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Boxing
On the canvas
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - If I die, I want to come back as Zab Judah.

Seems to me that there'd be no path more lucrative for less performance than the one the brash Brooklyn native has taken in his recent traipsing through the 147-pound ranks.

Starting with his initial bout in the division in April 2004, the enigmatic left-handed slugger is batting a decidedly mediocre .500 in eight welterweight outings -- including scorecard losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Carlos Baldomir and a no-contest against Ruben Galvan in the last 16 months.

Yet rather than plummeting to his rightful place in the lower tier of the rankings, the 29-year-old will once again be rewarded on June 9 at Madison Square Garden when he meets unbeaten Puerto Rican phenom Miguel Cotto for the WBA welterweight championship.

It'd be irritating enough if Judah were a good guy.

But the fact that he's far from it pushes the needle closer to infuriating.

Perhaps not content with the tantrum/forearm combo he threw at referee Jay Nady after being waved out of a match with Kostya Tszyu in 2001 and the low blow/rabbit punch follow-up directed toward Mayweather just last spring, the malcontent/punk went out of his way -- literally -- to top himself last week.

Rather than fulfilling a commitment to chat with the media via conference call about the Cotto match, Judah instead blew off the appointment and left his father -- the almost-as-reprehensible Yoel Judah -- to pass himself off as progeny instead of parent.

Zab Judah
Zab Judah is batting a decidedly mediocre .500 in eight welterweight outings.
"We are going in to take the title. You are going to see blood, guts and sweat," the masquerading elder said. "You are going to see somebody hit the floor, I promise you."

Predictably, the sham left red-faced Top Rank publicist Lee Samuels eating unwanted servings of crow.

"Mea culpa," he said. "I called Zab's number 10 minutes ahead to make sure he would be ready and I assumed the person I was talking to was Zab. I've been doing conference calls for Top Rank since 1982 and I've never been snookered like this before. I would have made a lousy contestant on the game show 'To Tell The Truth.' But I do apologize to the media for this."

No problem, Lee. Have Cotto stop him in three and we'll call it even.

And while we're at it, let's forget that reincarnation thing.

Meanwhile, a little more tolerable -- but no less ridiculous -- is George Foreman.

Sure, it's hard not to like the amiable preacher/grill salesman since his hamburger-gobbling renaissance and unlikely heavyweight title win in the 1990s, but the recent book-hawking comments about his signature loss to Muhammad Ali in 1974 can't help but tarnish the image a bit.

Foreman, now 58 and inactive in the ring since a loss to Shannon Briggs 10 years ago, offered up a bit of revisionist history last week when he suggested that a bottle of water he'd used during the eight-round stoppage defeat had somehow been spiked.

Recounting a fight-night conversation with Dick Sadler, Foreman claimed he told his veteran trainer "this water tastes like it has medicine in it," then added "I know there was medicine in that water." I'll never forget that. It was years before I got my health back together after that fight.

"It wasn't doctors who put something in my water. They didn't have PhDs. I'm lucky I'm still alive."

Big man. Bigger overcompensation.

The only inalienable truths about the goings-on in Zaire that October night are these:

1. Foreman was a certainly imposing, but obviously limited behemoth. 2. Ali was superior not only in conditioning, but in in-ring intellect as well. 3. Nothing in anyone's water -- short of Red Bull or crystal meth -- changes Nos. 1-2.

Give it up George. You're just embarrassing yourself.

Speaking of Foreman, his last foe will be defending a title this weekend.

Briggs, who won a controversial majority nod over Foreman at the Taj Mahal Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, will step a few doors down the late spring boardwalk to meet unbeaten Russian import Sultan Ibragimov on Saturday at Boardwalk Hall.

It's the first outing as "reigning champion" for the 35-year-old Briggs, who won his WBO heavyweight crown with a dramatic TKO of Serguei Lyakhovich at Chase Field in Phoenix last November after entering the final round trailing 106-103, 106-103 and 105-104.

The Brooklyn resident and 15-year-pro is unbeaten in his last 12 fights, winning all by stoppage since a unanimous 10-round loss to Jameel McCline five years ago. He'd been 6-1-1 in eight fights between the McCline loss and his initial title try -- a fifth-round KO loss to Lennox Lewis for the WBC belt in 1998.

Saturday's bout will be carried live by HBO at 10 p.m. (et). It was originally scheduled for March 10, but was postponed when Briggs came down with pneumonia and spent weeks recovering.

"I was having difficulties with my breathing," Briggs told ESPN.

"I have asthma. I was born with it. But you know, that's just something I've had my entire career. But it seemed to be a little different, a little something more severe, so we actually saw two specialists and they diagnosed me with pneumonia. And at that point, we were still fighting because we felt like I can knock this guy out, regardless.

"But it got to a point where I wasn't able to really train and compete, so we postponed the fight."

Aside, ex-champ and current circus act Mike Tyson was denied permission by Maricopa County (Arizona) officials to travel to New Jersey to work in Ibragimov's corner. Tyson has been an unofficial adviser to Ibragimov in the past and attended his December 2005 win over Lance Whitaker in sunny Florida.

Tyson was arrested on charges of drug possession and driving under the influence of drugs last year in Scottsdale and must get approval from a judge to travel outside of Arizona while the charges are still pending.

FitzHitz says: Briggs in 7.

Lastly, and in keeping with the theme of former/current heavyweight champs, Roy Jones Jr. will return to the ring on July 14 in Biloxi, Mississippi to meet unbeaten prospect Anthony Hanshaw, the latest post-Pretty Boy pupil of perpetually headline-seeking trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr.

Jones, who earned laurels at 160, 168 and 175 pounds before jumping to heavyweight for a one-sided clinic over John Ruiz in March 2003, has since fallen from grace with a pair of light heavy losses to Antonio Tarver sandwiching a violent stoppage at the hands of Glen Johnson.

He picked up his first win in three years with a unanimous 12-round demolition of Prince Badi Ajamu last July and is beginning to beat the drum for a match with Danish 168-pound belt-holder Mikkel Kessler, to possibly be held later this year in Europe.

"I can fight Kessler for his two titles in November," Jones said. "Kessler sounds serious about fighting me, so I'd be stupid not to look into it. I don't duck and dodge nobody."

Kessler, who claims he's been spurned in attempts to get fellow super middleweight elitist Joe Calzaghe into a ring, has also expressed interest in a meeting with Jones.

"It would be an honor for me to match my skills against Roy Jones," he said. "Roy is one of my boxing idols, he and Floyd Mayweather Jr."

Hanshaw, a 29-year-old from Warren, Ohio, is 21-0-1 with 14 KOs. His last fight was in January against Frenchman Jean Paul Mendy and ended in a 12-round draw.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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