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Judah Thrills Fans, Ravages Millett

Chris Bushnell
The 140 lb. division, a.k.a. the junior welterweight division, a.k.a. the super lightweight division, may not be one of the classic eight weight classes, but it is a hotbed of talent.  Kostya Tszyu, Zab Judah, Sharmba Mitchell, Hector Camacho, Jr. Ener Julio, Randall Bailey, Diobelys Hurtado, Mickey Ward, Antonio Diaz, Miguel Angel Gonzalez and (sometimes) Arturo Gatti all fight in the division.  Despite the number of potential matchups, only one really means anything right now:  Zab Judah vs. Kostya Tszyu.  The two men universally regarded as the two best must face off.

Zab Judah openly asked for a Tszyu fight in the ring after knocking out former titlist Terronn Millett in a short sizzling contest.  Coming on the heels of Tszyu's highlight-reel KO of Julio Cesar Chavez, Judah's brawl only makes the eventual unification all the more enticing.  Promoters take note:  the fans are demanding this fight.

As for Millett, he didn't go down without swinging.  In the first round, both men locked eyes and began a deadly dance of feints and footwork.  As Judah fired out his rocket jab, Millett showed sharp reflexes with quick counters that missed.  After about a minute, Judah followed one of his laser jabs with a dazzling straight left to the body.  Millett didn't even have time to react.  A few second later, Judah one-twoed again, this time planting a heavy straight left on Millett's face.  Terronn backed up, and Judah was on top of him.  Uncorking wicked handspeed and lethal accuracy, Zab Judah began hammering Millett in combination.  It looked like it might be an early night.  But after having Millett out on his feet for a sustained stretch, Judah got caught.  A left hook from Millett slammed Judah after a rare miss, and Zab was on the canvas.  The crowd in Connecticut's Mohegan Sun was screaming with delight.  Judah got up quickly, took a deep breath, and retreated for the final 10 seconds of the round.  BoxingChronicle scored it 10-9 for Millett because of the shellacking he took prior to the knockdown.

Judah was noticeably more respectful when the second round began.  Choosing to cut back on his flagrant aggression and begin anew with his piston jab, Judah slowed the pace down a bit.  Millett took a few more chances now, no doubt feeling that Judah could be hurt with a single blow.  But halfway through the round, Judah again dazzled his opponent with his speed.  In the blink of an eye, Judah fired a one-two from his southpaw stance and Millett was instantly on his back on the canvas.  He leapt to his feet immediately, and was allowed to continue.  But Judah was not finished. 

Judah stormed Millett and unleashed everything in his considerable arsenal.  Judah's straight left was snapping Millett's head and his sneak right hook landed from a variety of angles across Millett's face.  Judah was throwing these punches, plus short uppercuts and thudding body blows, in combination.  Millett was out on his feet.  Staggering on his heels several times, it was amazing that he made it out of the round.  BoxingChronicle was tempted to score the stanza 10-7 for Judah, because the punishment after the knockdown was severe, but settled on 10-8.

Whatever confidence Judah might have lost by being floored in the first was now gone.  In fact, he swelled with arrogance.  For the first half of round three, Judah was content to blast Millett with one-two after one-two.  His left cross was so heavy that it drew repeated gasps from the audience.  Make no mistake, Judah is a power puncher.  Zab was on his way to scoring a 10-8 round without a knockdown when the Pernell in him showed up.  Judah did a little dance when Millett threw a punch over his slip, and began picking off Millett despite pinning his gloves to his waist.  Millett hit Judah with a right hand on the jaw the first time he clowned, and backed him up with another wild right when Judah kept his hands down a bit too long.

In the fourth, Judah was not only clowning, he was having a full conversation with manager Shelley Finkel, who was seated in the first row.  Judah turned his head to look at Finkel and Millett threw a lead right that pushed Judah back a few steps.  Judah spoke back to Finkel, and again Millett hit him with a glancing blow.  For a guy who was down on one punch in the first, this was especially arrogant behavior.  Maybe Finkel was shouting out that he had bet the under, because Judah immediately went about stopping the fight.  After landing a few more head snapping one-twos, Judah again let his hands go.  A big left at the end of one flurry turned Millett's head, then his body, and then he fell face first to the canvas.  Millett arose stunned, but beat the count. 

Judah again trounced Millett, and again it was amazing that Millett was able to remain standing.  Millett was flat out getting pummeled.  After every five or six blows from Judah, Millett would attempt a Hail Mary swing, but none came close to landing.  After missing one big swing, an almost squared-up Judah hit Millett with a crushing right hand to the side of the head.  It was a brutal shot coming after a series of brutal shots, and it made Millett stand straight up.  Millett returned another wild right, and again he missed.  The momentum of his miss threw him to the canvas, where he landed on all fours.  Controversy followed.

Although Millett had been blasted with a jarring right hook only a second before he went down, it was not the punch that had Millett on the canvas.  It was the telegraphed attempt at return fire that missed.  The referee, however, ruled it a knockdown and began counting.  Millett rose to his feet, and although he had not been punched down, he was wobbly.  After a few crooked steps, he hopped in place to revive his knees.  Looking at the ref, he took the full eight count.  He followed the referee's instructions to come forward and answered affirmatively that he wanted to continue.  But ref Michael Ortega took a good hard look at Millett's eyes and waved the fight off.  "No more," he declared.  Judah KO4.

