NEW YORK – They made a movie about a boxer once that was called, Somebody Up There Likes Me.
It wasn't about Zab Judah.
But it could have been.
How else do you explain this colossal waste of talent repeatedly getting second chances?
Judah is fighting unbeaten Miguel Cotto for the WBA welterweight title Saturday in a bout that will drive the first sellout to Madison Square Garden since 2001.
He hasn't won in more than two years, but he's competing in what is shaping up to be the biggest non-Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather Jr. event of the year in boxing.
That's nothing new, though. Judah is the guy who as the undisputed welterweight champion in 2006 didn't train properly, failed to make weight, lost to a no-name journeyman, was given his belt back and then got a chance to fight Mayweather Jr.
He lost – of course – but not before starting a riot at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas that netted him a one-year suspension from boxing.
That didn't sit well with promoter Bob Arum, who mocked the members of the Nevada Athletic Commission who penalized Judah as "Bushies."
"The penalty they gave that kid was outrageous," Arum said. "It was completely and totally out of line. The commission is out of control. They're a bunch of Republicans – they're all loyal Bushies – and they need to be stopped. We have a new governor (Jim Gibbons) and I know he's a Republican, but he has to put some Democrats onto that commission to bring some sanity back."
Of course, the Nevada Athletic Commission didn't have anything to do with giving a guy a shot at the title despite a 25-month winless streak.
The strange thing about it is that, despite all that has gone on, Judah could actually win Saturday's bout.
He's one of those guys who scouts love. He's got extremely fast hands and quick feet. He's got knockout power. He's slick. And, he's left-handed, which makes him that much more of a pain for boxers who aren't used to seeing southpaws.
But Judah, despite winning a 140-pound title and then later becoming the undisputed welterweight champion, is one of the game's big underachievers.
He talks as good a game as anyone this side of Mayweather, but unlike the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, he's frequently unable to back up his boasts. That hasn't stopped him from taunting Cotto, who's built up a 29-0 record and a reputation as one of the sport’s finest.
"Look at his (Cotto's) face," Judah said. "It's already battered up. He's had a rough training camp He's like Swiss cheese &hellip: He has a lot of holes in him. Look at my face. Not a mark on it, He's going to be my punching bag."
What Judah didn't mention was that his face had plenty of marks the last time he was in a real fight. He fought a one-round no-contest with Ruben Galvan in April, but his last true fight was his April 8, 2006, bout in Las Vegas with Mayweather.
Judah threatened Mayweather with all sorts of doom, but he wound up intentionally fouling Mayweather twice in the 10th round of that bout in order not to be knocked out.
He first hit Mayweather low and then, after a short delay, punched him in the back of the head as Mayweather was wincing from the shot to the groin.
That precipitated a wild scene in which members of both fighters' entourages stormed the ring and began to fight. The Nevada commission revoked the licenses of Judah, his father/trainer Yoel and Roger Mayweather, Floyd Mayweather’s uncle/trainer. It also suspended Mayweather adviser Leonard Ellerbe for four months.
It was the second such scene Judah started in a Nevada ring. In 2001, after he was knocked out by Kostya Tszyu, Judah stuck his gloved fist in referee Jay Nady's throat and then threw a stool at him to protest Nady's stoppage.
Arum apparently forgot about that one and all of Judah's apologies after it, because he was swayed by sweet talk from father and son when he was looking for an opponent for Cotto.
"I had a long talk with his father and he assured me that Zab would be on his best behavior," Arum said.
Judah is gifted enough to win the fight. Physically, there's little doubt he's more skilled than Cotto.
He made fun of Cotto on Wednesday and repeatedly termed him a robot. And like he's done so often, he promised to deliver a frightful beating to Cotto.
"The only way Cotto rides in the Puerto Rican Day parade (in New York on Sunday) is in a hospital bed on wheels," Judah said.
Hearing Judah taunt Cotto somehow seems like the Pittsburgh Pirates taunting Roger Clemens and vowing how they'll run up the score when the Rocket returns to the Yankees on Saturday.
The Pirates, though, are smart enough not to do that.
As for Judah, well, it's easy to realize that, for all his gifts, humility isn't one of them. But the one gift he needs to win against Cotto – mental toughness – is the one in short supply.
If he can somehow keep his head together for 12 rounds, Judah stands an excellent chance of winning.
But I'd say there's probably a better chance of someone making a movie about Zab Judah than of that happening.
- Zab Judah
- Miguel Cotto
- Nevada Athletic Commission