[Boxing Brah!] Cotto-Judah

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This guy writes great articles...!

By Cliff Rold

n the moments leading up to the second Arturo Gatti-Mickey Ward fight, HBO went old school. They showed you the fighters in black and white, invoking the shadows of the 1950?s. This Saturday?s welterweight bout between Ring Magazine #3 Miguel Cotto (29-0, 24 KO) of Puerto Rico and former World welterweight champion Zab Judah (34-4, 25 KO, #5) of Brooklyn belong to even earlier technologies. To give fans the flavor of what Cotto-Judah is really all about, one would need to gather with their friends around the radio live and join them again a week later, dropping a dime in the till at their local movie theatre to see what they?d heard.

That?s how old-school this weekends affair is when you strip it to its roots. The setting, Madison Square Garden in New York City, has been the home of many fights like it. It?s an ethnic neighborhood fight on a grand scale. It?s BK versus Boricua and the fans, an expected 20,000 of them, will let the whole world know how much that means to them. The fact that it?s happening on the weekend of the Puerto Rican Day parade will only amplify that volume. This is the kind of match-up the old timers are talking about when names like Benny Leonard, Tony Canzoneri and Barney Ross slide off their tongues.

Those were the marquee names in the Garden?s grandest era. The people of the Irish, Italian and Jewish communities packing the rafters to see one of theirs stake his claim. Are the African-American and Puerto Rican communities going to be out in force, even in these politically correct times, to do the same this weekend? Absolutely and, from the look of things, we might all have a fight (if not the fighters) to live up to the old ghosts.

Of course, Cotto and Judah both have more at stake of course than community bragging rights could ever provide.

If the ghosts of old neighborhood battles are not enough, this weekend is also a classic of a more timeless quality. This is the ultimate crossroads fight. Judah, 29, has lost two of his last three and is more known for unfulfilled talent than his brief stay as king at 147 lbs. In the immediate wake of his February 2005 title-winning rematch victory over Cory Spinks, in Spinks home town of St. Louis no less, it was hard to believe Judah would be in this position less than two years later.

Enter one Carlos Baldomir circa January 2006. With a title defense against Floyd Mayweather already booked, Judah got thumped in a tune-up?err ?mandatory? against the Argentine. Twelve rounds later, his title was gone and so was much of the respect he?d found among the public. He still got the Mayweather bout and, while he fought well early, was further dismissed from the upper echelon of the sport.

Twenty years from now when Judah is brought up the best response will likely be a sighing ?he was alright? if he?s brought up at all. This Saturday is Judah?s likely last real chance to show he's more than alright. His ledger against the three best fighters he has faced (Kostya Tszyu, Cory Spinks and Floyd Mayweather) is 1-3, with the Tszyu and Mayweather losses decisive. Another such loss to Cotto and Judah could sink him lower than alright, closer to whatever.

Cotto?s burdens this weekend are no less. A solid prizefighter to be sure, Cotto, 27, has two crosses to bear. The Puerto Rican fans demand of him that he be next in a line of the island?s greats, taking his place along side Wilfredo Gomez and Felix Trinidad. The sport demands that he become the superstar he was built to be. If the crowds he generates are any indication, Cotto may already have achieved the latter. Like Oscar de la Hoya before him, Bob Arum has masterfully moved Cotto to the brink.

However, legends are defined in history not by the money they generated but the men they defeated. On that count, Cotto?s mark at 140 and now 147 lbs. is adequate at best. He has beaten solid fare (Cesar Bazan, Kelson Pinto, Lovemore N?Dou, Ricardo Torres, and Carlos Quintana) but Judah is something different. For the first time, Cotto will enter the ring with a legitimate former World champion and a current top five fighter (N?Dou is rated in the top 5 at 140 now but was not when he faced Cotto).

He also enters the ring with some disadvantages. His foes have been a step behind the Tszyu?s and Mayweather?s, so the experience edge goes to Judah; so too do the advantages in speed and one-punch power. Cotto?s strengths are of a more subtle kind. He has shown greater maturity, focus and consistency than Judah. He has also shown, in bouts with Torres and DeMarcus Corley, that he can battle back when seriously hurt. Those moments of adversity bolster Judah supporters, who recognize that their man may have finished what others less talented than he started.

Altogether, these are the elements of a great fight, regardless of the day, year or century.

There are of course also very modern and immediate concerns as well. Cotto will be defending the alphabet belt (WBA) he won last December against Quintana with an eye locked already towards the fall.