This was a call that will spark much discussion.  Indeed it was a controversial call.  Millett should not have had a count on him to begin with, and appeared to pass the tests the referee gave him to demonstrate that he could continue.  But there is also ample evidence that the call was a good one.  The referee clearly saw a problem in Millett's eyes. More importantly, Millett did not protest the stoppage. 

Worse, in a post-fight interview, Millett seemed to think that a punch had sent him down.  Of the knockdown, Millett said "he hit me with a real good shot."  Perhaps Millett felt that the knockdown was a result of the heavy right he ate a moment before dining on canvas. Whether or not the stoppage was early, Millett was on the way out.  Judah was unabashedly attacking Millett, and a continuation of the fight would have only brought an even uglier finale. 

Judah, now 24-0-1NC/18, and Tszyu have both called out for a showdown.  Both fighters are signed to Showtime cable deals.  Both men want the bout.  Will
it happen?  Boxing fans can only hope...and demand.  Jay Larkin, listen up:  make the fight, already.

On the undercard of Judah-Millett, Juan Lazcano was gifted a split decision over surprisingly able Jesse James Leija.  Leija has looked slow in his last few outings, and isn't getting any younger at 34 years of age with 46 professional fights on his resume.  Still, he showed up in peak condition and very prepared for the young Lazcano.

Lazcano was swept in the first half of the bout.  Despite following his instructions to double up on his jab, Lazcano took two rounds to get his right to follow his stick, and even then couldn't throw his left hook to save his life.  Boxers talk of having bad nights, and this was clearly the case with Lazcano.  He had no rhythm in the first six rounds, and except for a tightly contested fourth round, did little to stop Leija from outworking, outlanding, and outboxing him.  Leija simply picked his spots and pounded Lazcano on the sides.  By the sixth, he was also including Lazcano's face and chin among his targets.  It was a sweep.

Lazcano remembered he had a good left hook in the seventh round.  In fact, as soon as he threw it, he realized that he couldn't miss with it.  Finally winning a round with a series of hooks that jump-started Lazcano's combinations, the Hispanic Causing Panic looked to be starting a rally.  But in the eighth, Lazcano let Leija off the hook.  At a time when the veteran was tiring and the younger man (by 10 years) was coming on, Lazcano didn't press the action.  Leija was allowed to rest and Lazcano again lost his pacing.  With another round in the books for Leija, Lazcano needed a kayo to win.

It was not to be.  Despite coming on slightly in the ninth and tenth rounds, Lazcano didn't have nearly enough to stop the rugged Leija.  Throughout the 10 round fight, Lazcano had ignored virtually all body work.  As a result, Leija's stamina was barely tested.  By the final bell, despite Jesse James dropping the final two rounds to Lazcano, BoxingChronicle had Leija up 97-94.  Then the scorecards were read.  96-94 Leija (acceptable), 96-94 Lazcano (unjust) and 97-93 Lazcano (absolutely unconscionable).  Lazcano W10 Split.

Plain and simple, the house fighter was protected.  Leija knew it, the crowd knew it, and even a humble and embarrassed Lazcano knew it.  But it's the
kind of bias that happens weekly in boxing, so why is anyone surprised?

In other weekend bouts, Eric Morel thoroughly outclassed Sornpichai Kratingdeangym to take the WBA flyweight title by unanimous decision.  Morel is a masterful boxer, and truly put on a showcase of the sweet science with his dominating win.  Kratingdeangym was a strong puncher, and he hurt Morel when he hit him.  Morel just didn't get hit very much.  Bending in all directions at the waist, and blocking punches with his elbows and gloves, Morel showed excellent defense.  He also showed a stiff jab, a variety of punches, the ability to throw with confidence in combination, and the footwork to make it all look soooo easy.  Morel might have damaged his right hand halfway through the contest, as he seemed to be beating the Thai ex-champ with one hand.  The final three rounds were all jabs and hooks for Morel, and he still won the rounds easily. 

On the undercard to that contest, WBA junior feather belt owner Bones Adams
beat on tough Andres Fernandez for six rounds before the doctor stopped the
fight because of Fernandez's multiple cuts.  Adams showed decent power and an impressive body attack, but he is not the flashiest of fighters.  Despite his
faults, he would still be an interesting opponent for fellow titlist Marco Antonio Barrera.  Adams' height and reach would make for a wonderful styles matchup.

On this weekend of so many bouts, at least the Judah-Millett capper met expectations.  Next week we have Evander Holyfield vying for an illegitimate
"world title" against an illegitimate #1 contender.  It doesn't matter if some of this weekend's bout weren't nearly as exciting as Judah-Millett.  BoxingChronicle would rather watch those any day of the week over Holyfield-Ruiz.  Either Evander wins and mocks history by calling himself a four-time champion or we have to bear the thought of Ruiz being forever listed as a former heavyweight champion of the world.  Where is the Hepatitis outbreak when you need it?

Quotes of the night:

Steve Albert:  "Although it's almost become a cliche, Judah is 'Pernell Whitaker with power'."  (Steve, how can you possibly justify the word "almost")

Reporter Tony Paige to Millett after Millett proposed to his girlfriend on the air:  "That's nice, but what did you think about the fight?"

.....Chris Bushnell

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