Harding and Judah to Rumble at Mohegan Sun
By Alex Pierpaoli
originally published 9/30/05 on KOFantasyBoxing.com
Boxing comes back to Mohegan Sun Casino this autumn when 175 pounders Eric Harding and Daniel Judah rumble in a 12 round NABF Light Heavyweight title bout that is likely to produce a legitimate challenger to the victor of tomorrow night’s Tarver-Jones rubber match. The Mohegan Sun Casino hosted a 2pm press luncheon last week in their Bear’s Den that announced the upcoming bout pitting East Hartford’s Harding against Zab Judah’s brother, Brooklyn’s own Daniel Judah.
Arriving just before 2, this writer was crestfallen to find it was not a press luncheon at all but only a press conference. And there would be no free coffee or sodas either, just the presser and some Q & A; which was fine; OK, OK. But I thought the email notice said luncheon and it wasn’t till later that I found out I was completely wrong about that. I had gotten there hungry and now I wasn’t even going to get a freebie soda.
Right away I learned that Team Judah, driving north from Brooklyn, New York, was late, so I joined the small group in front of the blank Mohegan Sun backdrop and empty table, chairs and microphones. Media members watched a pack of wolves and marquee style photo ads fading in and out on the big screen tv above center stage at the Bear’s Den as we waited for the Judahs. Eighties music thumped through and around the large room while we waited. Songs by Kim Wilde, Hall & Oates and Oingo-Boingo’s Weird Science washed over us while this writer contemplated a homicide for a swig of Dr. Pepper, Mountian Dew, maybe some spring water for chrissake…
Finally, the other members of the promotion had grown tired of waiting for Team Judah and things got underway at 3:10pm with just half of the entourages that made up the main event present; along with several undercard fighters.
After a brief introduction by the NABF’s representative Joe Dwyer; Harding’s manager, Roger Levitt had a turn at the microphone. Levitt was clearly upset with the lack of respect Judah’s camp showed for the press conference’s start time. He guaranteed a victory for his fighter and assured the gathered media the bout will end in a knockout.
“You will see Mr. Judah cleanly knocked out” he promised. Levitt went on to praise Harding’s performance in the gym and described his fighter’s struggle with the rigors of training camp, especially at the dinner table.
“If Eric could stop eating he could take on the world at one hundred seventy-five pounds.” Levitt continued describing the new and improved Eric Harding and mentioned they’ve had difficulty keeping sparring partners because of the punishment Harding dishes out in the gym.
Harding, the East Hartford southpaw, has been in with the best of the one-hundred seventy-five pound division already, and is coming off a February victory over David Telesco, also at Mohegan Sun. Harding has maintained a more disciplined work ethic since the win over Telesco and even admitted he’s stopped eating burgers in order to keep his weight under control.
One of the premier light heavyweights in the world, Harding holds one victory over Antonio Tarver and was one of the first fighters to give Roy Jones Jr. a difficult fight before his then manager, the late Al Gavin, stopped the fight with Jones after Harding suffered a torn biceps muscle. If Harding gets his way, after beating Daniel Judah, he hopes for a rubber match with Antonio Tarver–Harding has faced Tarver twice, winning their first bout by decision breaking Antonio’s jaw along the way, before Tarver avenged the loss by knockout in their rematch. If Tarver emerges the victor from his fight with Roy Jones Jr., Harding wants another chance at him and the undisputed title.
When a member of the press begins to ask whether Eric Harding would like to fight either one of the combatants in the Roy Jones vs. Antonio Tarver–Harding interrupts and steps on the remainder of the reporter’s question. Antonio Tarver is who Harding wants to fight again, he says it emphatically. And who does the East Hartford fighter think will emerge the victor on Saturday night?
“Tarver by knockout. Same thing that happened the second time,” Harding grins. “I’m the only light heavyweight that can beat Tarver,” said Harding. “He knows it and I know it.”
Later, when Daniel Judah, and his trainer/father, Yoel, arrived, the press conference had already broken up into smaller groups of media scribbling quotes from the fighters and this writer was able to speak to the Brooklynite.
“It’s a good match-up,” Judah began. “When he fights me he’s gonna be looking in the mirrorﾅthe whole thing is I’m way sharper than he is.” Judah, also a southpaw, is younger and greener than his East Hartford opponent but he feels this is the perfect fight for him at this stage of his career.
“I’m younger, faster, quicker; I hit harder. He’s gonna help me show my skills and show the world what Daniel Judah’s about. I love this, baby. I love this one-on-one competition. You can’t get no better than this.”
And what does Daniel Judah think of the principals in Tarver-Jones 3?
“Nothing. They’re hogs, they’re hogging money. There’s a lot of people out there that need money, need to keep their families’ fed and they [Tarver & Jones] wanna continue fighting each other.”
It is still four weeks from fight night and looking at Eric Harding and Daniel Judah it is clear that just like Oingo-Boingo alluded to earlier, it is a weird science of sorts that turns these heavyweight-sized guys–both fighters looked to be a solid 195 pounds or better–into one hundred seventy-five pound athletes with a lethal balance of speed and power on fight night. In a time when our heavyweight giants whiff, lurch and grab at each other, light-heavies throw bombs and show flashes of fistic finesse. Harding-Judah will be a clash of southpaws, a combination that doesn’t always lend itself to mortal combat slugfests. But if the glares these two fighters gave each other when Judah arrived was any indication, we’re in for some fireworks on fight night.
This writer was in attendance for Judah’s draw with Glencoffe Johnson, and I saw the fight as one that should have gone in Johnson’s favor. One thing seems certain, Judah’s made friends here in New England and it should be no surprise as his meeting with Harding will be the ninth time he’s fought at Mohegan Sun.
But Eric Harding isn’t all that worried about a close decision should the fight with Judah go the distance on the twenty-first, as long as he stays in charge of the outcome.
“I’m a little concerned about that too. But you gotta be your own judge and jury that night, bro.”
With both fighters hoping for bigger and brighter things after they meet, the jury’s already found in favor of an intriguing and competitive Main Event.
Also, featured on the October 21st card are the unbeaten Connecticut featherweights, Mike Oliver of Hartford and Matt Remillard of Manchester. Remillard is the upstart puncher currently managed by Jackie Kallen. Undefeated New Haven middleweight Elvin Ayala, sporting a shaved head at last week’s presser, will look for his thirteenth career victory on the Harding-Judah undercard.
Tickets are available now at the Mohegan Sun Arena box office or by logging onto ticketmaster.com.
Send comments or questions to Alex Pierpaoli at: KOFantasyBoxing@gmail.com