Welterweight Boxing Champion Zab Judah lost his fight in Madison Square Garden against the new Carlos Monzon, Carlos Tata Baldomir. Here’s what happened before the fight, in two exclusive interviews.
The Former Champion:
Brooklyn vs. Latino
Boorish, easy-going, laid down on his chair, yawning. Despite the fact that his father is there with him, he seems not to care. He is just the way he is, it seems he has just stolen marmalade from the fridge and still has his mouth dirty. This is Zab Judah, the Super 34-2-0, 25 KOs, since the 5th of February 5th, 2005, the undisputed welterweight champion after TKOing Corey Spinks at 2:49 of the ninth round of the rematch by catching him on the ropes and battering him to the deck with a volley of whistling head shots (in 2004 he challenged reigning Spinks but lost a narrow decision on the scorecards). In his opponent’s hometown of St. Louis, in front of 20,655 hostile fans, Zab showed how much he matured and progressed as a pro, hurting the champion with a blazing straight left cross to the chin at the end of the seventh round and scoring the biggest win of his career, capturing the undisputed 147-pound crown, when referee Armando Garcia halted the contest.
“I begged and prayed for a second chance after the first fight with Spinks”, he says. “I took a big risk moving up in weight from 140 pounds, and it was my first fight at 147 pounds. I didn’t feel like I was fully saturated at welterweight when I first moved up”.
Brooklyn’s superhero is one of nine brothers and two sisters (five of the brothers box), son of Yoel Judah, a six-time kickboxing world champion. “My father is the best fighter in the family”, with no hesitation the proud Super son says. “We had a rough time growing up in Brooklyn, it was an experience that made me what and who I am today”.
“Being in the game, being around Pernell Whitaker and those guys, that is what motivated me. Boxing was my blood. As a kid, I came home fighting all the time. Everyone thought I was natural. My mother was totally against it, but after she saw me fight a couple of times, she gained more confidence in me. She said: wow, this boy is good”.
He turned pro at age 18 on September 20th, 1996, when he scored a second-round TKO over Michael Johnson. His next five fights also ended early, including three in the opening round.
Zab Judah is southpaw, and as every southpaw in any discipline, is talented. The right part of his brain controls his irrationality and knocks out his opponents with surprising power (mostly) in the first four rounds. If this doesn’t happen, he may be losing his concentration. Bad Boy Zab creates openings to land shots and takes half step in either direction to make opponent miss. He is a boxer-puncher with blazing speed and can throw lightning-quick combinations: he has an exceptional speed and good punching power in both hands. The fast-handed youngster uses a lot of movement. However, unlike a lot of slick boxers, he can be aggressive and fun of watch. He jumps on his opponent and overwhelms him with a dominating speed and super-quick reflexes. Will he with the Argentinean number one rated WBC challenger Carlos Manuel Baldomir (41-9-6, 12 KOs)?
His father-manager-trainer Yoel says: “Carlos Baltimore – or whatever his name is, I do not know what the hell his name is – is a good fighter. Zab is blowing this kid out of the way”. But he knows how hard it is to predict these kind of things: he is the first whom the TKO on 01-03-01 still hurt, when in Las Vegas WBA-WBC junior welterweight world champion Kostya Tszyu technically knocked out a speedy and enrage Zab at the second round. Judah clearly won the first round by utilizing his superior quickness and stinging Tszyu with two combinations, the first occurred midway through the opening stanza and appeared to hurt the opponent, while the second snapped Tszyu’s head back with 40 seconds left the clock. At the second round, Tszyu pressed forward and outworked him, then landed a right hand to the chin, knocked Judah down flat on his back, who got up only to fall again.
This is referred to as the “Chicken Dance”.
“That was a fluke”, says Bad Boy Judah. “I hit him that first round with a left hook that he was hanging on for dear life. Matter of fact, I am making it my own personal invitation for him to come fight me early”.
The Chicken now is hungrier, he has more marmalade to eat. The first marmalade is Argentinean. He does not underestimate his next dish, but what he really wants is a Pretty Girl. Floyd “Pretty Boy” Mayweather, the first in the records, is Zab’s favorite marmalade. He wants it, and he wants it all. Judah’s promoter Don King has been negotiating an April 8 HBO PPV mega-fight with FPB’s promoter Bob Arum.
