BROOKLYN, New York — Zab Judah failed last night in another championship match. That statement is a cold fact, but it doesn’t begin to reveal the entire truth behind the event, as Judah showed heart and grit in overcoming a knockdown and various perilous moments to inflict his own damage on champion Danny Garcia in route to losing a highly entertaining unanimous decision (116-111, 115-112 and 114-112) at the Barclays Center.
This was a bout that surpassed my expectations in that the fight was still on the table in the late rounds. What made it so exciting? Onto the fight’s major points.
THE LEFT HOOK? AH, MADE YOU LOOK!: Danny Garcia’s main weapon is his massive left hand and Judah was on the lookout for it by constantly circling away to his left. Garcia wisely anticipated this and framed his offense around various right hands. Garcia mixed it to the body and head, at times looping it around Judah’s guard, shooting down the middle, or stabbing it downstairs. It made Judah have to think about when to throw his own counter lefts, allowing Garcia to outland him and rack up the early rounds. However, when Judah did throw the left with conviction, he connected flush.
BODY SHOTS: Around the fifth round it became clear that Garcia right hands downstairs were beginning to break down his opponent. Zab’s movement slowed and it allowed Garcia to wobble him badly with a right upstairs. Judah refused to go down and even talked a little trash while back-peddaling for dear life.
The sixth was no better for Judah with Garcia jumping on his immediately and going right back to the body, forcing Judah to hold. It was probably the longest round of Zab’s career as he was hurt in the opening moments and literally knocked around the ring like a pinball for the entire 3 minutes. Still, he refused to go down.
THE 8TH ROUND COMEBACK/KNOCKDOWN: I know it’s strange to consider a round he got dropped in as the start of his comeback, but that’s the round where Zab started to turn it around. He was winning the eighth by countering Garcia at mid-range, but he lingered too long and got planted on the seat of his pants by a right cross.
With his eyes swelled up, Judah could have easily packed it in as we’ve seen him do before. Instead, he let his Brooklyn hometown fuel him and commenced to throwing home run straight lefts. It allowed him to survive the round, and he kept it up in the ninth to great effect. Still, Garcia continued to land regularly with the right that kept Judah from completely turning it around.
JUDAH’S CHAMPIONSHIP ROUNDS: Now when have you ever seen Judah dominate in the late rounds? He finally succeeded in stunning Garcia with a left in round 10 and had him moving backwards. Garcia is not nearly as effective off the backfoot and he got wobbled again off a Judah power shot. Zab also landed his best hooks, with both hands, in the 11th.
But to Garcia’s credit, his chin held up amazingly well and he made sure at the end of these rounds he was the one coming forward and forcing Judah to hold.
A clash of heads had both streaming blood in the final stanza. Judah got in a few more big counters while Garcia went back to the body for what was a thrilling finish.
RESPECT EARNED, NOT GIVEN: All the bullshit trash talk between these two camps had all but evaporated at the final bell. Garcia and Judah embraced, and the latter could be seen standing by and shaking hands with former nemesis Angel Garcia during the post-fight interview. Danny was high on praise for Zab and gave him accolades as the best fighter he’s ever fought.
It was a hell of a fight. I had to beat the Brooklyn guy in his hometown. I knew he had a lot of pride behind him and he was never going to give up. He is a crafty veteran with power. He hit me with a good shot. He hit me in the eleventh with a left hand that spun me around. It shook me up a little bit.
I am a true champion and I had to fight through a storm tonight to prove that. Judah is the craftiest and strongest guy that I have fought so far. I knew he had a lot of power with the left, but I was able to stand my ground and counter it. My game plan was to try to use the jab, but he was stepping around. He was crafty and he took my jab away so I had to do what I had to do.
And as far as all the animosity we saw before the fight?
It’s gone. It’s respect. As you can see, it’s a lot of bad blood (on our faces). I’ve got cuts. He has cuts. We came here and gave the people of Brooklyn a nice show.
TIME TO GET OFF THE SENIOR CIRCUIT: Danny Garcia impressed me with his chin, ability to remain calm under fire, and in executing such a sound game plan. However, his last two title defenses have been against 35+ year old fighters well past their primes. For all intents and purposes, it should have been his mandatory, Lucas Matthysse, in there with him last night. Garcia needs to be facing the winner of Matthysse-Peterson next unless a Khan rematch comes off.
QUILLIN DOMINATES: Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin’s power resulted in another multiple-knockdown victory as he deposited Fernando Guerrero on the canvas four times in route to a seventh round TKO. Quillin was patient and used his right hand counters to destroy Guerrero. It was his first title defense of the WBO title he lifted last October over Hassan N’DAm. Quillin has name-checked two potential opponents in Gennday Golovkin and Sergio Martinez. With Martinez getting injured again last night, the Golovkin fight would be the most explosive bout that can be made at middleweight.