The Cyber Boxing Zone Newswire (Feb13, 2000)
Tszyu and Judah win on course for showdown
by Chris Bushnell
Kostya Tszyu and Zab Judah, considered the two best 140 pound fighters in the world, won their tune-up bouts at Connecticut's Mohegan Sun but showed that some tuning up is exactly what each one needs. Although both men defeated their outclassed opposition by convincing knockout, neither man turned in a star making performance. But it's this unique combination of domination and vulnerability that may makes their eventual showdown such a compelling fight.
Much hyped prospect Zab Judah collected his first world title in a bout that showed the best and worst of his game. The first round was all Judah, as the left hander easily slipped challenger Jan Bergman's lanky jabs and returned fire with speedy flurries. Each time Bergman missed, Judah fired in combination. The result was a knockdown halfway into the opening frame. Hurt by a right hook and a few heavy left hands, Bergman fell hard to the canvas, was up by 8, and looking like he would clock out his timecard early. Judah pursued the stiff-legged Bergman, taking his time to find the right punch to start the next barrage. Soon, Bergman was down again, then back up on rubber stilts. Judah's patience allowed Bergman the time to make it to the closing bell, but the end seemed inevitable.
When the second round began, however, Judah didn't see what Bergman had left. Instead he did, well, nothing at all. Standing in front of Bergman with his hands down, Judah smiled, made a few faces, and willingly tied up. Aside from a single straight left, Judah did not even throw a punch for the first 1:40 of the round. This inexplicable choice must have encouraged Bergman, who threw and landed a short left hook that swiveled Judah's head and sent him down to the seat of his pants. Although Judah immediately jumped to his feet, the message had been sent. Bergman was not going to hand over the victory based on the 10-7 first round.
To his credit, Judah rose to his feet and took care of some payback. First, however, Judah had to emulate his mentor Pernell Whitaker and embarrass himself by looking into the crowd and wobbling his legs in an exaggerated manner. Showboating doesn't win rounds, punches do, and Judah uncorked a wicked right uppercut at the end of his routine that shook Bergman to the tip of his toes. The round ended with Bergman beginning his retreat, but the damage had been done. In his first legit title fight, Judah had squandered his early three point lead.
In the third, Judah began throwing punches again, but wasn't landing any more than when he was just posing. For nearly the entire frame, Judah fired jabs, lefts and right hooks that all came about half a foot from landing. Bergman was more successful, launching a number of lead right hands followed by stinging left hooks which landed flush. Three or four such hooks cracked firmly into Judah's chin. Bergman banked another round and evened the fight up.
Zab Judah was clearly having an off night. The fourth round was more of the same. Judah's defense was effective, but his offense was almost nil. Wasting another minute without throwing, Judah finally launched a killer left hand that rocked Bergman and sent him reeling across the ring on bad legs. As Bergman backed himself into a neutral corner, Judah fired punches with reckless abandon. A few of the early blows went through Bergman's guard, but mostly his attempts were caught on the gloves and arms of the challenger. No matter: Bergman could not stand up under the pressure and slid his back down the turnbuckle and onto the canvas. Referee Steve Smoger stood over Bergman and counted. Alert but in pain, Bergman simply let him reach 10. Judah KO4.
When Judah (22-0/17) showed his wares, he showed why many have selected him as a future pound-for-pound entrant. But tonight his inexperience was as evident as his handspeed. Fighting in spurts, getting caught with punches he should have easily avoided, and looking unusually dry during the contest, Judah solidified his claim to the IBF's championship belt while showing that he still has a bit of work to do.
In the main event, two time division boss Kostya Tszyu spent seven and a half rounds pounding on tough as nails challenger Ahmed Santos until Santos eventually called it quits. It was a one-sided but listless performance from Tszyu. Looking powerful but slow, perhaps Tszyu's tenure at 140 may be coming to a close.
In the first round, Tszyu started quickly as usual, clubbing his opponent with his trademark heavy punches. Also as usual, Tszyu simply had no answer for the right hand, which Santos was able to land clean and often. Luckily Santos isn't Vince Phillips, or this might have been a different fight.