“It’s all about money for him”, says Judah. “Mayweather is the dominator of money now and is looking for no-title fights and pay-per-view dates”. And, he adds, “he is scared of me”. That’s why Team Judah is confident about the fact that a meeting between Zab and Floyd Jr. will never go to the judges. “Hey, Floyd, put your signature where your mouth is”.
So, what does a SuperKid want? This one wants to find, under his tree, one package of Mayweather and one of Tszyu, he wants to dirty his mouth of these marmalades and demonstrate to the world what a SuperKid can do. A super and a kid (he’s 28), but also married and father of four daughters who hold the three belts. The same belts that Carlos “Tata” Baldomir wants to bring back to his children in Argentina. Is this a family affair?
The eternal kid with a questionable behavior is ready for the pound-for-pound maestro Mayweather. But is he ready for Tata? The fact that Baldomir is the 18th in his category can make Zab sitting on his own laurels, thinking of his opponent as an appetizer, a delicious underdog to eat before the coming dinner. Underdog or hotdog? This is the question.
“I am not overlooking Baldomir because he is the person coming in who could spoil all the stuff”, says SuperZ. “I am most focused on him because of the Mayweather fight” (here it comes again, the maestro). “I am working on a fast KO and a spectacular fashion to annihilate the guy who is standing in the way of an April 8th showdown between me and Floyd Mayweather Jr.”. Because of that, Baldomir may be the most unpopular prizefighter on January 7th.
Is the Judah win over Baldomir a mere formality? The Argentinean is just a slight speedbump to Judah’s SUV, he is like Apollo Creed against Ivan Drago in US. He comes and finds America, finds eccentric and outlandish styled Don King with odd hair screaming “Don’t Cry for me Argentina”, just like (but less than) James Brown shot forth the American ring with brilliantine and a United States of America jeans jacket, fond of wearing loud, brightly colored clothing and lots of jewelry which in Argentina mostly misses. “Only in America!” is the catchphrase of the man who became increasingly active in the re-election campaign of George W. Bush, although declaring himself a Democrat. Carlos Baldomir looks at this man, the one who called the President a “revolutionary” and who is now singing a song for Argentina and making fun of it. He is not welcome to US for this occasion: he could have come with a camera, taking pictures of the Madison Square Garden. Don’t be a protagonist. This is my land, Tata. Don’t be a revolutionary. Forget the Tszyu fiasco. “It’s a good thing he is from Argentina – says Zab – because he could go back there and he won’t get a chance to see nobody”. And he’ll send him to sleep.
“Carlos’s team has thus far brought him to this: I want to give him his thirty seconds of fame. This is just a videogame, you know, like Mortal Combat, and you just finish him. So, there is an extra credit right here”.
Is there any chance Zab’ll get knocked out? What? By Baldomir? No, the Judahs know, the Argentinean is a bleeder, Zab doesn’t care a jaw broke or a nose broken and has in his record only a TKO with Tszyu. “They say a loss proves to the point of coming back. A lot of the greats get knocked out: Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson. I mean – claims Super – it doesn’t matter about that, all that matters is how you come back from a defeat”. But Carlos’ plan is to resist for the first (more or less) four rounds, while the champion will try to knock him out, and then he means to win the “video game”.
“I respect my opponent – the mighty kid says – but it just so happened that this guy is in my weight and he is going to be a prime example of how I am going to show everybody that I am the best”. His face now is totally smothered by marmalade and some chocolate syrup he just found in the kitchen cabinet.
“I got spies spying on him every single day and my homeboys are telling me they’re whopping his ass in training camp”, states SuperKid. “Everybody treats their little girl’s right: I am going to treat mine right”. He sucks his forefinger, then puts it once again in the chocolate syrup can, and sucks it in the way kids with four children would do. Then, smiling and a bit of yawning and stretching as behind a school desk, he shows his diamonded tooth brace as if his pearly whites were made of chocolate, and the chocolate was a mix of Tszyu, Mayweather and Baldomir.
