'Call Em Out Fridays': JuanMa, Judah, Green, Johnson - Will Questions Raised Be Questions Answered?
by Vivek Wallace: After a tough stretch in the sport that produced few fireworks and virtually no action, boxing has finally found it's way back to center stage with a Saturday night lineup filled with action. Two separate cards, two separate locations, with four key figures seeking one destination. That destination? A rare comfort zone in the sport where a fighters ability overcomes all the public doubt. For Juan Manuel Lopez, Zab Judah, Allan Green, and Glen Johnson, this status remains an object of utmost pursuit.
For two of these men (Judah and Johnson) this pursuit was once realized; but time and age have a way of removing that proverbial veil of greatness, replacing it with a more ordinary armor which isn't always too difficult to penetrate. As Judah and Johnson attempt to realign themselves with today's best of the best, Lopez and Green will attempt to join that elite class for the very first time in their respective careers. For Green, it may take more than a victory on Saturday, but in an effort to zoom in on the work ahead for each of these men, we take a look one by one at the task ahead:
ZAB JUDAH - NOW OR NEVER
The case of Zab Judah remains a very intriguing spectacle. In Zab, you have a man who was blessed with all the physical gifts a fighter could ever seek, as well as one intangible that even those who often seek rarely find........which is a natural southpaw stance, accompanied with the innate ability to land with destructive power from the off-hand, as well. Despite his birth-right talent, Judah has led a career filled with peaks and valley's, resulting in a lack of progress at a time where he can afford anything but. After spending years at the welterweight level (147lbs) Judah has decided to go back to the division that most would view to be a natural home for him - the jr. welterweight level (140lbs). A return to the division places Judah in the midst of some very unfamiliar terrain. When he left the division years ago, he was one of the guiding lights, but currently, he will return as not only a dark-horse, but also an elder-statesman in a landscape run by men who are younger, potentially faster, and arguably stronger.
Conditioning has always been a question for Judah, and in his older age as he attempts to bypass these youthful men, that could serve as the biggest key to his progress. Inconsistency, lack of focus, and limited dedication have all served as key reasons for stunted growth in the past. An old adage states that the average man grows "older and wiser"; yet Judah's one-time idol, Mike Tyson, once remixed this adage by stating that many-a-men find themselves "old too soon, wise too late". Saturday night will finally answer the question of which mantra will ultimately define Judah. Viewed as the proverbial 'black-cat' of the sport, many insiders openly acknowledge that this could be his 9th and final life on the big stage. Judging by the propensity to build the younger generation of todays sport, I think I'd have to agree. Stay tuned.
JUAN MANUEL LOPEZ - CONTENDER OR PRETENDER?
One of the biggest challenges with any rising prospect is comprehending their learning curve and figuring out the right pace to bring the fighter through the ranks. In the case of JuanMa, the past has been split between a team that most would view as overly cautious and a fan base who not too long ago began to feel their fighter had become stagnant and lacked evolution. 29-0 with 26KOs would seem near invincible, but when Rogers Mtagwa is practically the biggest name on your resume and you had to go to hell and back to get the "W", one really has to wonder if there's more to the unblemished record at hand. Whatever the case may be, all of those questions will pretty much come to a screeching halt this weekend as Lopez will find himself standing from arguably his biggest task yet.
Some feel he's ready, some feel he isn't, but despite the disagreement, none would argue that it's clearly time to find out. The true gauge in this showdown with Marquez will come down to the fact that Lopez has often looked badly fatigued and a bit less than 'polished' against opponents who aren't quite what you would term 'creme of the crop'. A KO of Vasquez isn't an outcome that most predict, so the operative question here becomes "how will Lopez hold up over 12 rounds against an opponent with a lot of heart, a durable chin, and an engine that won't stop"? Inquiring minds have wanted to know for quite some time. Saturday night, we'll all find out. Stay tuned.
ALLAN GREEN & GLEN JOHNSON - ARRIVALS & DEPARTURES
Throughout his career, Allan Green has been one of those individuals in the sport known to do just enough to pique the curiosity of most, yet fall short when the spotlight shines bright. Many were very happy to see him added to the 'Super 6' tournament, but a matchup against one of the best fundamentalist in the sport certainly didn't help his cause, as the inexperience left him doomed from the start. With the departure of Michigan's Andre Dirrell, this time around, Green will find himself against another man who falls in the proverbial "coming or going?" subplot - as a big heart and great conditioning have kept him in contention, but age and limited popularity consistently finds a way to slowly faze him out.
While Green is still in search of the high notoriety Johnson once possessed, neither man appears to fit firmly in the bigger picture of the sport at this time. This reality will serve as a chief motivating factor, helping one man to seize the moment, while witnessing the other fail to do so on the grand stage, yet again. For Johnson, a loss would pull the curtains on a career many feel should have been over years ago. For Green, his youth would afford him a few more chances despite a loss, but the court of public opinion may ultimately serve as the judge, jury, and executioner.....with no reprieve eligibility. By the end of the night, one man will 'arrive', the other will 'depart'. Buckle up.....I have a feeling this'll be one bumpy ride!
(Vivek Wallace can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 954-292-7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEKWALLACE747), FaceBook, and Myspace)