According to RingTV.com’s Lem Satterfield, current lineal junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia and his team have struck a deal to face former champion Zab Judah. Interestingly, the location of Garcia-Judah could come in familiar confines for both fighters:
We have finalized the terms for a fight between Danny Garcia and Zab Judah, said [Richard] Schaefer of Garcia, who headlined the first-ever boxing event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn last month. It's going to be on Jan. 19 on Showtime, and I'm currently holding the Barclays Center.
Judah (42-7, 29 KO), of course, is a Brooklyn native, and Garcia (25-0, 16 KO) made a significant splash in his title defense at the Barclays Center when he practically decapitated Erik Morales with a picture perfect left hook. In terms of marketability, electing to stage Garcia-Judah at the Barclays Center with the Ring, WBC and WBA titles on the line makes sound fiscal sense.
Economics aside, is the prospect of Garcia-Judah a letdown?
Well, the answer is a somewhat complicated one. The fact that Garcia had to contest a second fight against Morales (52-9, 36 KO)—who was a tremendous champion but has clearly seen better days—due to a rematch clause left many feeling disgruntled. Popular opinion seemed to suggest that Garcia, as a young, talented champion, should be facing the other prime contender in his weight class.
Of course, Garcia legally owed Morales a rematch, but after destroying the Mexican legend and future Hall of Famer, it appeared that the path had been cleared for Garcia to face the likes of Lucas Matthysse, Marcos Maidana (who has been recently campaigning at welterweight) or Mike Alvarado.
The selection of Judah as Garcia’s next opponent could prove to be a divisive one, and much of this has to do with how one feels about Judah’s current status as a contender. Two fights ago, Judah was thoroughly dominated in a unification bout against Amir Khan, a fighter whom Garcia stopped in four rounds.
After getting knocked out in the fifth round by Khan, it appeared that Judah’s time as a relevant, championship-level fighter had come to an end. Then, in his last fight, Judah looked sharp in stopping Vernon Paris in nine rounds in a title eliminator. But should this bounce-back win be enough to secure Judah a lineal title shot?
At 35, Judah is certainly past his prime, but that hardly means he doesn’t pose a threat or challenge to Garcia. A naturally gifted boxer, Judah is a fighter blessed with speed and explosive power, especially at 140 pounds. Also, as a southpaw, Judah presents the kind of challenge and test that Garcia, as a young champion, eventually needs to pass.
It is reasonable to suspect that Judah will put forth a more competitive effort than Morales did against Garcia. Morales, it seemed, had aged badly since his first fight with Garcia, and if Judah’s bout against Paris (26-1, 15 KO) is any indication, he appears to have some fight left in him.
Perhaps, challenging for the title in Brooklyn will provide Judah with some extra motivation, and the fight could serve as a means to further enhance Garcia’s profile.
It is understandable to want Garcia to fight the likes of Matthysse immediately. That would undoubtedly be an excellent, world-class bout, and it should happen at some point. On the other hand, in terms of developing Garcia as a champion, there’s no need to rush.
This is not to suggest that Garcia should continue to fight former champions in their mid-30s. Fans will quickly lose patience with Garcia if this becomes the case, and there is no indication that Garcia and his team intend to protect him. As a lineal champion, there is only so much maneuvering one can do.
As a former IBF and WBO junior welterweight titlist and lineal welterweight champion, Judah deserves respect, even if his performances have been uneven in recent years. At 24, Garcia can still benefit from fighting an experienced and talented boxer like Judah.
Garcia seems to be on a meticulously crafted career path that has, thus far, been sound. In terms of his development as a fighter, there is no evidence to condemn his team’s choices; while public opinion about Garcia-Judah will vary, it can be a successful fight from an economic and pure boxing standpoint. And don’t completely count Judah out.
However, Garcia and his team have been put on notice. If Garcia defeats Judah impressively, he will have no choice but to step up and fight his elite contemporaries. Contesting genuine mega-fights is a stage few fighters actually arrive at. Garcia, for now, seems to be giving himself the best chance to someday achieve this status. All he needs now is a bit more patience.