Doghouse Breaks Down the Spinks/Judah Showdown
By Wayne Richardson (April 9, 2004)
The reason for each man may be different, but both undisputed welterweight champion Cory Spinks and former IBF Junior Welterweight Champion Zab Judah will be in a crucial career defining match when they square off in Las Vegas, this Saturday night.
Spinks seeks to provide evidence that his win over Nicaraguan wild man, Ricardo Mayorga was no fluke while at the same time break the apparent lineal 147lb title holder’s curse and show that he is the rightful heir. On the other hand, Judah has his own agenda to meet as he attempts to erase the memory of his loss at the hands of Kostya Tszyu from the minds of fans and establish himself as the superstar he was so widely hyped as early in his career.
Although Cory enters the fight mentally hyped by his big December win, he still facing an opponent who has rolled off three successive wins. Zab has also knocked down each opponent and his last crumbled in less then 73 seconds, increasing his confidence exponentially with each win. Each fighter is sure to bring their best to the ring come April 11 and looking for the decisive win that will bring money and positive recognition to the victor, whether it be by knockout or decision. But until the fight actually takes place, we can only speculate on who will bring the better game plan and fight style to the match and who will stand triumphant. The conjecture can be aided however by examining different key areas of each boxer’s fight style and factors influencing the match, then by evaluating each fighter’s data a reasonable assumption of benefit can be made for either man, possibly determining who may have the overall advantage.
The two combatants will be examined in several categories including physical strengths, offensive tools, psychological factors, and previous competition.
Cory Spinks is 26 years old stands 5’ 9” with a long 78 “reach. He began his career as junior welterweight, but had difficulty making weight and was coming in just at the limit. He comfortably moved up to welterweight and has fought as heavy as 158 lbs, but still retains above average hand and foot speed, conditioning is excellent and he is accustomed to fighting twelve rounds. He has a solid chin that has seen him through the big shots of Mayorga and hasn’t had knockdown ruled against him so far in his career.
While four months older, Zab Judah is also 26, but is 3” shorter in height and with a 68” reach gives up a sizeable advantage in this area. He has also started out as a junior welterweight and by moving up will be fighting at the heaviest of his career. Speed is a large part of Judah’s fight game, combined with a strong left has stopped 71% of opponents, but is also comfortable going into the championship rounds. Zab’s chin has been suspect and most consider it to be his Achilles Heel, he has been knocked down three times, but his heart has helped him rise from the canvas all three times and with the exception of Tsyzu, he went on to stop his opponent.
The physical benefits here seem to belong to Spinks as his long arms and height will be hard for Judah to penetrate making his advantage in power slight. While it remains to be seen if he will lose anything as a result of the weight increase, Judah’s speed and power is remarkable, and though Spinks is also deceptively fast as well the power advantage is definitely all Zab’s. The chin vote has to go to Spinks just from the fact that hasn’t been technically knocked down (though many argue Mayorga did drop him in their fight). Being able to naturally carry the 147 lbs and having done so in the ring for four years also helps Spinks because he is comfortable with the weight whereas it is a new experience for Judah and he may have a little difficulty getting used to the extra weight.
Advantage - Spinks
Southpaw Zab Judah is known for an exciting crowd pleasing style that is based on foot and hand speed. He comes out quick and overwhelms his challenger, setting up combination punches with a fast snapping jab. His accuracy is excellent and he has the ability to box if needed like he did with Demarcus Corley after breaking his hand in the third round. Judah is a finisher who waits for nothing if he catches glimpse of his opponent hurt, jumping on them throwing a multitude of power shots from different angles.
However Judah depends a lot on confidence and often appears cocky in the ring, he does have a tendency to wander off task if the fight drags on to long often showboating. He also fights in spurts never going all out for three minutes and his wild attacks can leave him off balance, combined with a macho attitude can leave him open to counters.
Cory Spinks is a classic technician who deals in angles, movement and a high volume of punches. He is comfortable in the ring and utilizes every inch of it, using footwork and intelligence to befuddle and frustrate opponents. With quick hands Spinks will throw an average of 70 punches per round averaging a 35% connect rate. He doesn’t carry a one punch knockout power as his style doesn’t allow him to plant his feet, but he has stopped 11 of his opponents by an overwhelming number of punches. Cory is an effective jabber and is considered a slick boxer in the style of Willie Pep who executes a disciplined technique.
Nevertheless he is not attractive to fans because of his unwillingness to mix it up and this lack of power means that opponents are willing to take more risk against him because there is no danger of being hurt. He can also be caught some times by straight punches when caught in close and not allowed to move or when he is forced to press the action.
Many fans would say that Judah has the clear advantage in the area because of his speed and power, but while this attack is more appealing to the fan it isn’t as effective against a mover such as Cory given that movement on angles makes it very tricky for a banger to set their feet and unload. If Judah goes in looking for the knockout he will actually making the fight easier for Spinks and should look instead to utilize his speed, box smart and set up punches behind a double and triple jab. The double jab will help offset Spinks own jab and allow him to the inside where bodywork will be essential to slow down Cory and if he cuts off the ring effectively rather than chase Spinks, he will provide himself a better chance of getting in a damaging shot.
