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Boxing: Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Zab Judah

By Cliff Montgomery,
The April 8th, 2006 fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Zab Judah somehow became both one of the most entertaining and one of the most bizarre fights in recent memory.

It was originally scheduled to be a WBC title match, but on January 7, 2006, Judah lost the WBC welterweight title by unanimous decision to mandatory challenger Carlos Baldomir. But the lack of the WBC belt simply didn't matter to fans. Besides, Judah still had the IBF welterweight title, which aided in keeping interest high. The Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nevada sold thousands of tickets within days.

The fight probably would have gone down as one of the finer moments in recent boxing memory if the now-infamous riot hadn't occurred near the end of the tenth round.

At first Zab Judah's sleek, southpaw style was taking the fight: Judah carried three of the first four rounds. But as the fight wore on, Floyd Mayweather got the better of Judah. Mayweather increasingly dominated the remaining rounds with strong, consistent punches which ground down Judah's face and body.

That was the situation with 5 seconds left in the 10th round. Then came "the moment": as Mayweather landed another vicious punch, Judah was releasing an uppercut which may therefore had missed its intended target, and may have caused the blow to go terribly low, hitting Mayweather in the 'family jewels'. Only Judah knows for sure whether the low blow was intentional or not.

This is boxing, and bad as it was, accidents do happen. Like any other professional fighter, Zab Judah deserves the benefit of a doubt for that first terrible blow. He deserves nothing of the kind for the second.

Anyone who has put on boxing gloves has one thing drilled into them almost from the start: there is one spot on a man which you never deliberately strike, precisely because a well-placed, properly powerful strike at that point could kill that man...and it is the very place where Judah deliberately struck Mayweather--in the back of the head, where the head meets the neck.

Was Judah's blood up at that moment? I imagine it was, and he was being out-fought in a title match to boot. But Zab Judah is not a drunkard swinging wildly in a barfight, or even a kid in his first official fight who may conceivably claim his adrenaline got the better of him. Judah's one of the most experienced, best-trained fighters in the world, and until his loss to Baldomir this January was undisputed welterweight champion of the world.

Boxing masters like Zab Judah don't make such wild mistakes on such a fundamental issue. There is no excuse for the second punch.

Floyd's uncle/trainer Roger Mayweather then charged the ring to attack Judah. This brought Yoel Judah to march into the ring and attack Roger Mayweather, and before long the professional fight had turned into a melee. Eventually police and security were able to restore order. Roger Mayweather, the fighter's uncle, was tossed from the event and later fined for charging the ring.

The match was restarted with 5 seconds left in the tenth round. Mayweather wisely stuck to his gameplan and won the remaining rounds. The final scores were 116-112, 117-111, and 119-109, all for Mayweather, who was proclaimed the IBF welterweight champion by way of unanimous decision.

As fight fans know, this was not the first time Judah has shown a lack of grace in the ring. In November 2001, he met fellow titleholder Kostya Tszyu in a title unification bout held at New York's Madison Square Garden.

An attack by Tszyu late in the 2nd round knocked Judah flat on his back, with his head slamming hard against the canvas. Perhaps disoriented from that head smash against the canvas, Judah attempted to rise from the knockdown without taking a second to collect himself.

The result of course was predictable: almost as soon as Judah rose to his feet, his legs seemed to turn to rubber beneath him, and he stumbled ungracefully across the ring, falling again.

Seeing this, referee Jay Nady stopped the bout and proclaimed Tszyu the winner. Judah rose again (still on wobbly legs) to protest the stoppage. But as Judah began finally to shake off the effect of Tszyu's punches, his outrage at Nagy's decision increased to absurd proportions.

At one point, Judah pushed his gloved-fist into the throat of the much bigger Nady, and then returned to his corner, picked up the ring stool and threw it across the ring at the referee.

Judah was officially suspended from boxing as a result of this outburst.

In fact the Mayweather fight was itself intended as part of Judah's attempt to slowly work his way back into the good graces of boxing's scores of promoters, television networks and fans.

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