Until he states that he has vacated the throne, Floyd Mayweather is still the one true welterweight champion. Cotto-Judah is, in that light, the first part of a four man run-off to create a mandate for a Mayweather fight or declare a successor should Floyd rule out a return to the division.

This drama will continue to unfold on July 14 when longtime #1 contender Antonio Margarito (34-4, 24 KO) of Mexico faces #10 Paul Williams (32-0, 24 KO) of Augusta, Georgia. The winner of that bout, allegedly, is contracted to face the winner of Cotto-Judah perhaps as early as September. The emergent force will be the rarest of commodities: a true mandatory to a champion. Or, should Floyd vacate, he will be the new undisputable king.

Neighborhoods?crossroads?championships?Madison Square Garden. ?nuff said.

Hall of Fame: Not to be forgotten, this weekend also marks the inductions of Pernell Whitaker, Ricardo Lopez and Roberto Duran to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Lopez is easily the best fighter in the history of the straweight division, having defended that crown 20 times and retiring undefeated. Whitaker and Duran are arguably the two greatest lightweights ever. Due to conflicts with the fight in New York City this weekend, I likely won?t be able to get to Canastota so let me say early the only thing anyone should say to all three of these warriors: thank you.

Mail: Last weeks words on the overlooked status of Shannon Briggs as a former World heavyweight champion provoked strong sentiments among readers. Here?s my favorite of the bunch.

Jason Bobbitt of the UK wrote: Wow, and you talk about revisionist History? Well written piece, so please know my critique does NOT stem from that. You are obviously well educated and well respected in Boxing circles BUT c'mon!!! Who are you trying to convince with that Briggs ######-a-thon??? Briggs has His standing in eyes of the Boxing public for a reason. His Only BIG win is a loss, against a 45 year old man no matter what the record Books say. Anyone who saw that fight will never give Shannon any credit. It was a Robbery. Everything Briggs has done since then just helped cement his status as an average boxer with a big punch...Alot of young impressionable minds read this site. And I think your version of events, though factually accurate, none the less is an extreme case of Misinformation. (Note: My answer to Jason is that I noted the bad decision and never made a case for Briggs as a quality fighter. Jason is totally right on one point: My piece was factually accurate. Since it was an argument in favor purely of facts, that?s a compliment.)

The Ten-Second Bell: So is Joe Calzaghe-Mikkel Kessler happening or not? No declaration has been made, but there is no denying that it is a fascinating negotiations process. Calzaghe?s claim that he will travel to Denmark to defend his 168 lb. crown one-upped the hard to believe claims that Kessler was turning towards Roy Jones Jr. Have no doubts: this is the best fight that can be made in all of boxing and the ratcheting rhetoric is a positive sign?Just a thought but how cool would it be if HBO went double telecast and broadcast Jermain Taylor-Kelly Pavlik the same day as a Kessler-Calzaghe bout. Heck, I?d take them a week apart and happily see the victors dance for big dollars in 2008.

Call me crazy, but if Antonio Tarver looks good this weekend on Showtime, I?d be curious to see a rematch with Ring light heavyweight titlist Bernard Hopkins. The man is 4-0 in rematches and the Hopkins bout was as flat as he ever appeared. There?s evidence that his age has caught up to him, but if it hasn?t who knows?...That doesn?t mean I don?t want to see possible Tarver foe and WBC light heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson get a big fight. Dawson is a special talent. Maybe promoter Gary Shaw can get him lineal World light heavyweight champion Zsolt Erdei; I?d pay for that?Russia?s Sultan Ibragimov says he wants to be a true champion, what with his shiny new WBO heavyweight belt and all. He is, at the least, that man who beat the man etc. that last defeated Wladimir Klitschko. If Klitschko drops another ratings turd against Lamon Brewster this July like he did against Ray Austin, one wonders how HBO can continue to justify his pay without at least a fellow titlist like Ibragimov in the other corner.

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at roldboxing@hotmail.com

Da Kine Link!!!

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Awesome...Shows everything really...I see Tarver won his belt back last night as well...

Tarver who? j/k... I don't care for Tarver much either and when Bernard whooped him, I was a happy man.

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Tarver who? j/k... I don't care for Tarver much either and when Bernard whooped him, I was a happy man.

Yeah I mean he has been nothing since he got whooped but then he got chosen to be in Rocky but that hasn't really done much for his career...

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