Cory must stick to what he knows and that’s boxing smartly and tying his man up on the inside. He has to move away and spin Judah, while trying to time him for a stiff counter left to earn his respect. He needs to control the pace and allow Zab to fall into a rhythm and become distracted and discouraged.
Cory Spinks defense is based on his quick reflexes and slick moves. He makes his opponents miss and does his best work being the defender and letting his opponents come to him. Spinks rolls nicely with punches so he is never caught flush and is always aware of his challenger’s moves by reading their body language. Cory fights in the same “cutsie” style as Chris Byrd and with 75% of his fight plan based on defense, he is as tight as they come in this department and it works well to set up counterpunches.
Zab Judah is also a defensively sound boxer and has really improved since his defeat against Tszyu by staying more compact and efficient. He can pick off punches, stay out of range and use his speed to get back inside. Judah also uses a busy offense to keep opponents at bay and keeping them under pressure, this works well, but when he loses focus, it also backfires as a timed counterpunch can slip through the gloves. His foot speed is also an important instrument that he uses brilliantly the fighter can move and keeps his opponent’s always one step behind.
Judah does have decent defensive tools and against another opponent it would be a strong advantage in his favor, but he is facing a defensive wizard who wins this category because of his mental defense. Spinks is never caught off guard because his mind is 100% committed to the fight and the same can’t be said for Judah who is known for abandoning his defense in favor of a macho attack, regardless of consequences.
Quality of Opposition
“Super” Judah has faced 32 opponents with 25 having winning records and has had 10 championship fights, 14 if you include the minor USBA title. He has held strong against some very tough fighters including Mickey Ward, Junior Witter and Jan Bergman, but most impressive has been his last four fights. He faced the best junior welterweight in the world in Kostya Tszyu and after suffering defeat chose to not take a step backwards, but forward to face very tough opponents in Omar Weiss and Demarcus Corley. He tamed Corley and won the WBO belt, defending against mandatory challenger Jaime Rangel in brutal fashion. Judah is willing to face anybody and has never shied away from a challenge, so confident in his self that no one is viewed as a test to his self proclaimed greatness.
Spinks fought 34 times since debuting in 1997 with only 4 championship matches. His opposition early in his career was filled with weak opponents and includes the king of tomato cans Reggie Strickland. He fought his first real challenge when he faced Antonio Diaz and lost a very controversial decision. In truth he didn’t face a real strong opponent until his first challenge for the IBF title losing another controversial decision to Michele Piccirillo that he later avenged. His biggest fight to date, would be his last where as a 5 to 1 underdog, he beat Ricardo Mayorga to unify the division.
Zab is by far the more experienced fighter in championship matches and has faced a higher caliber of boxer in his career than Spinks. The elevated opposition has paid dividends to Judah, allowing him to become a well rounded fighter whose confidence increased with every win over good opponents. It permitted him to learn to adjust to tricks veterans use and know he can step up when a title is on the line.
Cory Spinks has never been intimidated by trash talking opponents or being the underdog. He faces every match with a calculated well planned strategy and sees it through to success. He has never doubted his ability or been affected by critics. Spinks is not unsettled easily, has intelligence and is calm to the point of comatose. Cory has faced some very difficult situations in his personal life and came away a strong person which carries over to the ring.
Zab Judah has much confidence in his boxing ability and it shows in the way he treats his challengers with disdain, like they don’t belong in the ring with him. It helps him greatly in the ring by giving Zab the courage to try things that would not be considered safe or proper and be successful because he believes he can do it. He had a breakdown in the ring when he attacked referee Jay Nady after being what he felt was prematurely stopped, but this could have been due to him still being concussed by the punch along with not being able to think clearly. Judah does have a problem with staying focused, usually when the fight is not challenging enough and his confidence may be lessened when things don’t go his way inside the ring.
The advantage would have to go to Spinks, if not for Judah’s belief in himself being so strong. Cory is the more composed boxer, but Judah wills himself to overcome obstacles before him and it evens out the playing field. There are no after effects from the loss to Tzsyu and he’s riding high on the big KO in his last fight. Spinks too is also riding the crest of his huge upset of Mayorga and feels great coming into this fight. Both men believe in their skills immensely and although Spinks is the smarter man, Judah has ring knowledge from facing so many diverse fighters.
The fight is going to be close. Judah and Spinks are very evenly matched and it could be force of wills with the fighter with the greater one coming out the winner. The key is going to be if Judah can land anything of significance and stops Cory because he won’t outbox him, but he also shouldn’t go in looking for a one punch knockout. An aggressive style is what Spink’s loves to face and will have a heyday out boxing and countering as he slips punches on his way to decision. But if Judah turns Cory into the aggressor, he will have a chance of drawing him into a hard left or an uppercut on the inside. Zab has to set things up with a quick boxing style and work off of a doubled up jab to both the head and body. It is an intriguing match and I look forward to seeing what each fighter bring to the ring.
MY PREDICTION- Spinks by decision in a hard fought battle. He is too smart and will upset Judah’s plans, causing frustration and him reverting to a slugger. He will take risks he shouldn’t because he doesn’t feel threatened by Cory’s power, but if he is caught off balance and countered, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the canvas.
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