Ringside with Boxing’s Biggest Expert (Part Two)

By Michael Schmidt on July 23, 2011
Ringside with Boxing’s Biggest Expert (Part Two)
I will not forget that instant look of defeat on Zab Judah's mom's face (Chris Cozzone)

I am right off the corner and Sweet Pea is giving it to Zab, “Fight back! Fight back!” Judah bleeding and family, mom and kids are crying…

Ringside, ringside, seat numero uno by the ring post, sitting with boxing’s biggest expert, Frank. “Listen Chief (Schmidty has been elevated to a chief in a single bound, now for tall buildings!), if Judah sits outside doing the shake, shimmy, and roll shoulder thing it’s going to be the Paulie (Malignaggi) fight all over again except Judah is more dangerous. You don’t think Freddie watched the tapes? I bet he picks the opponent.”

The original idea for this article was to interview a great “expert” and see what happens post-fight summary. That we do luckily in the form of a gent that I have the utmost respect for. His pedigree speaks for itself. To that we will come shortly. We have two experts weighing in!

The only difference between Frank and a bear is somebody has removed his fur and hung it up on mantle in their den somewhere, I suspect.

“Hey Chief, I wonder what Max or Manny thinks over there?” asks Frank, but gets no further as I interject, “Well I don’t know what Max thinks but I can tell you exactly what Manny thinks because he was nice enough to do an interview with me yesterday after the weigh-in and it’s on my digital tape. Listen in Frankie.” Frank looks amused.

I press the button and here he is one of the class acts of boxing, Emanuel Steward, always ready to talk, always a hello: “Zab has to fight a very smart fight, be elusive, be a little more patient than he has in the past, and try to capitalize on Khan being out of position a lot because he (Khan) still fights sometimes amateurish, rushing and punching and without getting proper balance. The key is going to be Khan’s left jab. Khan has to move in a little, but with pressure. He needs to be a little more physical. He’s a bigger man. He’s got to move in with a hard, authoritative jab and fight an intelligent pressure fight.” I ask Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward, “When Khan throws the right hand do you see him possibly off balance then for counters?” Steward answers, “Yes I see him very much off balance. As I say he runs in, he punches with his feet all out of position. He has to correct that for this fight because Zab is going to fight a very intelligent fight.” I ask about the “Sweet Pea” corner. Steward is very clear on this point. “Pernell in Judah’s corner is going to be an asset. Pernell has been his hero all of his life. They have sparred together many rounds (dating back years ago, Steward says, at the Kronk). They have been very familiar with each other, so it’s not like a new situation. Having Pernell is going to give Zab a spiritual lift because that’s his hero.

In summary Emanuel then adds, without picking a winner, “Nevertheless, the youth, size, mobility, still favors Khan. Khan cannot rush in and get out of position. Zab has to take advantage of mistakes. He can’t match Khan speed for speed. Zab has to be very technical and selective with his punches.” In short, this is going to be a very interesting fight.

It is just past three in the afternoon and the undercard is starting. Frank carries on. It’s going to be an entertaining night. Sit back and relax. “It’s good to see you’re out early. Can you imagine being some kid, told you’re gonna be on the big show, and you come out with less of a crowd here? Hell, you would be better to fight at the local baseball field. Exposure, hah, hah.  Hey Chief, do me a good one would ya? Sneak on over and ask one of the ‘experts’ who Boone Kirkman is. I betcha they think it’s one of the audio tech guys for the TV. “This is a test here kid” he chortles close to my ear. I explain I have a picture somewhere in the dungeon back home with Foreman off balance smacking Mr. Kirkman, I think (I hope, or its going to be a long evening), and from the smile on Frank the bear’s face I am good to say, “If you say so Frank. To keep in the spirit of things why don’t you go over and ask if anybody has seen Flash Elorde and see if they look over at the area where the camera guys are already marking their spots of unwritten exclusivity.” Whack! A big bear paw thumps me in the back and more laughing as Frank goes off for a water.

