By Tri Nguyen: Highlights from Zab Judah’s conference call to discuss his upcoming fight with Kaizer Mabuza on March 5 at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ for the vacant IBF Junior Welterweight title.
Zab Judah has never been at a loss for words, especially when it comes to talking about his fighting ability.
The former four-time world champion will be looking for a fifth world title belt but what looms on the horizon may be more valuable. He has returned to the Junior Welterweight division after campaigning for more than seven years at Welterweight and even Junior Middleweight. It’s no secret that the 140lbs division is currently boxing’s glamour division, with young stars such as Amir Khan, Timothy Bradley, Andre Berto, and Devon Alexander entering their prime.
Don’t expect Judah to look past his current opponent. Even when pressed, he refuses to answer any questions beyond the guy in front of him. “Kaizer Mabuza is a tough fighter. This is his first opportunity to be a world champ and I’m expecting a tough fight,” said Judah.”
Judah seems to be in good spirits these days. He seemed relaxed and not what you would expect from a guy known as a hothead. A decade ago, he was billed as the future star of boxing, a rare combination of blinding speed and power. As an amateur, he was a two-time US National Champion and was one win away from representing the US in the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, but lost to David Diaz in the finals of the Olympic Trials. His professional career started as expected; He blew out the competition and was 27-0 before earning a crack at Kostya Tszyu for the unified 140lbs belt in November 2001. He lost via second round knockout in a fight that ended in a melee that cost Judah more than a suspension; it was a blow to his reputation.
He recovered from that ugly incident and went on to win more titles. But he lost all his big fights against the top guys, like Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto. He even lost to guys he should have beaten, such as Cory Spinks and Carlos Baldomir. He was at risk of never fulfilling his enormous potential.
Fast forward to 2011. Judah is back at a more natural weight. His only loss at 140lbs was to Tszyu and with the new crop of stars in the division, it’s a chance to redeem himself as an all-time great.
For this last push towards an undisputed title, he has brought in a guy that many people have compared him to. Pernell Whitaker will be an advisor to his corner, a “helping hand” as Judah says. In his prime, Whitaker was an elusive southpaw with impeccable boxing skills. Kathy Duva, CEO of Main Events, says “Pernell Whitaker sees everything. Nobody can craft a fight plan like him. Now he’ll work with a guy who can execute this plan. It’s like a conductor who gets tired of playing Chopsticks all the time. Now he will work with a guy who can play concertos.”
Zab Judah is very excited and expects a great fight. If he can get past this fight, he will move closer to a shot at one of the rising stars. At age 33, Zab Judah may only have a few more good years left to compete at the top level.
January 21, 2011