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Boxing
Returning Judah remains a guilty pleasure
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - Hi. My name is Lyle. And I have a problem.

No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to ignore Zab Judah.

Through the years, the pint-sized loudmouth from Brooklyn has given me myriad reasons to look elsewhere when his act is in town.

Anyone who knows me knows I hate winter. But when I lived in Philadelphia, I once trekked to New York in January to see him defend welterweight titles against a soft touch named Carlos Baldomir -- a presumed prelude to a showdown with rising junior welter Floyd Mayweather Jr.

At the opening bell, I was excited. Twelve rounds later, I was just cold.

And I really should have known better.

After all, this was the same immature lout who'd started tossing chairs and accosting refs after getting his clock cleaned by Ricky Hatton.


Judah won the the welterweight belt in 2005.
Then again, I've never been the brightest guy when it comes to bad relationships.

So three months later, there I was. Watching again when he did get his shot with Mayweather.

And after a few competitive rounds up front, the predictable happened.

He started losing the fight. Not long afterward, his temper.

A low blow here. A near riot there. All par for the Judah course.

But another year later he was back, and somehow so was I. It was a main event shot at Miguel Cotto. And a matchup that many -- me included -- thought he could win.

Had it not been for a few well-timed low blows from the wily Puerto Rican, who knows?

But even with a stoppage loss, and after all his misspent years, the kid finally showed enough gumption to erase little of the past nonsense.

Three fights and another year later... same thing.

He got beat up by Joshua Clottey. But he hung in there, didn't say too much and took his lumps like a man.

Which is why, in what seems to be the 15th sequel to his initial career story, I'm still watching.

Because somewhere deep inside, I'm still convinced I'll find something compelling.

He's down to ESPN2 now. Headlining "Friday Night Fights" in of all places... Newark.

Maybe it's the boxing version of bottoming out.

Maybe fighting in the armpit of the New York/Philly corridor is what a "Super" star needs to finally come out smelling like a rose.

His opponent at 140 -- one Jose Armando Santa Cruz, to be exact -- is hardly the foil who'll inspire the masses to frenzy. Not when the summertime Jersey shore beckons to the east, and two of the country's premier cities are within driving distance north or south.

Heck, I'm not even sure he'll get me in front of a TV down the coast in Ocala.

But you've got to start somewhere. And if Zab wins this one, maybe he gets another.

And if he wins that one, maybe another.

One day not so long from now, maybe it's a guy named Bradley or Alexander or Khan across the ring, giving the now 30-something Judah a chance at something the younger version too often frittered away.

Credibility. Respect. Standing.

In reality, I'm not sure he wins a round -- let alone a belt -- from any of those young lions.

But I can guarantee one thing.

I'll still be paying attention.

After years of laments over cards that are top-heavy with big fights but have precious little to offer beyond the headline event -- it seems the game's biggest players are paying attention.

At least three cards in the next several days -- beginning this weekend and including shows at the end of the month and in early August -- will deliver equally-tasty hors d'oeuvres to complement what ought to be satisfying main dishes.

Saturday night in Rancho Mirage, California, on-site fans will not only get reigning 140-pound champion Timothy Bradley in his debut at welterweight, but also a regional junior middleweight title match between Alfredo Angulo and former world claimant Joachim Alcine and another bout featuring recent lightweight title challenger Antonio DeMarco

The Bradley and Angulo fights will be televised by HBO, beginning at 9:45 p.m. (et).

Two weeks later in Las Vegas, Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz get together for a reprise of their 2009 "Fight of the Year" candidate on HBO PPV, with preliminary help from undefeated middleweight prospect Daniel Jacobs -- who's meeting Dmitry Pirog for a vacant title -- and veterans Joel Casamayor and Robert Guerrero, who'll tangle in a 12-rounder at 140.

That three-pronged broadcast begins at 9 p.m. (et).

Lastly, Don King gets into the act in St. Louis on August 7, presenting a card that includes hometown hero and multi-division champion Cory Spinks against ex-Contender participant Cornelius Bundrage in a 154-pound title match.

Still, that fight is just third-best on a bout list that will also feature Devon Alexander in a junior welterweight defense against Andriy Kotelnik, and Tavoris Cloud risking a share of 175-pound supremacy against ageless ex-champ Glen Johnson.

HBO will show the Alexander and Cloud fights, beginning at 10 p.m. (et).

TV TOPICS

FRIDAY

ESPN2 -- Prudential Center, Newark, NJ Zab Judah (38-6) vs. Jose Armando Santa Cruz (28-4)

Showtime -- Southaven, MS Fernando Guerrero (18-0) vs. Ishe Smith (21-4)

SATURDAY

FOX Espanol -- Tuxtla Gutierrez, Mexico Fernando Montiel (42-2-2) vs. Rafael Concepcion (14-4-1)

HBO -- Rancho Mirage, CA Timothy Bradley (25-0) vs. Luis Carlos Abregu (29-0)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.

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

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