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Eddie Goldman is the host and producer of the No Holds Barred international podcast, the publisher of the No Holds Barred blog, and a senior contributing editor at the ADCC News.

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    Sunday, January 08, 2006

    The Undisputed Opportunists 

    NEW YORK, Jan. 8 -- While walking up 7th Avenue after Saturday's fights at the Garden towards the subway, a beggar near Penn Station asked me for some money. When I said no, he turned away but then grumbled, "Devil."

    I continued up, but only about two steps further I noticed a green rectangular piece of paper with a big "5" lying on the sidewalk. No one seemed to be claiming it, so I pocketed it. I would have just given it to this beggar if only he hadn't acted so dumb.

    Sometimes you miss opportunities, sometimes opportunities fall into your lap, and sometimes you have to make your own opportunities.

    That is what happened earlier Saturday night at The Theater at Madison Square Garden as two major upsets took place in bouts billed as being for undisputed world titles.

    This was supposed to be a virtual tuneup for WBA-WBC-IBF welterweight champion Zab Judah, a mandatory defense to get out of the way en route to a pay-per-view payday with Floyd Mayweather, already being derided by Judah and on T-shirts worn by his camp as "Pretty Girl."

    Judah had calmly denied to every reporter who asked that he was underestimating and overlooking opponent Carlos Baldomir, the little-known WBC mandatory from Argentina who went into this fight with a decent but unremarkable record of 41-9-6, with only 12 KOs. He insisted that he was not taking the underdog Baldomir lightly and would not lose focus with an April 8 date with Mayweather almost a certainty. Judah remembered vividly how last year in St. Louis Cory Spinks let all the hometown hoopla swell his head before Judah fought and defeated him to capture all those colorful belts he now had. The Brooklyn-born Judah vowed he would never make such an obvious error.

    But Judah did exactly that, and more. He did not make the 147-pound weight limit on his first try at Friday's weigh-in. Just about an hour and a half before his main event appearance, he stayed for all four rounds in the corner of brother Josiah Judah for his bout with someone from North Carolina. And then he had to start his day's work against a 34-year-old veteran who almost nobody expected to win let alone go the distance, and who thus was fighting with nothing to lose.

    For the first three rounds it appeared that even an unfocused Zab Judah had enough to coast against the slower and less mobile Baldomir. But before the fourth round, veteran trainer Amílcar Brusa, who had helped guide the great Argentinian champion Carlos Monzon to his world title, hobbled up the ring steps to offer some advice to his latest charge.

    From the fourth round on, the punches from the southpaw Judah became less and less frequent. Baldomir began to crowd him and land solid right-hand leads, the classic offense of an orthodox fighter against a left-hander. And while Judah still possessed more speed that Baldomir, slowly and at varying moments it began to dawn on the fans, the media, the judges, and the fighters themselves that we may just be seeing a remake of "The Tortoise and the Hare".

    The damage from Baldomir's rights began to accumulate. In the seventh round, Judah was severely rocked by Baldomir's right-handed assault, and wobbled as he tried to hold on to avoid a visit to the canvas, perhaps only held up by the ropes. The tide of the fight had most visibly changed by this round.

    The remainder of the fight also saw Baldomir being the aggressor, although Judah never again faced the kind of trouble he had in the seventh. When the unanimous decision for Baldomir was announced, even the many Judah diehards in the crowd did not protest.

    With the loss, Judah’s record dropped to 34-3, 1 NC, and 25 KOs. As we discuss later, his titles were now all gone, as also was his rich showdown with Mayweather.

    We had just seen something special, where one guy tried to take the night off and still punch his timecard, while the other guy fought what was probably the fight of his life. To all those who have ever been called hopeless underdogs, this had to be gratifying.

    Just before this bout we saw more of the same. Few outside of IBF cruiserweight champ O'Neil Bell's camp expected him not to go to sleep sometime in his fight with WBA-WBC champ Jean-Marc Mormeck, much less knock his French foe out himself. Yet from the very start of the opening round, Mormeck seemed flat and out of sync. Most expected Mormeck to jump all over Bell, but early on he began retreating and positioning his back to the ropes.

    Bell's attack reached a crescendo in the tenth round when he first dropped the weary Mormeck. He beat the count of ten, but shortly after Bell closed the show by pounding Mormeck in the corner so forcefully that when Mormeck went down he lay on the canvas long past any count would have passed ten.

