Vivek Wallace Presents: 'OPEN MIC FAN MAIL' - Zab Judah - Underappreciated or Over The Hill?
Every Wednesday ESB will feature a new published letter directly from hardcore fight fans just like you! For those fight fans who don't like what the average boxing scribe has to say, there's only one way to get your point across.....SOUND OFF! Send all 'Open Mic Fan Mail' letters to email@example.com, and remember, there are 3 simple rules to the game: Keep content short and concise, profanity free, and don't be shy.....just shine....the mic is yours!. Today's segment comes from Ceaser H. (Brooklyn, NYC):
Article posted on 03.11.2010
I read your recent mailbag and you spoke on Zab Judah. I am from Brooklyn and I have been a huge Judah fan over the years, but I really don't understand why the sport is so down on him.. People are so quick to say give someone like Margarito a second chance, or quick to recycle fighters who are not dedicated to the sport like Pavlik a shot at redeeming themselves by allowing them to face champions or get television opportunities to redeem themselves, but Judah has rarely been given the same respect. Yes, when he was younger and less focused, he was KO'd by Kotsya Tszyu, but I think his other losses were a result of him being in a division he was probably never really cut out for.
Clottey, Spinks, Cotto, all of these guys walk around in their 170's or more, and I think Judah held his own against all of them. Now that he's back in his regular weight class, I think people will be forced to give him his respect, because we will see him at his best and he could do more damage than anybody seems to think if he's focused. The media is pretty funny because they continue to promote all of these fighters and try to build these guys into something they're not, but Judah has actually proven himself by facing all of the big names, not asking for any catchweights, or any special criteria, just facing them at the top of their game and win, lose, or draw, giving them all pure hell. Do you think that the reason the media has given him such a tough time compared to some of the less worthy fighters out there is because he's a middle-aged, African American fighter who walks with a swagger and simply can't be boxed into the traditional promotional class like a Timothy Bradley, or an Amir Khan, and these soft guys now days?
Look forward to your response, Vivek,
(RESPONSE TO LETTER BELOW)
I think there are a number of things you fail to acknowledge with Zab Judah, and in doing so, it makes the big picture surrounding him quite clear. I'll start by saying that while I do agree that there are several fighters who the media seems to gravitate towards, no matter how bad those fighters make themselves look, I would stop short of saying it's always race based. Personally, I think we can all agree that race can be a very inflammatory subject, and while I think we have to acknowledge it may play a role, I don't think we can narrow it down to a black or white thing. Manny Pacquiao is neither, yet there are many who haven't quite warmed to the logic of a non-American being one of the two biggest names in the sport, and subsequently find ways to slight him. So, I would stop short of trying to defend or decline your point that it's "because he's an older African American", blah, blah, blah.
I think when you look at Judah, the best way to narrow down the respect he gets, (or lackthereof), is by saying that it all comes back to him. I can remember Judah as a prospect, and in those days he was probably more coveted than a young Mayweather at the time. People truly had high hopes for Judah. He was dazzlin'! The guy had wicked speed, he had dangerous combinations, he had a slick style, and to cap it off, he was a southpaw, so he hit from odd angles at times that really left spectators thinkin' like, "damn, this kid is somethin' special"! Truth is......he was. But the problem is, none of us can truly escape our surroundings, and in the case of Judah, he became the product of an environment that was great on a street level, but poor in the ring. Had he remained focused and goal oriented, I don't think we'd be having this conversation.
Speaking of his focus, in those early days when he was more dedicated to his career, he received a ton of media attention. It wasn't until he began to shift that this changed, and even then, I think he still did better in the media than most. I once referred to Judah as the "black cat" (no pun intended) of the sport, because he's one of the few men I can think of who received certain opportunities that he probably didn't warrant. He lost to a slow and plodding Baldomir, and got Mayweather immediately following. He lost to Mayweather, had a no contest against Gavin, and then immediately got a shot against Cotto. It was like a 9-lives philosophy, where many in the same media you say downplayed him felt compelled to watch him and actually gave him a chance against true rising stars at the time. Now, I think the fact that Judah faced these guys says a lot about his heart, but I've also seen him change in fights when the man across from him proved they had heart, too.
So, there's a lot to be dissected when you say the name Judah, but bottomline, I think there are a few things you have to take for what they are. Yes.....he has much more experience than the men he now has to conquer. Yes.....even in his older age he still has good talent. Yes.....he does appear to have a new found hunger that should serve him well. But.....of all those "YES" answers just provided, the one thing we still do now "kNOw", is whether or not he will keep marching in the middle of true combat when Matthyssee, or Khan, or Bradley, or one of these younger stallions truly test him. Of all the great things we do know about Zab, this is the one we'll simply have to find out. How the media respects him, how he evolves from this point in his career, and what his final legacy will be all hinges on that one question. As much as we all want to provide the answers, I'm afraid Judah is the only one who can.....starting this coming Saturday night!
(Vivek Wallace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEKWALLACE747), Facebook, and Myspace).
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