On Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, light welterweight champion Danny Garcia met “Super” Zab Judah in a grudge match. The bout was supposed to be a showcase for the Philadelphia native in Judah’s hometown, giving him the chance to rack up yet another highlight-reel win against a not-quite-worthy foe. However, promotional efforts had successfully built up tremendous animosity between the factions, with Danny’s father talking smack about Judah, and Zab venting in frustration as he felt disrespected by being labeled the B-side for this event.
The opening rounds saw the young champion outscoring and overpowering the veteran Judah as he landed stiff right hands that were not particularly quick, but very well timed and accurate. Judah retaliated with scarce shots of his own, but his much vaunted counter-uppercut made only rare appearances, and his straight right-hand counters failed to rock the young champion or event dent his armour in any way.
The bout seemed to approach a premature ending in the middle rounds. In the sixth, Garcia pummeled Judah with one right hand cross after another, but the fading veteran—as many times before—found a way to survive. In the eighth episode Zab visited the canvas for the fight’s only knockdown after a strong right-hand from Danny landed flush on his face, but from here on, Zab mounted a comeback that surprised everyone who chose to keep watching despite Danny’s dominant performance up to that point.
After suffering the knockdown, “Super” Zab dug deep and effectively pressed the action in round ten, as he found his second wind exactly at the time Garcia ran out of gas. The Booklynite’s power punches suddenly acquired snap, landing consistently and visibly hurting Danny in round eleven with straight left hands. At times during the late rounds, Danny seemed to be in survival mode as he battled not only Judah’s revitalized attack, but also the consequences of a nasty cut in the middle of his forehead produced by a headbutt. Nevertheless, the champion more often than not rallied back after Judah’s onslaughts with shots of his own. The end result was a clear—but hard-fought—points decision in Garcia’s favour.
While Garcia got more than he bargained for in fighting Judah, he clearly earned the judges’ nod. His stock will rise given the maturity he showed when facing adversity and the grit in withstanding Judah’s powerful assault in the late rounds. Additionally, the vulnerability in display will make his name all the more enticing for potential adversaries, who will now more than ever want a piece of the champion. But his strengths in timing and power punching remain strong assets that will serve him well against any future challenger.
Judah has once again crawled back to relevance with his tough performance, and while he should stay away from the stronger, younger fighters at the top of the class, a rematch against, say, Amir Khan, does not now sound as outlandish as it would’ve a few months back. Love him or hate him, Zab showed a lot of courage in getting up from the canvas and testing the mettle of the champion after feasting on Garcia’s leather for the better part of the fight. For that, he will surely—perhaps even deservedly—be rewarded with another paycheck against a recognizable name in the near future. We will certainly tune in when that happens, for it may be his last. — Robert Portis