But Santos is all chin and no punch, and so Tszyu broke him down one round at a time. As Santos fired wild, sometimes slapping, punches to Kostya's body and arms, Tszyu was more efficient, landing deliberate straight right hands and wrecking ball left hooks to Santos' chin. Tszyu was missing some zip and his combinations didn't flow, but he got the job done against an opponent who was acquitting himself nicely.
Santos was outclassed from the start, but he stood his ground and tried his best. Lacking the power to earn some respect, Santos hoped to overwhelm Tszyu with upper body movement and output. It didn't work. Although he landed some good body shots, he also ate most of Tszyu's limited offense. Had the tables been turned, and Tszyu fired lower instead of headhunting, this fight might have been over sooner.
As it was, Santos lasted to the eighth round. By then Tszyu's repeated power punching hand warped Santos' face and sapped his resolve. In the sixth and seventh especially, Santos ate so many consecutive right hands without returning fire, that either or both rounds could have been scored 10-8 sans knockdown.
There was a knockdown in the eighth, however, when Tszyu attempted an uppercut only to find the punch land squarely on his opponent's chin and take his knees out from under him. Santos looked like he might not get up, but eventually rose at 8 and tried to hold on. Tired and reeling, Santos bent over as he came to Tszyu, caught a punch in the back of the head, fell down, and that was it. Referee Frank Cappuccino didn't even count. Tszyu's punch was technically illegal, but caused mostly by Santos bending over, and so no penalty was called. No matter. Santos was done, having absorbed a steady stream of punches.
Tszyu (24-1-1/20) was the first to admit that it was not one of his better fights. Coming through the ropes 12 pounds over his official weight, perhaps the effort to stay at 140 sapped him of some of his speed. It didn't sap him of any power, however, as Tszyu remains one of the most wicked punchers in any division.
140 is now a hotbed of activity. Champions Tszyu, Judah, Sharmba Mitchell and Randall Bailey have all shown the ability to score big knockouts, but have all demonstrated consistent holes in their games. Add into the mix Arturo Gatti, Hector Camacho Jr., and Vivian Harris and you have a boatload of fights that could go either way. All of these fighters can hurt and can be hurt. So enough already, let's see some showdowns!
Tszyu and Judah win crossroad matches
Boxing is being made a mockery of, this Showtime Championship Boxing card proved that to the nth degree. Kostya Tszyu and Zab Judah, undoubtedly the two best 140-pounders in boxing, are headlining a card in seperate matches instead of in a match against each other.
The Brooklyn Native Judah opened the show by becoming the fourth '96 U.S. Olympian to win a professional boxing title. This came after IBF Jr Welterweight Champ Terron Millett broke his hand and had to put the title up between Judah and #2-ranked Jan Bergman.
Judah took two rounds less to dispose of the South African than did one Kostya Tszyu back in 1996 when Tszyu held the same belt that Judah won tonight.
Zab floored Bergman twice in the first round. But, as many have made this mistake before, he got too flamboyent and was taken off his feet for the first time in his short career after a solid left hook in the second frame. However, Judah went right back to work and was stalking Bergman by the end of the same round. By the fourth, Judah was able to floor his opponent once more, prompting the stoppage late in the round.
Judah is now 22-0 w/1 no-contest and 17 kayo's, following in the footsteps of preceding '96 Olympians turned pro champions: Floyd Mayweather (October '98), Fernando Vargas (December '98), and David Reid (March '99). Bergman fell to 38-3.
On the other side of the coin, heavy-handed Tszyu was able to break down Ahmed Santos after eight rounds. I'm not doing blow-by-blow here, and until the eigth, there was nothing special about Tszyu picking away at the Mexican Santos.
The Russian-Aussie twice downed Ahmed in what would be the last round, making his record 24-1-1 with 20 knockouts in his first defense of the WBC title he won by starching Miguel Angel Gonzalez last August. Santos dropped to 25-3-4.
I thought I might point this out in closing. Nothing can describe how baffled I was to hear that Julio Cesar Chavez is the mandatory contendor for a belt he has no chance of winning. The same Chavez who was destroyed by Willy Wise only four monthes ago. Chavez may be a legend, but this shouldn't be how legends go down.
Professional Record of Kostya Tszyu
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