BROOKLYN — The acrimony between the camps of RING, WBA and WBC junior welterweight champ Danny Garcia and ex-titleholder Zab Judah began during December’s initial press conference at New York’s Gallagher’s Steak House announcing their fight, where insults were mostly exchanged between Judah and Garcia’s fiery father and trainer, Angel Garcia.
It resumed, yet again, on Tuesday at a Modell’s sports outlet in downtown Brooklyn, where the Garcias accused Judah of interrupting a promotional event involving Danny and a couple other Golden Boy Promotion fighters on Saturday night’s Showtime-televised card at Barclays Center.
So concerned were the organizers of Garcia-Judah, that they decided to hold separate final press conferences on Thursday at Barclays Center, with Garcia to go first following the undercard fighters, and Judah to be second, according to Golden Boy President Oscar De La Hoya.
Things appeared to have gone as planned until midway through Garcia’s portion of Thursday’s event, when De La Hoya informed the gathered media members of “confirmation that team Zab Judah just left.”
“For me, personally, I’m not speaking for anybody else, but for me, personally, it’s unprofessional, obviously. This is a boxing event, and both fighters will be fighting inside of the ring, not outside,” said De La Hoya.
“But so be it. As long as nothing happens outside of the ring, and everything is great, then we have a fight on Saturday night. But it’s a little bit unprofessional.”
Garcia said he would have preferred facing Judah.
“I’m a little disappointed because I couldn’t wait to look into his eyes and to snatch the soul right out of his body. I just couldn’t wait to look into his eyes,” said Garcia, who is 25 with a mark of 25-0 and 16 knockouts.
“Because everybody’s tough when they’ve got 20 people with them, I mean, come on now. Anybody is going to act like a tough guy. But at the end of the day, it’s going to be me and him, and that’s all that matters.”
Meanwhile, Judah (42-7, 29 KOs) was in a car with team and family members, with whom he read the comments of De La Hoya as well as those of Garcia as they drove.
An angry Judah, 35, returned after Garcia’s press conference to offer an intense rebuttal to his rival’s comments, saying he was convinced to do so following a telephone conversation with Stephen Espinoza, executive vice president and general manager of Showtime Sports.
“We were in the car on the way back to the hotel, and I look on Twitter and I see De La Hoya making comments that I’m running and I’m non-professional,” said Judah, a Brooklyn resident who initially refused to shake De La Hoya’s hand during his turn at the podium. “I have been here since 11 a.m. in the damn basement. When I got here, the VIP people told us that my waiting room was down in the basement. That’s where they told us to go to. All of my family members were there. There was no food, no water. They didn’t give us no complimentary food here. They didn’t bring us nothing.”
“So I left. I mean, why would I stay here all of this time? I felt disrespected. Then, I got halfway to the hotel, and I saw what De La Hoya was saying on Twitter, and I said, ‘Oh, you’re not going to do that to me.’ Not to me in my city. That’s not going to happen. I don’t know who would stay there. I was there for two and a half hours. I called Stephen Espinoza, and I said, ‘I don’t know what’s going on, or who the guy is that they’re trying to make me out to be, but it’s not true. It’s far from whatever they’re saying about me.’ So he said, ‘Well, Zab, come back,’ and I came back.”
De La Hoya called the move to hold separate press conferences “a team decision within Golden Boy and everybody involved,” adding, “with Al Haymon, we just thought it was the right thing to do.”
Although the New York State Athletic Commission director Melvina Lathan was notified of the decision, De La Hoya said Team Judah team was not involved.
“This is an unconventional way of doing the press conference. But there is tension in the air from the other side, and we have to do things like this, but obviously, the show is going to go on,” said De La Hoya.
“We definitely have a fight Saturday night. We want to see a fight on Saturday night, because it’s such a great matchup and such a great event, but we just didn’t want to risk anything.”
Judah still expressed disatisfaction with the move.