Latino Vs Brooklyn
Here he is. Deep eyes, deep heart. 5’9″, 146-pounds, Carlos Manuel “Tata” Baldomir wonders where Madison Square Garden is. He doesn’t care. This is not the reason he is here, in New York. His four children will watch the match on TV, at their place in Santa Fe, while their father will face the undisputed welterweight boxing champion from Brooklyn Zabdiel “Super” Judah (34-2-0, 25 KOs), second position in the records in the world rank.
“I will bring the green and gold WBC belt back to my house”, and when he says this, Carlos means it.
Carlos has been training in LA. The match has been delayed several times but now here it comes. He says he has been lucky, in a certain way: “Sometimes matches come suddenly and you haven’t enough time to work out. I took several fights on short notice. This has not been the time”. He doesn’t mention Zab Judah. Judah is the champion now, no argue, there is no reason to talk about him until the day will come. The 7th of January Carlos will fight to bring the three titles back home to his children with surprising calm and determination.
In the welterweight records, the first is Floyd “Pretty Boy” Mayweather (35-0-0), followed by Super Judah. Carlos is at the 18th position. 34 years old, 1.408 point, his debut in 1993 with 41-9-6, 12 KOs. After going the distance with the young and highly touted Miguel Angel Rodriguez (26-1, 21 KOs) on May 21st, at the United Center in Chicago, scoring a lopsided unanimous decision, Tata is ready again.
He does not fear Super. “If he doesn’t knock me out in two or three rounds, he will lose his concentration and start moving and throwing quick punches”.
Is Carlos concerned to be fighting in the states, in Zab’s home town New York City? The Argentinean looks far off, and seems to go to some place that others cannot see. He says: “I have been fighting all over the world”. Now he is thinking of Germany, where he technically knocked out Alpaslan Aguzum at the 8th round.. “This is not my first time being the underdog”. And his thoughts are in Copenhagen now, the two matches against Hassan Al, probably mostly go to the first round of the second match, when he knocked out the Danish in Denmark. “I have been fighting mostly in Europe, but also in South Africa, Mexico and US”. Where was that?, maybe he is thinking, Joshua Clottey was the guy. Oh yes, that was in the Arena of London. “That’s why I am self-confident now: I had to take fights as an unwelcome visitor in eight countries on four continents along the way to compiling my record”. As somebody said, his passport has been punched more than he has.
Carlos speaks of his foreign matches, but what he doesn’t speak of, what lies deep in his heart and still palpitates are the matches in Argentina: first round, Alex Carrillo Villa knocked out; third round, Daniel Ricardo Cusato knocked out; sixth round, Carlos Alberto Arrieta knocked out; second round, Victor Cesar Balmaceda knocked out. Argentina: the country of Carlos Monzòn, the same guy who Amilcar Brusa used to train (87-3-9, 59 KOs, 1 NC), the greatest Argentinean boxer from 1963 until 1977, with 14 consecutive successful middleweight world title defenses that held for decades until Bernard “The Executioner” recently surpassed that mark. Monzòn retained the belt against Charlie Austin, Nino Benvenuti, Emili Griffith, Jean-Claude Bouttier, Bennie Briscoe, Lee Roy Dale, Jose Napoles, Tony Mundine, Tony Licata (in New York), Gratien Tonna, Rodrigo Valdez; his life was equally as violent when he left the ring. He was convicted of killing his long-time companion, who was the mother of his young son and, sentenced to 11 years in prison, he was elected to the Boxing Hall of Fame during that time. Monzòn died in 1995 in a car crash, while he was returning to prison after a weekend furlough. Clearly one of the best middleweights ever, Monzòn was unbeaten over the last 81 bouts of his career, a span of 13 years, and a pulverizing punch to go along with his natural ring skills.
“I am reminded of Monzòn’s greatness every day, when Amilcar trains me”, says the new (but not the second) Carlos. Amilcar Brusa, Carlos’ trainer, watches his son. As Joey Judah is training his son Zab, Amilcar’s eyes betray the feelings. Carlos is like a son, the last Carlos but not the least. The Argentinean way, something which is not cold, not even warm: it’s hot, it’s caliente. Same country – Argentina, same story – the first boxer in his home country, same trainer – Amilcar Brusa, same name – Carlos. Same future?
