Zab Judah Full Circle - to face Mabuza on 3/5

By Dan Jamson: If Zab Judah fights fights Kaizer Mabuza for the IBF 140lbs title on March 5th it will be just over 11 years since he originally captured the same belt. Did the Brooklyn fighter fulfill the potential he showed as a raw but lightning fast young fighter back in 2000?

Judah was an excellent amateur; he amassed a record of 110-5 including 5 Golden Gloves championships and was widely tipped for success in the pro game. Lou Dava his manager from the start of his career often compared Judah to Pernell Whittaker (who he also managed).

''Zab can do anything Pernell Whitaker could, and maybe better. Zab Judah is going to a great champion”

After building up and impressive record Judah was given his first title shot against journeyman Jan Bergman in February 2000. Bergman had already been beaten by future Judah opponents Kostya Tszyu and Junior Witter and was soundly beaten by Judah via a 4th round KO. Judah then defended the IBF title 5 times in a row including an excellent performance in the UK against the awkward Witter, who was the only one of those 5 opponents who heard the final bell.

The scene was now set for a huge 140 lbs unification fight between the native Russian turned Australian puncher Kostya Tszyu and the Brooklyn boy who was now universally acclaimed as the one of the hottest young fighters in the US. This was Judah's biggest test to date. However, despite Tszyu’s greater experience and pedigree, Judah was the big favorite going into the fight. People felt that Tszyu, who had lost to Vince Philips a few years earlier, would struggle with Judah's speed and punching output and this was evident when Judah started the fight as 3-1 on in the betting stakes... Unfortunately for Zab there’s more to a fight than the betting exchanges…

It would be November 4th, 2001. And on the previous night Judah would have gone from the great future star of the sport, to an ex-world champion who was not only embarrassed in the ring but also has managed to commit one of the cardinal sins in the sport and assault an official. And this wasn’t just any normal KO, it was a punch that managed to knock Judah down twice, leaving the soon to be the target of Judah’s frustrations, referee Jay Nady, no choice but to call an end to the fight in only round 2.

Many felt that Judah was the architect of his own downfall in this fight, he had comfortably won the first round and was well on his way to winning the second when he got caught with a laser guided monster of a right hand. And here comes the problem. A more intelligent pro would of taken his time, taken an 8 count and then subsequently would have had the whole 60 seconds on the stool to recover, but not Judah. He attempted to get up instantly to throw insults at his opponent, his mouth might have been ready to go, but the rest of his body was not interested and down he went. This arrogance towards his opponent and lack of basic boxing judgment would certainly plague Judah for the rest of his career.

What followed the fight was a rebuilding of a career and a reputation. 6 months of boxing had to be put on hold for a suspension due to the melee following the Tszyu loss. Judah did win a world title at 140 again with a 1st round KO against the limited Jamie Rangel however he decided to move up a division to fight undisputed welterweight champion Cory Spinks. Judah dropped a decision in a contest where he let Spinks dictate the pace and seemed uneasy to exchange, which was once a hallmark of his style, possibly a hang up from the Tszyu fight. However, he did have the champion down in the final round but just ran out of time to wrestle the belts away.

Judah, possibly on the memory on that final push for victory outclassed Spinks in a rematch 8 months later. He was now the World Welterweight Champion, a title once held by Jose Napoles and Ray Leonard. So now surely he’s on the road to greatness again….

Afraid not. Through lack of focus, poor training camps and confrontations with his father (and trainer), Judah dropped a decision to the almost unheard of Carlos Baldomir who in reality was only meant to be a tune up for a big clash with one time friend Floyd Mayweather Jnr. He possibly would have been back to square one but Baldomir didn’t pay the sanctioning fees for two of the belts (why would you when you’re bound to lose!?!). So he still got his shot a Floyd where he actually gave the current P4P 1 (or 2) a very good fight, especially early on, but ended up running out of stamina down the stretch.

12 months later he would get in the ring with another up and coming superstar in Migual Angel Cotto, again he fought an excellent fight but would eventually be stopped in the 11th round. He had now become a fighter who would bring a name and a good style to the ring, but in losses to Tszyu, Mayweather and Cotto he had come up short against the crème de la crème of the sport. This hard hitting acceptance that he wasn’t in the top echelon may have led to Judah again coming in under prepared and out of shape against the durable Clottey where he lost a 9th round technical decision.

Zab Judah needed a change. His career had been littered with problems in and out of the ring and now he was about to end it with a string of tough losses. That’s when he decided to break from Brooklyn and move to the adopted home of boxing, Las Vegas.

Since the move Judah has had 4 fights, 4 wins and has gone back down to 140 lbs. Ok, so he didn’t turn about to be the new Sweat Pea but he was now a fighter on a mission to prove to the boxing world that he has the skills to compete. A two weight world champion who has shared the ring with some of the greats of this era. The last undisputed champion at welterweight who has still got the passion and drive for more.

So here we are, March 5th Zab Judah is likely to face Mabuza for that IBF belt that he once held. A win would see him come full circle.

Article posted on 11.01.2011

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