COMMENTARY | "Sometimes when you win, you really lose, and sometimes when you lose, you really win, and sometimes when you win or lose, you actually tie, and sometimes when you tie, you actually win or lose. Winning or losing is all one organic mechanism, from which one extracts what one needs." - Rosie Perez as Gloria Clemente in White Men Can't Jump.
Never mind the zany last half of Ms. Perez statement from the 1992 film about street hoops. Instead, focus on the first part that rang true for two fighters who may have come out on the wrong side of a decision, but gained more in stature than their victorious counterparts. Zab Judah and Martin Murray may have lost on April 27 but their valiant efforts will take them much further than the men that defeated them.
It was assumed that Sergio Martinez -- who ranks around #2 or #3 on the sport's fictional pound-for-pound lists -- would put on a superior boxing exhibition against Martin Murray (25-1-1) as he fought for the first time as a major world titleholder in front of his home country of Buenos Aires, Argentina. The previously undefeated Murray's only unfavorable tick on his record was a draw against Felix Sturm where the Englishman took his foot off the gas. However, Murray was thought to be facing an opponent that was athletically superior in front of his hometown. It had spectacle written all over it. However, aside from the show that was put on as Martinez (51-2-2) headed toward the ring, the Argentinean couldn't get Murray to become the sacrificial lamb he was thought to be.
In front of over 40,000 rabid fans, the two fighters started off dancing slowly. Martinez popping the jab into Murray's high guard and dropping his hands in hopes of getting the Brit to open up so he could crack him with one of his vaunted counter shots. Murray wouldn't oblige and opted to remain in a shell for the early rounds. Murray didn't take any significant damage but he didn't do enough to win the first few rounds. Every now and then the larger Murray would rip Martinez with a powerful shot that seemed to remind the champ that this was a fight and not some kind of elaborate exhibition. It was a game of cat and mouse until the cat finally cornered his prey sixth round and everything changed.
Murray realized that he could hurt Martinez and began to step inside with the right hand. Martinez, who is notorious for pulling his head back, found it tough to dance away from Murray's punches and was rattled several times over the course of the second half of the fight. A left-right combination in the eighth round silenced the rabid fan base in Buenos Aires and forced them to consider that there was a distinct possibility that Martinez was in a big of trouble. It wasn't the same trouble that Martinez narrowly escaped in the Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. fight last year where he had to hang on for a couple of minutes before earning the win. This danger was more imminent and followed him around for the next nine minutes. A few fortunate instances where referee Massimo Barrovechio ruled knockdowns in the 10th and 11th rounds as slips and the fact that Murray slowed his attack in the 12th helped Martinez survive and earn a unanimous decision (115-112 across the board).
But Murray came out of the fight with a higher stock and there were more questions than answers for the 38-year-old Martinez who likely just had one of his final fights.
When Danny Garcia vs. Zab Judah was announced, many thought that Judah was little more than a gatekeeper with a marquee name being led to the slaughterhouse against a budding star with a heavy hand. The scribbled notes in the boxing pundits' handbook show that Judah's fails when the going gets rough have been upheld by the Brooklynite as he has shown deteriorating focus as fights progress. The skill set has never been in question, but it was inevitable that the 35-year-old former champion had doormat written all over him. And for 24 minutes those predictions rang true.
Despite Judah (42-8) having the showdown in his backyard at the Barclay's Center in Brooklyn, Garcia quelled the fans from the city the five time champion grew up in with each thudding hook and body shot. He even made Judah do the wobbly legged dance that Kostya Tszyu made famous when he shellacked the crafty Southpaw with a right hand. Similar to the 2001 fight that saw him take his first loss, Judah's legs betrayed him and he began to do an awkward dance that signaled his body's unwillingness to comply with his heart. Garcia (26-0) stalked Judah and continued to clobber his opponent with clean shots as the supposed Judah base began chanting "Danny! Danny!" with each walloping shot. Although Judah managed to survive, it appeared inevitable that the end was near.
Judah defied history and proved that he wasn't ready to fold just yet.
Rather than wilt as the rounds rolled by -- and punctuated by an eighth round knockdown -- Judah found his bearings and mounted a spirited comeback. Although he was hideously cut underneath his right eye and appeared to be ready to check out of the perceived beatdown, Judah summoned the boxing Gods for a rally that will likely remain more memorable than Garcia's early round success. With most feeling as if they had Judah figured out and it was only a matter of time, Judah rose from the smoldering ashes and smashed Garcia in the 10th round with a left hand. The fight turned on a dime and the fans who thought they were awaiting an easy unanimous decision got behind the hometown kid. Judah soaked up the energy and continued to splash Garcia with combinations and rocked the 25-year-old with a menacing right hand before the round closed.
Unfortunately, the rally was too little, too late as Judah fought yet another spirited final round that feature a vicious exchange that brought the crowd to its feet. Zab Judah may have lost a unanimous decision (116-111, 115-112 and 114-112) but he'll leave Brooklyn as a fighter in line for another big fight. Garcia was supposed to win that fight and the manner in which he did won't see his stock rise much. He was somewhat exposed in those closing minutes as he looked flat footed and exhausted while Judah sucked it up and roared forward in a fight he was well behind on the scorecards in.
Just like in the bout 5,000 miles away, the loser perhaps gained more respect in the eyes of fight fans than the winner. It's strange like that in the sport of boxing but it is indeed a reality. Both Judah and Murray may have lost on the scorecards but they won over many fight fans that prematurely wrote them off.
Andreas Hale lives in the fight capital of the world and has covered the sport for mainstream media outlets such as MTV.com and Jay-Z's LifeandTimes.com, as well as die-hard websites including FightNews.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@AndreasHale).
- Sports & Recreation
- Zab Judah
- Martin Murray
- Sergio Martinez