It seems peculiar to consider Welterweight contenders Zab Judah and Miguel Cotto as members of consecutive generations rather than the same one, only three years separate the births of the two popular fighters after all, but Cotto is unequivocally the ‘going’ concern in their clash this weekend.
Judah has been contesting world title’s since he was a precocious 22 year old and seven years on it is hard to fathom the depth of his achievement such has been the fluctuation in his fortunes since then. In truth, he enters this fight as the opponent – the fall guy, the seasoned former champion with a name. It seems slightly premature but it is a role he needs to grow accustomed to if he cannot unearth a victory this weekend.
Cotto meanwhile has different pressures. A prolonged and studious apprenticeship with HBO brings the unbeaten Puerto Rican to the contest with a heavy burden of expectation. Not only is the network expecting a return on their investment, but Cotto’s passionate countrymen and the network that has indulged a protracted stay as a prospect will be urging the 26-year-old to finally fill the void left by their departed hero Felix Trinidad.
Judah, an enigma bereft of the charm to be declared enigmatic, still clings to the aspirations of his youth, to the notion he still has the luxury of time to deliver on his undoubted potential. At 29, Judah’s prime may already be passed. His opportunities missed. Such is his arrogance and willingness to believe he is indestructible and his prime never ending he may not realise the Cotto fight represents his last chance saloon.
Contemporaries like Floyd Mayweather and Erik Morales successfully plotted rewarding paths through multiple divisions while the erratic Judah lurched from one disappointment to another. Craving respect as a ‘face’ with his shallow gangster façade Judah failed to apply dedication to the undoubted gifts with which he was born. He failed his own graduation bout with Kostya Tszyu because he lacked the mental fortitude to adhere to a fight plan and further soiled his own reputation and that of the sport with his childish behaviour in the aftermath of the stoppage. And yet here he is again, despite consecutive defeats to Carlos Baldomir, a loss reflective of Judah’s arrogant view of his opponent and the talent that he frequently abuses, and Floyd Mayweather.
If he realises the importance of finally delivering on his talent and has designed a solid fight plan he has a chance in the bout, because he will have the advantage in hand-speed and has the power to keep Cotto honest. But he’s too erratic to support. Cotto is stronger at the weight, possesses a better chin and the rounded game to wear Judah down late.