be a Showtime mismatch doubleheader from New York this Saturday.
It’s always nice to see talented guys in the ring and usually unwise to bet against them. Sometimes it makes little sense to wager on their success. Example: Judah is -1300 against one of the so-called "mandatory" contenders for his unified welterweight title, Carlos Baldomir of Argentina, who is +700 at one overseas book. The offshore bookie doesn’t bother to list Mormeck’s fight with another cruiserweight title-holder, O’Neil Bell.
Are both champions locks? Of course not. Judah has shown himself to be somewhat chinny in the past, though Baldomir does not impress anyone as a bomber. Bell, however, can punch, but Le Tank not only seems well-armored around the chin, he has two loaded turrets with which to quickly take out a man protected by a plate-glass jaw.
Because the card is in Judah’s home town, he is in the finale. Some might want to consider it the walkout bout because Mormeck-Bell is the real feature. That fight will try to establish the first undisputed cruiserweight king (not counting WBOgus champions, of course) title since Evander Holyfield in 1988. Le Tank should be going straight at Bell, who will wind up, throw his big bombs and end up on the canvas.
It won’t take long to get to the welterweight main event.
Judah has already signed for an April 8 showdown with his bling brother, Floyd Mayweather Jr., whom he disparages as "Pretty Girl." He can’t afford a misstep against Baldomir. He must not only win, but fight impressively. This would help build up a match between two extremely talented fighters, who also have to prove they are marketable.
Baldomir, a rugged type who has a 41-9-6 record with only 12 KO’s, has not lost in seven years. Judah’s great speed - hand and foot - and power should make it an easy fight. Provided, that is, the champion takes it seriously. I believe he will because of both Mayweather and New York. It’s a chance for Judah to look like a million bucks (actually, maybe $3.5 million for a Mayweather fight) before his friends and family.
Yes, it disturbs me that he almost blew an easy victory over Rafael Pineda, but the 34-year-old Baldomir is less dangerous than the former 140-pound champion. Judah will not have to be too cautious. If he lets his hands fly, Showtime will quickly be able to get on with more mature programming.
Some of my colleagues believe this will be a good show. If this is as good as it’s going to get in 2006, though, let’s go straight to 2007.