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Wednesday July 26th 2017
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Soklin’s Corner: Zab Judah: Boxing’s Latest Circus

tyson.jpgI have to admit my bias. I am a huge Mike Tyson fan. Sure Tyson had tremendous punching power and in his youth and was one of the all-time great heavyweights. I am a Tyson fan for a different reason. I enjoyed the sideshow, the circus side of “Iron Mike.” The post-prison Tyson. I am a fan of the children-eating Mike Tyson, the one with the impregnable defense and impetuous style. I like the Mike Tyson who refuses to speak to woman without fornicating with them first. Mike Tyson is fading into Bolivian, which is sad and unfortunate. But maybe, just maybe we have a little Mike Tyson in Zab Judah.

Judah has become a circus act. It may not be completely Judah’s fault, it may be the fault of the people he associates with. Tyson had that same problem. For all the screws Tyson may have loose the people he has associated with in the past have done him no favors. Judah has tremendous athletic ability, like Tyson, but as of late every time that Judah steps into the ring there is that possibility of seeing something unusual. Tyson became great in his latter years not because of his one-punch knockout ability, which he still possessed, but for the same reason that people watch a car crash on television, they want to see the destruction at the end. Zab Judah has become that runaway car and each fight he has is capable of a wild crash. Let’s take a look at the timeline of Zab Judah.
In 2001, Judah had a title defense against the strong Australian Kostya Tszyu in Las Vegas, Nevada. After a strong first round Judah was knocked down in the second round. Judah rose quickly after being knocked down but was unable to gain his balance. Referre Jay Nady, controversially ended the fight and ended Judah’s undefeated reign as welterweight champion. Judah and his “entourage” stormed in the ring creating a mini riot at the MGM Grand. images2_judahnady.jpgJudah, in a violent rage shoved the referee and threw his stool in his direction. Judah was suspended for his actions, the first true in-ring signs of the Ringling Brothers behavior that Judah was capable of bringing to boxing. Upon his return Judah showed significant in-ring prowess. He was brilliant upon his return and returned to the level he had achieved before his suspension. That is until his bout against relative unknown Carlos Baldomir.
What should have been an easy tuneup fight against Baldomir, turned into Judah’s worst nightmare. Zab was outclassed from the onset. He looked more like an amateur than a world champion. When the fight was over, Judah had lost the fight and what some called his mind. During the post fight interview with the always classy Larry Merchant, Judah began a profanity laced assault against then promoter Don King. Using very colorful four letter words, Judah blamed the loss on his “dirty” promoter and not on his lack of focus and preparation. The Barnum and Bailey circus was in full swing, Judah was gaining more fan support after each scene.
Judah was scheduled to take on challenger Floyd Mayweather Jr. Judah was again fighting in Las Vegas, and again fighting on a huge stage. The match was hard fought and competitive for twelve rounds, with both fighters putting on a tremendous display of skill and athleticism, and then the Cirque de Soleil came to town. After being backed into a corner and facing the possibility of a knockdown Judah resorted to a horrific low blow followed by a shot to the back of Mayweather’s head. Both camps charged into the ring and a Royal Rumble ensued while Mayweather recovered in the corner. Police, security and Judah were all involved in the fracas. Mayweather recovered, and eventually won the bout by unanimous decision. Judah and his father were suspended for one year as well as having their licenses revoked in Nevada. Judah just recently returned to the ring.
Last Friday, Zab Judah made his subsequent return to the ring. The bout ended controversially. The fight was stopped because of a cut caused by an “accidental foul”. Although it is still not clear what caused the cut, the fight had to be stopped. entourage.jpgNever the less, the scene inside the ring looked more like the 2000 Source award show than a boxing ring. Judah’s trainer, manager, father, entourage, the entourages’ entourage, hair stylist, 3rd grade teacher and mail man all were in the ring arguing the outcome of the fight with Referee Luis Pabón It may not have been Judah’s fault but it seems that each time he is involved something out of the ordinary is bound to occur. Mike Tyson has that same effect. He may not have always been the most technically sound fighter but when he stepped into the ring there was nothing out of the realm of possibility. Zab Judah brought all three rings of the circus with him each he fought and I love that aspect of Zab Judah’s career.
Regardless of who he fights, I think I will be watching Zab Judah next time he steps into the ring. I will be tuning in more because of my love of the circus than my enjoyment of boxing.

Jeff Soklin is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and is currently involved in the field of sport management. Email him at jeff@touchgloves.com


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