    Bell, now 26-1-1 with 24 KOs and the undisputed cruiserweight champion, had also told all who would listen before this contest that he should not be judged by his questionable performances last year against Dale Brown, which many felt Brown deserved to win, and Sebastian Rothmann. He said he was now at 100 percent, and in this case he was telling the truth.

    At the post-fight press conference, promoter Don King candidly admitted, "All my favorites lost." Not only had his fighters Judah and Mormeck, now 31-3 with 21 KOs, both been dethroned, but earlier Will Grigsby had dropped the IBF junior flyweight strap to Ulises "Archi" Solis. Even on a Don King card, you just never know in boxing.

    So this was a night of opportunism, in the positive sense of the word signifying making the most of opportunities placed in front of someone, as opposed to the negative meaning referring to someone without scruples. I am still not a betting man, but the odds on this daily double upset of Baldomir and Bell both winning had to have been astronomical, and I hope these upsets put some bookies out of their parasitic business.

    If you weren't among the 4735 fans at The Theater at the Garden or the smart viewers watching on Showtime, make sure to catch the replay on SHO Extreme Monday, Jan. 9, at 11 PM ET/PT. I have already suggested to them that they also rebroadcast this fight on their main Showtime channel within the next week or so.

    Just a week into 2006, and boxing is back with a bang.

    Ringside Notes: At the post-fight press conference, King explained that Baldomir only won Judah's WBC belt since the others were not at stake, meaning he was not their mandatory and he had not paid them sanctioning fees. But, he added, since Judah lost, the WBA and IBF welterweight titles will now become vacant. It would take this nonsense from the ridiculous alphabets to try to spoil an otherwise memorable night at the fights.

    King also said that next in line for Bell is undefeated mandatory Steve Cunningham, who won an undercard fight by fifth-round stoppage here. Cunningham challenged Bell also.

    Congratulations also go out to Tim Graham of the Buffalo News, ESPN.com, and Thesweetscience.com, who was elected as the new president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Now that he is in office, we urge the boxing writers to bug him about the BWAA's dreadful web site. But Tim knows this as I already began raising this with him. I think he just might get it.

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    Comments:
    Best ringside report I've read in longer than I can recall. It not only gives you the fight, it conveys the kind of obtuseness and arrogance that has now three times been Judah's undoing. It would be fitting if he wasn't handed an opportunity to fight for the "vacant" title he just threw away.
     
    Great job, Eddie. I particularly liked the image of Amilcar Brusa hobbling up the steps to proffer wisdom to Baldomir, who obviously took it. This, unfortunately, went unnoted by Showtime's usually able announcing team.
     
    Thanks for the comments.

    Is the twenty-something generation worse than others in accepting responsibility for their mistakes than their elders? Maybe, but Zab's dad Yoel also tried to blame King and everyone else for his son's blowing it.

    As it turned out, Brusa's intervention marked the turning point in this drama. So why do we need Opie Cunningham making stuff up about boxing, or contrived "reality" shows with actors like Stallone acting like they are real trainers? And if I caught this with Brusa, which I also asked Baldomir about in my audio interview, with my poor vision, what were the rest of the boxing journalists watching when this happened?
     
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    3 Comments:

    Best ringside report I've read in longer than I can recall. It not only gives you the fight, it conveys the kind of obtuseness and arrogance that has now three times been Judah's undoing. It would be fitting if he wasn't handed an opportunity to fight for the "vacant" title he just threw away.

    By Anonymous Charles Farrell, at 8:22 AM  

    Great job, Eddie. I particularly liked the image of Amilcar Brusa hobbling up the steps to proffer wisdom to Baldomir, who obviously took it. This, unfortunately, went unnoted by Showtime's usually able announcing team.

    By Blogger Brian Moore, at 12:02 AM  

    Thanks for the comments.

    Is the twenty-something generation worse than others in accepting responsibility for their mistakes than their elders? Maybe, but Zab's dad Yoel also tried to blame King and everyone else for his son's blowing it.

    As it turned out, Brusa's intervention marked the turning point in this drama. So why do we need Opie Cunningham making stuff up about boxing, or contrived "reality" shows with actors like Stallone acting like they are real trainers? And if I caught this with Brusa, which I also asked Baldomir about in my audio interview, with my poor vision, what were the rest of the boxing journalists watching when this happened?

    By Blogger Eddie Goldman, at 1:52 AM  

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