One of the more interesting things about the Danny Garcia vs. Zab Judah bout this weekend, is that if you were to ask fans at random, you’d get varying answers as to whether or not the fight itself is all that interesting.
In many sporting realms, rivalries can serve to add interest to what is otherwise a drab match up. And if rivalries do indeed aid in rescuing sporting events from the world of the mundane, Garcia vs. Judah may prove to be salvageable.
Much of the bout’s intrigue, if there was much to begin with, has been amplified by the constant feuding between Judah and both Danny Garcia and his father, Angel. Writer George Eliot said in “Middlemarch,” her highly regarded novel dealing with social issues, “It’s a father’s duty to give his sons a fine chance.” And indeed, it would seem to be the quirks and eccentricities of their fathers that have led these sons to the gate they now stand before.
Philadelphia vs. Brooklyn doesn’t figure in to the all-time best boxing feuds mix. The last time Philly and Brooklyn had to tussle for control was when Joey Giardello vivisected his roots to sculpt his in-ring style.
This feud isn’t so much about geography as it is perceived respect — the same respect Angel Garcia and Zab’s father (and on again, off again trainer) have raised their sons to constantly seek.
Zab, 42-7 (29 KO) and two no contests, was brought up primarily by Yoel Judah, a Hebrew Israelite and former kickboxing world champion. Zab and his six brothers all followed in the same footsteps as their great uncle, former world champion Johnny Saxton, and stepped into the ring at the behest of their father, who has often referred to himself as “their best friend.”
A single father for most of his children’s lives, Yoel has had to find a balance between the same type of temper that directed him toward a mid-fight melee involving a few generations of Mayweathers, and the discipline that helped him to take care of his flock alone.
In terms of his boxing existence, Zab himself seems to swing back and forth between the brilliance of the sport, and the epitome of its “black eyes.” One moment he’s choking officials and the next he’s turning in a classy performance against someone that’s been tabbed to at least give him a hard time. In facing Garcia, he’s presented with another chance to nudge the pendulum toward the side of redemption.
Equally outspoken as both a father and friend to his son is Angel Garcia. Since Danny’s first training session in a boxing gym at 10-years-old, Angel has trained his son and guided him through about 120 reported amateur fights and a 25-0 (16 KO) professional ledger. But not long before both Angel and Danny stepped into the same gym to train, Angel spent a few years locked up for a drug charge.
Not unlike the relationship between Zab Judah and his pop, Danny Garcia and his dad seem to have a bond that transcends your average father-son link. On a Showtime quick video special called “Father & Son,” Angel recently said, “When Danny was born, he was born with the umbilical cord around his neck, basically he was suffocating — he was hanging himself. So when he was born… When the doctor told me they heard him breathing again, I was like, ‘Wow.’ So I knew right then, Danny was gifted.”
Danny also explained that he grew up fighting to and from school, alongside his brother. His tag team partner in the last few skirmishes, however, has been Angel.
In besting a bitterly-aged Erik Morales twice, and felling Amir Khan, Angel played a key role in diverting attention and drawing fire away from critics who charge that Garcia’s ledger looks better than it truly is. That Garcia is a unified champion or a legitimate, “only” champion is debatable, and the circumstances by which those belts found him were odd, at best. But he and his father have become something of an attraction nonetheless.
The issue here, though, is that the only thing Zab Judah does consistently well is inconsistency. From fight to fight, it’s difficult to say which Judah will show up, or how exactly he’ll react to being pushed. At his best, he dismantles Vernon Paris or bombs out Cory Spinks. At his worst, he looks for ways out of fights, and then comes swiftly undone.
This time, at 34, Judah is facing the man who decked his most recent conqueror, in addition to having just about all of the intangibles decidedly against him. The hesitancy to accept Garcia as a true frontrunner lurks in the shadow of our inability to trust Judah against a high quality opponent — even after Garcia’s postponement of the bout due to a rib injury.
At a minimum, Garcia has never experienced failure as a professional. While that can be a boon, it has also been pointed to by the Judah camp as evidence that Garcia is still young in the sport. If there’s nothing else to kick Judah’s way, it’s that Garcia doesn’t exactly bring much that the veteran hasn’t already seen. For crying out loud, Judah snagged a string of rounds from Floyd Mayweather, Jr. …he just couldn’t keep up the charade.
In reality this fight may not decide a whole lot in the deep, chessboard-like junior welterweight division, but the father thing may be enough to boost some numbers, even though the overall intrigue appears to be somewhat low.
No matter the outcome, the meeting between two junior welterweights on Saturday will determine the sum of these two fathers’ work. And no matter the outcome, both can go home soaked in vicarious pride.