Carlos does not feel he is in a shadow. “I have had a different path than Monzòn, but now I can see the mountain top”, Tata says. So, no shadows, just lights in Carlos’s work ethic and experience. “I’ll get the job done”, says with no pomposity or hauteur.
“I don’t want to meet my opponent before”. Does he like SuperZab? “I just don’t like the way he acted, the mania of being the killer, his making fun of me. I know that it is just for promotion, but I can see through his face that he couldn’t be a friend of mine”. He will not meet him: Zab Judah doesn’t even show up in Church Street Boxing Gym, where he is waited for a work out.
Southpaw. Judah will put his right foot ahead, his right hand will be throwing jabs, the left hand will try to knock Baldomir out. Judah is a gifted athlete and with his southpaw stance, he creates openings to land shots and then take a half step in either direction to make opponents miss. “I have been working out on this: I used to have problems with it, but now I am totally ready”, says Carlos, a steady, compact puncher and brawler that likes to apply heat from the opening round. Against Carlos’ average power, Zab has surprising power and with the exception of his 10th round technical knockout over Reggie Green, back in January 2001, most of his KO’s and TKO’s have come in the first four rounds. He simply jumps on guys and overwhelms them with his dominating speed. If his opponent has power, Judah will elect to box and move and attempt to win it on the scorecards. If he doesn’t knock his opponent out at the beginning, he will lose his self-confidence, that is what Carlos believes.
“This match is very important to me, but not for the fighter: for the WBC, WBA and IBF belts. Judah is the champion but he is not the best”. And he adds, still surprised: “How could he lose against Kostya Tszyu?”. In that occasion, Judah had said before that the fight wasn’t about Tszyu, that it was bigger than Tszyu: the fight was about him making history. Zab was asked if he would give Tszyu a rematch if he wins the fight and Judah said arrogantly: “Winner take all, ya know what I’m saying”.
Carlos knows that he’ll face an unfocused Judah, the same who was buzzed by Kostya Tszyu back in November 2001, the Brooklyn guy who will be thinking about the eventual fight against “Pretty Girl” (Judah’s nickname for FPB Mayweather) and will not give enough respect to a mandatory challenge.
“I come off a decisive 12 round unanimous decision win Miguel Angel Rodriguez, this past May in Chicago, to capture the WBC welterweight title elimination contest. Despite coming in as the underdog, I dominated the scoring in that fight by landing the sharper and heavier punches, leading on all three judges’ scorecards following 12 hard rounds”. In March 2005, Carlos scored an eighth round TKO over Alpaslan Aguzum, in Germany to defend the WBC International welterweight belt, dropping Aguzum in the 3rd, and continued to land shots until referee Daniel Van de Wiele eventually halted the mismatch in the 8th round. He has several big wins against recognizable opponents and hold wins over Edgar Ruiz (UD 10), Verdell Smith (TKO 4), Paulo Alejandro Sanchez (UD 10), and Hassan Al (UD 12).
This guy is humble during the interview. Baldomir credits Judah as a great fighter, and assures that he trained well for this fight but claims his opponent “reeks of poor sportsmanship and excessive bravado”. Carlos’ body language speaks first, the antithesis of everything Zab Judah, with all his gold chains, poses and posses, stands for. Not a coincidence, it is already been written: “Blessed with so many physical attributes, Judah can also get careless and overconfident. He is one of the most arrogant fighters in the sport and because of it he can end up on the business end of his opponent’s leather. Judah tends to drop his hands, showboat and lose his concentration. Judah doesn’t have the best chin and Bergman, Millett, Tszyu and Spinks all dropped him. His attitude and bravado can get him into trouble and ultimately that has led to both of his losses”. Baldomir, instead, “likes to dictate the pace and control the tempo of the fight by outworking his opponents with busy hands. However, when he faces a puncher, Baldomir is just as adept at staying outside and looking to land sharp counter punches”.
Carlos started training when he was 14, competing when 16. He doesn’t like who makes fun of him. He’s just a deep hearted boxer who, maybe, will get three belts and pay the customs duty at the airport. Then, arrived home, he’ll give his best hugs to his children and wife who will be waiting for him, no matter if with three or no belts. In New York, after all, you can find every kind of good. But such deep eyes, such deep heart: you can find them especially in Argentina.