Sharkie’s Machine: Joshua Clottey Wins Technical Decision Over Zab Judah
By Frank Gonzalez Jr., exclusive to Doghouse Boxing (Aug 3, 2008) Photo © German Villasenor  
Saturday night at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas , Joshua Clottey (35-3, 21 KO’s) the IBF’s #1 contender took on former champion, Zab Judah (36-6, 25 KO’s) for the vacant IBF Welterweight title.

Never mind that Judah didn’t deserve this chance, Judah showed up Saturday night in the best shape he’s been in since the Corey Spinks fight back in 2005. Judah is a colorful character and like him or not, he’s got pop in his punch and is rarely involved in boring fights. Judah showed the kind of heart that made me want to root for him.

Judah easily won the first couple of rounds against Clottey by being effectively aggressive and landing more punches. Judah took advantage of Clottey’s tendency to start at a moderate pace and took it to him. Clottey has a great chin though and took all that Judah could dish out and as the rounds progressed, was landing the cleaner punches with increasing frequency, getting stronger as the fight got deeper.

The third round was the turning point in the fight that saw the momentum shift in favor of Clottey, who was landing the harder, cleaner shots, while Judah was forced to fight going backwards. Clottey boxed better, was stronger and had the better chin. Judah landed good shots here and there, but nothing that ever hurt Clottey.

After the second round, it was all Clottey who was winning on both defense and offense as he took Judah into deeper waters. I expected Clottey to win by KO at the midway point but Judah gave a good account of himself, fighting smart and more disciplined than I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately for Zab, it wasn’t enough to beat Clottey, who was too tough and too strong. By the ninth round, a cut over Judah ’s right eye caused the referee, Robert Byrd, to call the ringside doctor to check Judah out.

Judah complained to the doctor that he couldn’t see. Probably from the blood dripping into his eye. The doctor put up two fingers and asked Judah , “How many fingers?” When Judah answered, “three” the doctor called a halt to the bout. Since the cut was officially ruled as being caused by a head butt, they went to the scorecards, where the official Judges all had Clottey ahead by scores of 87-84 and 86-85 twice. The instant replays showed that it was a Clottey uppercut that caused the cut and not a head butt. Either way, Clottey got the W and the IBF title belt to go with it.

Clottey now joins the ranks of Paul Williams (WBO champ), Antonio Margarito (WBA champ) and Andre Berto (WBC champ). Though Miguel Cotto lost his title, he is still one of the best fighters in the division and a force to be reckoned with. Time will tell how the Cotto story continues after his first loss at the hands of Antonio Margarito last week.

Top Rank would be wise to try and arrange a fight between Cotto and Berto as soon as possible. If Berto’s good enough to be considered a legit champion/top contender, a fight with Cotto would be a bold move to show that Berto is worthy of the honor bestowed on him by the WBC.

During the post fight interview, Clottey said he wanted to fight Berto for a unification bout. Berto is scheduled to fight Steve Forbes in September. Who Berto fights after that is anyone’s guess. In a perfect world, the four titlists would fight each other in a tournament designed to produce a single Champion. But the idea of a real Champion at any weight class escapes the sport of boxing entirely these days, where four major sanctioning bodies maintain the status quo of having four champs in each division, which is ridiculous because when you have four champs you have no Champion.

Clottey is very much like Margarito in that he is strong, durable and has the kind of stamina that sees him get stronger in the late rounds. The difference is that Clottey is arguably a better boxer than Margarito. If they were to fight a rematch, it would likely come down to who can better take the other guys punch. A tough call since both have huge chins. Let’s not forget that Miguel Cotto was clearly the better boxer too—but Margarito’s persistence broke him down and saw Cotto surrender after being battered in the 11th round.

Clottey vs. Berto would favor Clottey, who has fought the better opposition. Though Berto owns a belt, he remains an untested prospect after winning the vacant WBC title against a fighter who wasn’t even in the top ten of the division. (A gift from the WBC for a fighter with a flashy style?) Berto is a good boxer with fast hands but we’ve never seen him overcome adversity or fight anyone who could actually provide some adversity. Other than his TKO win over David Estrada, who has Berto fought that’s worthy of mention?

I’m sure it’s not Berto’s fault that his handlers are trying protect their investment and keep him safe, but once you win a major title, there should be no more fights against guys who aren’t even in the top ten of your division. After winning his title, he said he wanted to fight Paul Williams. Instead, he’s fighting Steve Forbes.

Paul Williams may be the most dangerous man at Welterweight. He’s six feet two inches tall and has the kind of range that can potentially neutralize any of his smaller adversaries. Williams has a win over Margarito and destroyed Carlos Quintana in their rematch. Quintana showed that Williams can be beaten by a good counter puncher in their first fight, where Quintana won the decision with his potent left hand. Clottey is an excellent counter puncher and can probably take Williams power without falling apart.

Welterweight is the hottest division in boxing now. It would be the logical division from which a true, single Champion should emerge. It can’t happen if the sanctioning bodies won’t cooperate. Maybe we should just scrap the alphabet soup organizations altogether since they are what’s preventing boxing from being all it can be with their bogus rankings and stripping guys like Margarito for dubious reasons while guys like Floyd Mayweather Jr. got to keep the WBC title for two years without defending it against any of the top fighters at welterweight?

How come Mayweather didn’t have to fight, “mandatory match ups” or be stripped? If the moguls of boxing want to make the most possible money, they ought to start producing a better product. They can do that by implementing a system of tournaments that create one Champion in each division. Sports fans don’t like ambiguity. They like definition. They want to see the best competing against the best, not the most convenient.

Championship tournaments would make boxing so exciting that the fan base would grow and the revenues would grow with them. It would be a crucial step towards moving boxing back to its once famed status as the most watched sport in the world. In that process, the promoters would grow far richer than they are now with the crappy system they currently employ, which has no regard for the merit system, which governs all other sports.

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