HANDS DOWN, JUDAH BLEW IT
Gleason’s Gym, home to Zab Judah, was like a mortuary two days after their guy’s November 3 fight. The 24-year-old boxer from Brooklyn embarrassed himself when Kostya Tszyu (28-1-1, 23 KOs), a Russian now living in Australia, knocked him out in the second round of their junior welterweight unification match. Among the fighters at Gleason’s who were conducting a whispered postmortem was a boxer who was with Judah, and he was harsh in his opinion. “Things gotta change,” he said. “No more showboating. Time to get back to the basics.” Everyone knew what he meant: Keep your damn hands up when you fight!
The bout was supposed to be a coming-out party for Judah (27-1-1, 21 KOs). But he had a confidence problem: too much of it. In fights with Jan Bergman and Terron Millett, he dropped his hands and gyrated his hips to the delight of the crowd and was consequently knocked down for his foolery. He won both fights but showed a penchant for disrespecting his opponents. He started giving the 32-year-old Tszyu the same drill before their fight when he likened Tszyu’s defense to “Swiss cheese.”
The press only egged Judah on. Sports Illustrated anointed him the fresh prince of boxing in an 11-page spread, and ESPN’s Max Kellerman called him a Pernell Whitaker with punch.
Showtime, which televises Judah’s fights, knew better. Mindful of his flaws, the cable network’s execs matched him carefully, putting him in against virtual unknowns while they threw Tszyu to the wolves. All told, Judah faced one former champion, while Tszyu battled 11. Experience-wise, as it turned out, it was man versus boy.
In the second round of their fight, Tszyu closed in fast on Judah and clipped him with a straight right hand while the Brooklyn kid’s hands were down. Judah fell hard, and the fight was stopped.
The stoppage looked premature, but it didn’t matter. Judah fought the first two rounds as if he expected Tszyu to cooperate with him, but Tszyu didn’t know that he was in there to lose. He apparently hadn’t read the SI article or listened to Kellerman. He knocked Judah down once and looked like he could do it again. Tszyu never believed the hype. He believed in himself.
LOOKING ON THE BRIGHT SIDE
Even Richard Schiff (The West Wing‘s Toby) wearing a Yankees cap onstage at the Emmys couldn’t save Game 7 of the World Series for New York. Now that it’s all over, here are our 2001 season highlights: (1) The kooky June weeks when three of the Yanks’ five starters had to be dredged up from Triple-A. They might as well have given the ball to Luis Sojo—something Joe Torre admitted he almost did during Andy Pettitte‘s disastrous Game 6. Come back, Randy Keisler, all is forgiven! (2) Shane Spencer‘s fielding. The Shmoo surprised everyone with his belly flop/catch in Game 3. Afterward, Roger Clemens waited by the dugout to thank him. “That’s the most exciting part, seeing ‘the Hoss’ there,” gushed Spencer. “You can’t even understand him! He mumbles and will yell at you.” (3) The awesome grumpiness of Mike Mussina, who answers questions like an old man with the gout. In September, moments after losing a perfecto by one out, he was interviewed on national TV. Jon Miller: When did you realize you might be pitching a perfect game? Mussina: [Rolls eyes] Like, every inning.
We should have seen it coming: Seattle was such a friendly place, even to New Yorkers, that victory over those softhearted slobs was inevitable. The desert, on the other hand, is always harsh. Did Yankee fans get a false sense of security from warm and fuzzy Seattle? It seems like only the other day that we donned a pinstriped jersey and NY cap and stood on line outside Safeco Field before the first two games of the ALCS. After our overnight experience, we came away smug.
The first sign was that there was hardly a person on line in outdoorsy Seattle without a fancy tent or some high-tech sleeping bag. In the Bronx, if you show up on line with so much as an old folding chair, you’re instantly marked as a wuss. Oh, yeah, and you’ll never see that chair again once the queue starts moving.
But in Seattle, everyone was just so . . . friendly. And not just to one another. We were allowed to cut in line, and they even started calling us “New York,” as in “Hey, New York, you want a beer? No? How about a rum and Coke?”
Maybe it was a post-September 11 thing. But we don’t think so. It’s Seattle. They were just too nice. Which meant their club was doomed from the get-go. Even with blustery Yankee fans among them, they couldn’t get going. Whatever. Maybe if they didn’t play in a baseball stadium-cum-theme park they could get it up.
Phoenix was another story, despite having a ballpark named BOB that has a swimming pool in the bleachers. Have you forgotten that owner Jerry Colangelo, like many other Arizonans, is nothing but an abrasive transplant from Chicago? As it turned out, the friendliest thing about the Diamondbacks was BOB. And it was the Yanks who got the dunking.
Contributors: Mitch Abramson, J. Yeh, Miles D. Seligman Sports Editor: Ward Harkavy