Frank, thankfully I might add, is back and mouths on. “You know Chief, wayyyyyy back in the 1920s Nat ‘The Ring’ Fleischer blabbed on about psychology being a big thing between a fighter and a handler. Hell, these days they have SHRINKS for the fighters. Fuck the handler. Okay, so old Nat said that a boxer sometimes was as good as the corner was making him think he was and the fighter gotta have the utmost confidence in his handler. Well Chief, all that mental shit hasn’t changed and I think Freddie got that going with Khan. Hell, I watched Khan interviewed the other day and he was cooking up some deal that his only loss was due to not being properly hydrated and that it was not the proper weight for him. Seemed like arguments for a long-distance scrap, not a one and under blowout, but hey, if that’s what the kid thinks, terrific. Never met a fighter yet that thought he actually lost. Ooh my toe is bust. I see that Kirkland kid has the Wolfe lady back in the corner. She looks like she could kick some ass here tonight, Chief.” I should have Frank as my ringside partner again as he is making my scribe time a whole lot easier as he motors on. A free “expert” for the night.

Fight notes in short I do have: Hopkins and Calzaghe in attendance, Colonel Bob back and nice to see, Zab’s mother gives me hug, sitting beside me. Round 1—Khan comes out very very fast applying pressure. Round 2—Khan increasing aggression, Judah not firing back. Round 3—Khan’s speed showing and beating Zab with hooks as well. Round 4—Zab’s face showing damage but did land good left at bell. I am right off the corner and Sweet Pea is giving it to Zab, “Fight back! Fight back!” Judah bleeding and family, mom and kids are crying. Round 5—shot is right on the belt line. By the rules legal. Zab not showing any effort to get up.   

I will not forget that instant look of defeat on Zab’s mom’s face. All that hope drained away in a single night. She says later she is okay. “So, Chief, that was a blast,” Frank says with a warm smile. “I got your number and if you’re down my way you always have a place to stay.” I turn to Frank. “What are you going to write up tonight about the fight Frank, if you don’t mind me asking? I might just liberate some of your sound bites” I add. “Write up. Take what you want Chief. Write up. That’s funny. I’m no writer.” I have to ask of course, “Frank, other than this boxing, what do you do?” The “expert” responds, “Well I don’t know what all this write up business is you’re talking about. Hell, I have been watching the fights since Sonny Liston got smacked by Leotis Martin on TV. They say he was out of shape you know. Doing “Love America Style” TV or something. He got love American style okay. Yessirrrr. Just love watching the fights. And of course there is always some sorry asshole like you Chief that comes along to blab fights with. Just kidding, Chief. I am a bricklayer back in Seattle, my hometown.” An “expert” nonetheless I exclaim, which brings one more bear smack, one more bear smile. As good as any, but the bear is not done. “Hey Chief, I got one last one for you. This expert business has me going. They should have a professional boxing expert designation school, like a bricklaying college apprentice thing, where you gotta get qualified. Hoya, now that would be fun to teach. Class, open your book to page two. Do any of you dumb little experts have a clue who Boone Kirkman is? Johnny Internet, how about you? Ricky Radio, how about you? Nancy Newspaper, how about you? Chief, I am the guy, I am telling you. I think Manny had it right but the problem is Khan’s gun is quicker, son. I don’t know.” Indeed Frank, none of us do.

That’s why we come to watch.

This is an interesting town of billion dollar hotels and convention playgrounds, with an interesting neon strip, and rich people uncountable; and, in particular, there is this one hotel/convention playground tonight which is covered with those who, in a lifestyle so far removed from all of this other playground business, looked for fighting glory. “That’s my son. That’s my son.” I will remember that enthusiastic attitude of mom Judah. I look down across the street from this billion dollar baby Mandalay Bay. Like boxing, that short step across the street, a slippery slope to navigate. There is a boarded up, window broken hotel across the street. Somewhere a club fighter dreams his dreams. Me, I am going to hit the sheets. Another long but thankful day coming. Apparently the ticket “benefactor” thinks I still have it when I want to!

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