“I was told that we were going to be separated 20 minutes before I left. Listen, I’ve been a part of boxing for 17 years. I’ve been a part of some big fights. Mike Tyson versus Lennox Lewis. Nobody got crazier than that, and they didn’t do that. I was a part of the press conference when Bernard Hopkins snatched the flag [from Felix Trinidad] in Puerto Rico,” said Judah.
“They didn’t do nothing like that, and that was dangerous. You could have lost your life. I want everybody to know that this has nothing to do with Zab Judah and the Latino people of the world or the Puerto Rican people of the world, because I have friends with me right now that are Puerto Rican. My son is Puerto Rican. My wife is Puerto Rican, I mean, come on, it’s got nothing to do with them. It’s got something to do with Danny Garcia and his dope-headed dad. That’s it.”
Garcia-Judah was initially scheduled for Feb. 9 before Garcia’s rib injury forced its postponement. But for Saturday night, Garcia declared himself “injury free, solid, confident and really motivated for this fight.”
“I think that I’m just the most motivated that I’ve ever been for a fight,” said Garcia. “I’ve been feeling real strong, my vision is really good, I grew to be a heckuva dangerous fighter. More dangerous than I was before. So I’m smarter now, and, most of all, on Saturday night, I’m going to be smart. I’m going to just destroy. My main mission is to destroy. That’s what I do. I don’t have to talk. I don’t have to talk because I know I can fight. People know when they come to watch Danny Garcia, they’re going to see either one of the best 12-round fights, or the best knockout of the year.”
“You can say what you want to say. Danny Garcia doesn’t have enough experience. He’s slow, he’s not technical, he’s flat-footed, but it don’t matter when you get hit. Can you take a Danny Garcia hit? Can you out-think Danny Garcia? They’re playing checkers, I’m playing chess. Come Saturday night, it’s going to be another epic performance by Team Garcia, and we’re going to get the job done. I’m really motivated, and I’m ready to take him to deep water and drown him. I’m ready to take him to dark, North Philly and beat the s-t out of him, because that’s what I’m going to do.”
Angel Garcia’s opening comments included an apology to “Modell’s about yesterday,” adding, “that was uncalled for and unnecessary. Sometimes, you’ve got arrogant people in the world that you can’t just stop them from doing arrogant things.”
“Danny’s ready 100 percent mentally and physically. Saturday night, Zab’s still going to be the loser that he is. He ain’t going to be a winner. This is not about Brooklyn or Philly, it’s about being The King of The East Coast. And Danny is the East Coast King. Zab can talk all he wants. He’s trying to scare us and threaten us like he’s supposed to take our heart,” said Angel Garcia.
“But it’s not about me and him, it’s about him and Danny. He’s underestimating Danny and he doesn’t see the truth. The truth is that Danny’s still going to be a champion for a long time. On Saturday, we’re going to shut all of you up. There is no Zab this, Zab that. Zab used to be. Used to be. Now, we have a new era of fighters. A new era of champions.”
“The fight’s going to go the way that I want it to go,” said Judah. “My jab is too fast. My speed is too incredible. My defense is impeccable. I can’t be stopped right now. I wouldn’t be fired up right now like this if I wasn’t ready. I’m ready. You guys have never questioned my skill. Can he fight? Oh yeah, he can fight. Is he going to be in shape? Oh, we don’t know. Is he going to be able to last the 12 rounds? That’s what we want to find out. But my conditioning is good. I’ve trained in Las Vegas at 17,000 feet [sic] of altitude.”
“I’m not worried about this. We’re on sea level. It’s nothing to me. It could go 12 rounds, but I’m going to dominate. I’m going to win every round. I’m going to let him know that this is not what you’re supposed to do. Danny Garcia is a good little fighter, it’s just that right now, it’s not his time. He ran into the wrong person. He’s just 25 years old. He’s got a lot of time to bounce back. Maybe when he gets 35 years old, he can be standing here fighting somebody else telling them, ‘Yeah, I remember fighting Zab Judah back at the Barclays, and experience taught me.’”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com