Cotto vs. Judah Will Be X-Plosive!

By Francis Walker
Updated: May 31, 2007

NEW YORK — Zab Judah’s back is against the wall. He hasn’t won a fight in more than two years. Judah is coming off perhaps the worst year of his professional career. Judah could hit the top of the food chain and send shockwaves throughout the boxing community if he defeats unbeaten two-division world champion Miguel Cotto.

Judah (34-4, 25 KOs) will challenge Cotto (29-0, 24 KOs) for his WBA welterweight championship on June 9, at Madison Square Garden . Although the bout will be in Judah’s hometown of New York City , Cotto will be fighting at the Garden on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade for the third consecutive year.

“I am going to rain on his parade — literally,” Judah said after the official announcement was made. “On June 9, I’m going to sink his boat and on June 10, me and Tito (Trinidad) are going to ride Cotto’s float in the Puerto Rican Parade. The Latinos already know it. I will have more Latino fans than he will at The Garden. There’s a new Grand Marshall in town and his name is Zab Judah!”

“Cotto vs. Judah: X-Plosive” will be promoted by Top Rank, Inc., Prize Fight Promotions, and broadcast on HBO Pay-Per-View at a suggested retail of $44.95.

Cotto will have overwhelming support through out NYC and Judah could be the decisive underdog. This bout is such a “hot ticket” that promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank recently announced that an additional 3,000 tickets will be released for sale to the general public.

“Naturally we are ecstatic, but not totally surprised,” said Arum. “We have been grooming and showcasing Miguel Cotto at The Garden and on national television for years in preparation for exactly this circumstance.

New York has embraced Miguel and this fight as proven by the action at the box office.”

This fight will mark the first time since 2001 that tickets in the upper mezzanine section at The Garden will be sold for a boxing match. More than 18,000 will be in attendance to see whether Judah can bounce back from a tumultuous 2006.

Last year was a pretty rough year for Judah , a 29 year-old from Brooklyn , NY . He squandered the undisputed world welterweight in a homecoming defense in a 12-round decision loss to Carlos Baldomir in January 2006.

Judah remained the IBF 147-pound champion, but lost that title to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Judah risked disqualification when he blatantly fouled Mayweather that led to a tenth round melee. The result: a $250,000 fine and a one-year ban by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

Judah returned in April. Ruben Galvin, an overmatched welterweight who was supposed to have been slaughtered. Instead, a cut on his head in the first round was ruled an unintentional foul and led to a no-contest.

A victory over Cotto, 26, Caguas , Puerto Rico, will be the biggest victory of Judah’s career and it couldn’t have come at a better time. The last time Judah’s back was pressed against the wall entering a fight was when he traveled to St. Louis , MO to face hometown hero Cory Spinks for the undisputed world welterweight championship in February 2005.

Judah pressed Spinks and unleashed a one-sided beating that catapulted Judah straight to the top of the welterweight division.

Cotto Awaits

Judah will be in the ring against a very focused and a very strong champion in Cotto. While Judah has struggled, Cotto has made continuous strides toward becoming one of boxing’s bigger marquee names.

Cotto unleashed a merciless 12-round beating against previously unbeaten Paul Malignaggi in June 2006. Cotto moved up from the junior welterweight division and became welterweight champion after pummeling Carlos Quintana through five rounds.

In Cotto’s last fight, he successfully defended the WBA 147-pound title for the first time against a solid Oktay Urkal. The relentless power and pressure of Cotto’s punches to Urkal’s body raised a question that will be answered on June 9th.

Can Cotto breakdown a fighter as fast and as aggressive as Judah?

Cotto will clearly be the puncher in this fight. Judah maybe the underdog, but he is a live underdog that shouldn’t be underestimated. Throughout his boxing career, Judah has never been out-of-shape for a fight. Judah is extremely quick.

He throws punches from various angles. Judah’s power comes from his speed. When Judah hits an opponent square in their face, they become dazed. Add three-four more quick punches and Judah has his opponent in serious trouble.

Cotto has a tough chin and is very relentless. If an opponent swings and misses Cotto, the champion is young enough, quick enough, and sharp enough as a puncher to make them pay.

Judah has to make sure that when he throws a punch, it may not land flush but it must at least touch Cotto. Judah has been hit on his chin and planted on tasted the canvas before.

The stunning second round knockout loss Judah suffered against Kostya Tszyu in November 2001 maybe distant, but not forgotten. The consensus belief is that Judah is vulnerable and once Cotto hits him flush on the chin, it will mark the beginning of the end.

“I know I am ready to go 12 hard rounds and to destroy Zab Judah ,” Cotto said during a recent conference call. “I just hope he’s ready as well. I want to give the fans a great fight and that’s why I prepare so hard for this fight.”

An Action-Packed Fight

One thing is for sure. Cotto vs. Judah will be an action-packed fight. Cotto’s brute power matched against Judah’s hand speed. Both fighters have technique and are well trained.

Both can be very aggressive, especially Cotto, who likes to come straight forward. Judah can box, move around the ring well, and likes to apply relentless pressure when he has an opponent in trouble.

Styles make fights. Cotto and Judah both have styles that can make their encounter one of the most memorable in recent memory. Cotto vs. Judah could be the 2007 “Fight of the Year.”

Cotto’s Path Toward Greatness

At 26, Cotto is on a path toward becoming a great fighter. Cotto’s rise toward the top is similar to Oscar De La Hoya‘s path to fame after wining a gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics.

Cotto started his professional career in February 2001. Cotto has already won the WBO junior welterweight and WBA welterweight championships. Recognizable names such as former world champions John Brown, Cesar Bazan, Randall Bailey, DeMarcus Corley, and current IBF junior welterweight champion, Lovermore N’dou have all been beaten by Cotto.

N’dou, on June 16 will meet Paul Maliginaggi, who suffered a brutal 12-round loss to Cotto last year on the eve of the Puerto Rican Day Parade.

Cotto at 147 could be the start of the next dominant eras in boxing. A number of attractive opponents that include interim WBC champion Sugar Shane Mosley, IBF champion Kermit Cintron, WBO welterweight champion Antonio Margarito, and unbeaten Paul Williams are in the same division with Cotto.

South of the boarder at 140 is Ricky Hatton, a former unified WBA welterweight and unified WBA/IBF junior welterweight champion, who will meet Jose Luis Castillo in a highly anticipated 12-round fight on June 23 in Las Vegas. Also, Junior Witter, Kendal Holt, and Demetrius Hopkins are some of the bigger names at 140.

Cotto vs. De La Hoya or Mayweather — Don’t Be Surprised!

If Cotto remains unbeaten against the upper echelon welterweights, don’t be surprised if a Cotto vs. De La Hoya or a Cotto vs. Mayweather fight is discussed. Cotto is only one weight class below De La Hoya (154).

Mayweather, who beat De La Hoya on May 5, in the highest grossing fight in boxing history, has to decide whether he will retain WBC junior welterweight championship or resume is reign as WBC welterweight champion.

De La Hoya, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, seems to be enjoying his hectic schedule of fighting only once a year. De La Hoya appears to be in tremendous shape, as he proved against Mayweather that he is strong enough and fast enough to last twelve durable rounds against anyone he challenges.

Mayweather, an unbeaten world champion in five separate weight divisions, is going to need marquee opponents (other than De La Hoya) if he wishes to develop into a leading boxing pay-per-view entity. Mayweather vs. Cotto is an attractive match that can generate the interest outside of the boxing world once if promoted properly.

There is so much at stake for both Judah and Cotto. Only one will emerge victorious.