Fight photos by Tom Casino for Showtime
by Sarah Deming
BROOKLYN, N.Y.—On my way into the Barclays Center on Saturday night, I ran into Stiff Jab favorite Lamont Roach Jr., enjoying a strawberry frappuccino with a beautiful woman who turned out to be his mother. The amateur champ was picking top-ranked junior welterweight Danny Garcia by decision in the main event over Zab Judah, but Mom disagreed.
Lamont Roach Jr. and mother, other photos by Sarah Deming for Stiff Jab
“I think Zab came to fight,” she said. “I’m old school.”
So am I. D.C. has the Gary Russells, but here in Brooklyn we have the nine fighting Judah brothers and their magisterial parents. Even in Zab’s most thuggish incarnation, he’s always had a good word for those coming up.
The bad blood between the Judah and Garcia camps began when this fight was rescheduled due to a training injury suffered by Garcia, and it escalated through the pre-fight trash-talking of Angel Garcia, Danny’s ubiquitous trainer and father.
Although Zab has found God now, not all his friends have. By main event time, there were signs of heavy weather at the Barclays Center, with scattered weed smoke and a slight chance of riots. Maybe this was why all the bars closed early. A line of six security guards in red shirts stretched between neutral corners during the introductions, keeping the camps apart.
Photo: Zab poses at the press conference with Bruce “Shu Shu” Carrington, Jr.
I was sitting way up on the suite level with the Atlas Cops and Kids team. The high definition screen provided a better view of the action, but when the bell sounded, I found myself watching the ring. In this battle of experience vs youth, I felt I owed it to Zab to abandon technology and watch the thing itself.
Garcia’s most famous punch is the perfect left hook that did in Amir Khan. At the open workout, Zab had assured us, “I ain’t worried about his hook. I live in Vegas. I duck hookers all day.” But Garcia had polished up his lead right hand leading up to the fight.
Mindful of his opponent’s elusiveness, Garcia punched to Zab’s chest in the early rounds. I was dismayed at the correctness of this strategy. The hammer fell in round five, when Zab risked a big one-two and Garcia countered beautifully over the low left. Zab’s legs noodled.
The sixth was target practice. Zab staggered around the ring, eating right hand after right hand. The traitorous crowd, which had been chanting “Brooklyn!” and “Judah!” now broke out in cheers of “Danny! Danny!”
“How is Zab still standing?” I asked my neighbor, whose pint-sized son Reuben is the cutest child in our gym.
Photo of Reuben being cute by Sarah Deming.
“He’s fighting in front of his hometown, that’s why,” Reuben replied.
Judah’s remarkable survival of round six should put an end to any doubts (ahem, Gautham!) about Zab Judah’s heart. Amazingly, his 35-year-old legs seemed steady again in the seventh, and he even landed a nice straight left, but Garcia’s excellent body work continued to tell.
In the eighth, Zab risked another one-two. The left cross landed, but Garcia countered with a one-two of his own, and his two was harder. Zab fell back on the seat of his trunks, rising with a crescent moon of blood over his left cheekbone.
I gritted my teeth and free associated as Zab bled his way through the ninth round. In his superb essay “Cut Time,” Carlo Rotella wrote that, when a boxer is cut, “What was inside and hidden, implicit in the fight, has come outside and taken form.”
I thought about Shylock’s “If you prick us, do we not bleed?” and something Zab’s mother had said to me at the weigh-in: Of all the nine brothers, she had known Zabdiel would be the best boxer because he didn’t mind getting hurt if he could hurt you back. Boxers are blessed because they get to show who they are. After nine rounds of punishment, Zab swept the final three on all the scorecards.
An accidental headbutt in the twelfth gave Garcia a vertical cut on his forehead in the spot known in yoga as the third eye. Both finished bloody, the difference in skin colors blurred beneath the wash of red. Although the six bodyguards reappeared to divide the camps while they waited for the decision — to Garcia 115-112, 114-112, 116-111 — the storm had passed. The two embraced in a show of good sportsmanship after the bell, their animosity spent over the previous 12 rounds.
On the undercard, Grand Rapids native Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin successfully defended his WBO middleweight title against Fernando Guerrero of Salisbury, Md. in a bout that had the crowd roaring. Guerrero leaned into a big right hand from Quillin and was down twice in the second round, but Quillin couldn’t close.
Guerrero rallied bravely in the sixth, landing about five clean lefts in succession, but either Quillin has a great chin or Guerrero can’t punch. A perfect right uppercut from Quillan set up the TKO at 1:30 of the seventh round. Kid Chocolate displayed impressive power, but he can’t get hit like that if he wants to take down the top dogs at middleweight.
Classy middleweight Danny Jacobs dominated Keenan Collins in a fourth-round knockout, Jacobs’ third fight since making a miraculous recovery from bone cancer.
Danny Garcia’s father Angel, he of the notorious trash-talking, is also a cancer survivor. In a rare bipartisan moment at the weigh-in, I caught Garcia’s twin twelve-year-old sisters selling lemonade to Judah fans (photo below), the proceeds to benefit cancer research.
In a battle of veteran southpaws, Brooklyn’s Luis Collazo (below) pounded Miguel Callist, hurting him badly in the third and stopping him in the fifth. Collazo made his ring walk to a rap song written for him by seventeen-year-old Brooklyn rapper BIBO.
Bronx’s rising junior middleweight Eddie Gomez looked like he was trying to knock out Luis Hernandez of Ecuador with every shot. The skillful Hernandez showed huge heart, surviving several knockdowns during his eight-round decision loss and still staging occasional rallies.
Having heavy hands is like being born rich: People treat you with a respect you’ve done nothing to deserve. At the end of the 7th, Gomez looked frustrated at Hernandez’s refusal to go down and rabbit punched twice during a clinch. Hernandez motioned to the back of his head; Gomez responded with a contemptuous gesture of “let’s mix it up.”
After the bell, Hernandez remained in center ring for a moment, staring after his opponent with a forlorn expression. I was suddenly very sad for this man who came all the way from Ecudaor to ply his trade on a prospect who would not even remember his name.
Speaking of names, I was going to make fun of Boyd Melson’s, but then I met the middleweight walking home from the fight, his face bruised from his six-round decision win, and he was so nice to me that I felt guilty, a guilt that increased when I read online that he donates his entire purses to spinal cord injury research.
I think Melson’s tubby, balding opponent, Edgar Perez of Puerto Rico, was the one who had weighed in completely naked. You could tell the status of the fighters at the weigh-in by how much coverage was offered in the event of an unscheduled removal of underpants. Peter Quillin got a towel held by two attendants. Eddie Gomez had to make do with a tee-shirt that only shielded his front.
This was fine by me — a limited amount of male nudity always lifting my spirits — but I found it de trop when poor Edgar Perez had to make do with his own two hands.
London Olympian “Sir” Marcus Browne notched his fourth KO in as many outings, stopping Philadelphia’s Taneal Goyco at 54 seconds into the second round. Browne’s win came so early that most of his entourage, who rolled into the Cops and Kids suite jazzily behind the beat, missed the fight.
Welterweight Zachary Ochoa won a four-round shutout over Calvin Smith that I missed while going in search of Calexico loaded nachos, my preferred vegetarian option at the Barclays Center.
Miguel “No Fear” Cartagena of Philly outclassed Angel Carvajal of Chicago in a fun four-round match of undefeated bantamweights. Cartagena showed lovely angles, catching the shorter man coming in.
In the opening bout, DC’s super middleweight D’Mitrius Ballard dominated reticent southpaw Marcus Clay with good a body attack, stopping him in the second.