Be suspicious, but take Cotto

Jun 5, 2007 6:00 AM

There are good reasons to be suspicious of the high-priced spreads I see on Miguel Cotto over Zab Judah at Madison Square Garden next weekend.

Cotto, anywhere from a 5/2 to 7/2 favorite, is up against a speedy southpaw who can punch and has a stellar pedigree. Many in the industry think Judah will stop Cotto and do it rather quickly.

Then, there was Cotto’s recent scrape with his uncle Evangelista Cotto while working brother Jose’s corner. A disharmonious camp is not the best preparation for your biggest fight. Make no question, this is Cotto’s big test to see if the 140-pound titlist, who was staggered by DeMarcus Corley and Ricardo Torres has really matured into a 147-pound behemoth who routed Carlos Quintana for a welterweight belt.

Me, I have faith in Cotto. I believe he is the best welterweight right now this side of Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Sugar Shane Mosley. I believe if he gets by Judah, he will blast out Antonio Margarito, should the Tijuana Tornado, as I suspect, take care of undefeated Paul Williams.

I believe Cotto is a smart fighter with a doctorate in body punching. I believe it was the struggle with weight that weakened him at 140 pounds. I believe he showed his true mettle that even hurt, he was able to ride the wave and fight back.

Plus, I have little faith in Judah. The multi-talented kid from Brooklyn must know this is his last shot. Lose this and no amount of talk (by him or by his father) will be able to bring him back to the major leagues. I believe we are going to see a determined Judah, especially in the early rounds.

And that’s why I believe Cotto will score a surprisingly quick stoppage. The Garden will be packed and the atmosphere will be electric. The fight takes place on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day parade in New York and Cotto is the Grand Marshal. Brooklyn will be in the house for Judah. No game plans will hold them back in this setting. It will be the gunfight at the OK Corral, High Noon and Last Man Standing.

I love Cotto in that kind of scrap. First, whether his problems were weight related. There can be no doubt that Judah does not possess a world-class chin. Even Jan Bergman and Terron Millet dropped him. Never mind what Kostya Tszyu did to him.

Throw out his one-round no contest last April with Ruben Galvin (clash of heads) and he’s coming off more than a year’s layoff from losses to Mayweather (hardly a crime) and Carlos Baldomir (inexcusable).

What really underlines my faith in Cotto for this matchup was what I saw in 1996 when Judah was virtually run out of the ring in the Olympic Trials by the gritty, but hardly over-talented David Diaz, who repeated that performance in the Olympic Boxoffs.

Put pressure on Judah and he seems to fold. Cotto will break him down quickly. Moreover, it should be a good time for shopping. The price might lower because Judah will be considered, correctly, as a live underdog.

Same date, new Tarver?

There will be dueling dates June 9. In addition to the pay-per-view Cotto show, Humberto Soto should be an "out" bet in the semifinal against Bobby Pacquiao and there should be no advance wagering on Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. But, it’s the Showtime matchup featuring the return of Antonio Tarver that stands out.

Tarver, who now claims drugs, poison or perhaps home cooking led to his lackluster performance against Bernard Hopkins. He can drink himself silly, swallow cyanide or gorge on chicken fat and still have plenty to deal with Elvir Muriqi. Elver’s 34-3 record is about as real as Tarver’s suspicions.

Muriqi can’t fight and I don’t think his connections can get him past even a 38-year-old Tarver without the help of strychnine-laced heroin. The co-feature is another one of those off-the-board matches. Undefeated light-heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson faces the imported Jesus Ruiz (19-4).

Dawson looked brilliant winning his belt against Poland’s Tomasz Adamek, but he did take one flush on the chin late and went down hard. He did get up and quickly regained control. Dawson and Tarver in the fall sounds like a nice betting fight.

”¡ FYI: I had Cory Spinks tied after 12 rounds with Jermain Taylor, but even having one judge on my side didn’t save my +650 bet on him.

”¡ Kelly Pavlik looked sensational against Edison Miranda in the semi, but colleagues calling it a "Fight of the Year" candidate should be castrated. It takes two to earn that honor. This was one-sided.