Opening Bell: Zab Judah Stands Tall In Defeat

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by Gautham Nagesh 

Apologies for the sparse posting this week, dear readers. Congress was kind enough to leave town the week before the first big Pay Per View boxing card of the year, and we were anticipating a full week of coverage. Unfortunately, the news cycle didn’t comply, so I’ve been forced to spend my week writing about Internet sales tax legislation, the new FCC chairman, and other similarly mundane matters.

However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t start this column by looking back to last week’s card in Brooklyn, which Sarah Deming covered on our behalf. As Sarah notes, I was less than kind to Zab my preview, and we’ve taken our share of shots at him since his dismal showing against Amir Khan almost two years ago. But the truth is I like Zab a lot, as a person and as a fighter. Like many fight fans, I have always thought he had the tools to become one of the greats. That he fell a little short of those goals is a disappointment, but shouldn’t erase what he has achieved in the ring.

Regardless of what else has happened, Zab is a champion. He proved it by standing up to Danny Garcia’s assault for the full 12 rounds, especially after he was badly hurt in the 6th round. As to what kept Judah standing, we can only agree with little Reuben and ascribe it to fighting in front of his people in Brooklyn. 

Regardless, any fighter that steps between the ropes deserves respect, especially from writers putting themselves at no risk. I neglected that rule, and am happy to apologize and once again openly express admiration for the fighter, which is why I started this site in the first place.

Zab is one of those colorful, unpredictable characters that make boxing what it is. I can’t say that he won’t ever give me cause to shake my head, but next time I will at least keep an open mind, and give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s earned that much at least.

Showtime Finding Its Legs: These are the salad days at Showtime, which has come closer to shedding its little brother status in boxing than ever before with its recent moves. That includes allegiances with Golden Boy and pound-for-pound king Floyd “Money” Mayweather, as well as the hiring of former HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg.  

Greenburg is served as an executive producer of All Access: Mayweather vs Guerrero, and his influence was quickly evident. Like HBO’s 24/7, All Access is essentially a commercial for the Pay Per View main event between Mayweather and Robert Guerrero, except in this case Mayweather himself is credited as an executive producer. However, Showtime’s hype show has struggled in the past to match HBO’s gorgeous HD cinematography and Liev Shreiber’s succinct, dignified voiceover narration.

In the past the difference in quality between Showtime’s boxing documentaries and HBO’s was stark, but that gap is closing, and we have to credit Greenburg. He’s a veteran in this field, and he has even managed to counteract Floyd’s desire to showcase himself in the most positive light possible. Mayweather is constantly on and trying to impress, and his team is similarly on-message. But the improved production values also help viewers zoom in on the edges where the smiles might be cracking.

 All Access is still hardly compelling, especially to people familiar with these two fighters, but it’s a world better than previous Showtime efforts. The same can’t be said for the Mayweather special on CBS, which did away with any pretensions in favor of a full-court press approach to reforming Floyd’s tarnished public persona. It will take a lot longer than one hour on broadcast TV for the public to forget some of Floyd’s less flattering acts, but I suppose it’s a start. At any rate, Showtime is showing programming improvement in fits and starts, and that is something to be commended.

June Heating Up Fast: Top-ranked featherweight Mikey Garcia tweeted this week that he is signed to fight Puerto Rican banger Juan Manuel Lopez in Dallas on June 15th. The fight should only add to what is shaping up to be an excellent June for boxing, with big shows scheduled for almost every weekend that month. We’re also looking forward to June 8th, which will see HBO and Showtime go head to head once again with quality shows.

HBO will broadcast a show from Montreal headlined by light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson vs local puncher Adonis Stevenson and Cuban junior lightweight Yuriorkis Gamboa against the unbeaten young Colombia Darley Perez. On that same evening Josesito Lopez and Marcos Maidana will engage in a 12-round welterweight war on Showtime in California that’s almost sure to make the shortlist for Fight of the Year. And it may not even be the best fight on the telecast, as junior middleweight contenders Erislandy Lara and Alfredo Angulo will clash in the co-feature.

But the biggest show for Stiff Jab readers will probably be June 22nd at Barclays in Brooklyn, where Adrien “The Problem” Broner will rise two weight classes to challenge local contender Paulie Malignaggi. The pre-fight hype alone will be worth the price of admission, but the co-feature on Showtime is the rematch of Seth Mitchell vs Johnathon Banks, so you know that we’ll be ringside for all the action.

HBO will close the month at Foxwoods with Gennady Golovkin vs. Matthew Macklin at middlweight and Thomas Oosthuizen vs Brandon “Flawless” Gonzalez in a matchup of unbeaten super middleweights. In between ESPN and NBC Sports have solid shows featuring Bryant Jennings, Sergey Kovalev, Braulio Santos and others. Set your calendars now, and make it clear to your significant other that you won’t be going out on Saturday night any time soon.

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