By Lyle Fitzsimmons
I concede, it would have been a musical faux pas of Philly to Brooklyn magnitude.
But as Zab Judah exited the ring early Sunday morning, it would have been an ideal moment to cue up a classic Boyz II Men jam to accompany him and his team on a long, unsatisfying slog back to the dressing room.
After 12 maddeningly ineffectual rounds with a light-hitting but insistent Paulie Malignaggi, it was clear the man once known as “Super Judah” had irrefutably reached the "End of the Road."
And it wasn’t just a frustrated capacity crowd in Brooklyn that thought so.
Nearly every member of a multi-voiced Showtime broadcast team shoveled dirt on Judah’s inactive carcass at some point during his 36 minutes with the “Magic Man,” labeling him anywhere from “outhustled” to “ineffective” to “disinterested” as the proceedings wore on.
Judges Michael Pernick, Adelaide Byrd and Max De Luca made it official from their ringside stools, correctly scoring the proceedings 116-111, 117-110 and 117-110, respectively.
This bleary-eyed scorecard, incidentally, had it 118-110 - or 10 rounds to two - and only after a hard search to find rounds that Judah came close to deserving, let alone clearly won.
It wasn’t that easy. There weren’t that many.
Still, Judah stubbornly insisted it was a product of Malignaggi’s absence of malice, and not the competitive shortcomings of a 36-year-old man in his 18th year as a professional fighter.
“He didn’t want to engage in the fight,” Judah said in his post-fight interview. “He was working on his jab and sliding around. He did a great job staying outside and boxing while I was trying to fight.”
It was the predictable logic of a man who’d just suffered the ninth loss of a 53-fight career.
But it also proved denial was about the only world-class skill he has left.
Already a loser, albeit an occasionally spirited one, in two of his past three fights, Judah entered the fray Saturday evening after making perpetual fight-week claims that Malignaggi - with just seven KOs in his previous 32 wins - simply didn’t offer enough deterrent to blunt his force.
“He ain’t got nothing to hold me off,” he said. “It’s been proven from the past if you don’t have anything to hold Zab Judah back he’s going to come and he can punch. We’re going to see.”
Turns out he was right, after all.
Paulie came. We saw. Zab's finished.
While he might still have dizzying power in the straight left hand and a warrior’s mentality in his heart of hearts, the former two-division world champion simply no longer possesses the motor that’s necessary to compete for 12 rounds against the best in the business and win.
Enough to swipe a few late rounds after Danny Garcia had worked his way to an insurmountable lead? Absolutely. Enough to score a dubious knockdown and perhaps grab another round when the mood struck him to actually let his hands go against Malignaggi? Certainly.
But enough to strike even a sliver of fear into the truly elite class at welterweight, circa 2013 - namely Mayweather, Bradley, Broner or Pacquiao? Not a chance.
Saturday proved the fighter who'd consistently skittered back to relevance after previous post-mortems named Tszyu, Spinks, Baldomir,Cotto and Clottey is gone for good.
All that remains these days is a still-willing, still-conditioned shell only good enough for a tier far below what has already been achieved. But in a business where staying too long comes at a price far costlier than legacy, it’s not worth it.
Stand down, Zab Judah. Well done, boxing's cockroach.
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If it’s good enough for Jack Hirsch, it’s good enough for me.
If the esteemed BWAA president says the initial exclusion - and then late-stage inclusion - of Adonis Stevenson on the ballot for fighter of the year was largely prompted by the absence of the traditional West Coast member meeting and a full complement of nominators, I’m OK with it.
Still, it’s a good thing circumstances arose. Because otherwise, at least in my opinion, the group of which I am a full paying member would have been nothing short of a laughingstock.
It’s not that I don’t have respect for Floyd Mayweather Jr., Danny Garcia, Gennady Golovkin, Timothy Bradley and Sergey Kovalev. They’re terrific fighters. They had excellent years. And if one of them captures the most votes and is deemed the rightful honoree, I’ll not riot.
But it’ll be another wrong decision in a year that’s been full of them.
To these eyes, suggesting that the four-victory, four-KO, three title-fight winning run that Stevenson put together in 2013 ought to take a back seat to any of them is a stretch of reality. And initially stating it didn’t even deserve a place among them is worthy of year-long scorn.
Because more than any of them, Stevenson had a transformative sort of 2013.
Mayweather entered the year as the world’s best fighter and exited it the same way after winning two fights in which he was a prohibitive favorite. Garcia was the top dog at 140 entering the year as well, then defeated a 35-year-old Judah and a largely untested Lucas Matthysse.
Golovkin was also a four-KO winner (21 rounds) in the calendar year and I realize he’s everyone’s favorite these days, but his defeats of the Rosado, Ishida, Macklin and Stevens ilk - none of them ever a world champion - is hardly the stuff legends are made of.
Bradley ended the year with an excellent effort in a pay-per-view clinic over old man Juan Manuel Marquez, but his only other appearance of the year was a flat-out battering - albeit a winning one - against a guy (Ruslan Provodnikov) who at the time was making his debut in the 147-pound weight class and was considered little more than a stay-busy task for a dubious champ.
Kovalev, another slugger at 175, has the most compelling case after also winning four fights and toiling just 12 rounds compared to Stevenson’s 21. But, as with Golovkin, the quality of foe that Superman dusted - Dawson, Cloud, Bellew and ex-conqueror Darnell Boone - puts him a step higher than Gabe Campillo, Cornelius White, Nathan Cleverly and Ismayl Sillakh.
In this case, a recount was not only worthy of demand. It saved us from embarrassment.
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This week’s title-fight schedule:
WBA light heavyweight title - San Antonio, Texas
Beibut Shumenov (champion) vs. Tamas Kovacs (No. 14 contender)
Shumenov (13-1, 8 KO): Fifth title defense; Ninth fight in United States (8-0)
Kovacs (23-0, 14 KO): First title fight; First fight in United States
Fitzbitz says: “Boxrec.com ranks Kovacs 114th. The IBO has him 55th. But the WBA says he’s No. 14, which makes it a legit title fight. Enjoy the show, folks.” Shumenov by decision
WBA welterweight title - San Antonio, Texas
Adrien Broner (champion) vs. Marcos Maidana (No. 2 contender)
Broner (27-0, 22 KO): First title defense; Held WBO belt at 130 and WBC belt at 135
Maidana (34-3, 31 KO): Fourth title fight (1-3); Held WBA belt at 140 (2011, zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “Another illustration of what occurs when a strong, determined and tough guy meets a talent far above his level. Anyone familiar with the term ‘Easy work’?” Broner in 9
WBC super bantamweight title - San Antonio, Texas
Leo Santa Cruz (champion) vs. Cesar Seda (No. 5 contender)
Santa Cruz (25-0-1, 15 KO): First title defense; Held IBF belt at 118 (2012, three defenses)
Seda (25-1, 17 KO): Third title fight; Held IBO belt at 112 (2009, zero defenses)
Fitzbitz says: “I’m not as high on Santa Cruz as a lot of people. He’s good and he’s no embarrassment to anyone, but I’d like to see more. Maybe here is the time.” Santa Cruz in 6
Last week's picks: 6-4
2013 picks record: 80-39 (67.2 percent)
Overall picks record: 543-191 (74.0 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.