Zab Judah Hopes to Regain Title By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (March 5, 2011) Special to Doghouse Boxing - Tweet
While Saul Alvarez attempts to win his first major world title on HBO tonight, a man who is no stranger to having belts around his waist, Zab Judah, faces Kaiser Mabuza for the vacant IBF junior welterweight title all the way across the country in the small room at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. For much of his career, Judah, at either 140 or 147 pounds, had the distinction of being called a world champion but it's been five long years since he could be called that.
Most boxers don't go this long between titles. He's seen his share of ups and downs during this stretch, where his career became irrelevant for awhile. Having another piece of hardware in his trophy case makes him a player again.
Of his drought, Judah told Maxboxing, "It's never bothered me that much because I've always had every belt in boxing inside of my house, on my wall mantle. So anytime I want to look at a belt or think about a championship, I got it right there to look at. So I never felt a need or missing anything because I had it to look at. I got like 11 belts now, ya' know what I'm sayin'? I've always had a lot of them to look at. But to be solidified and to be on paper in boxing, known as the champion, is a good situation. Come Saturday night, that's the only thing that will be missing from the last couple of years and I will get that back."
Make no doubt about it; no matter what the pundits might say, these belts matter to those who fight for them.
"Belts are great," says Judah. "It's like showbiz; it's your accomplishments. It shows what you've done in the game of boxing. It makes you feel good. At the end of the day, it's almost like an NFL player or NBA player, their Super Bowl ring or their championship ring."
He last had a major championship in 2006 (when he held the title of the undisputed welterweight champion) before being shocked by Carlos Baldomir at the Theater in Madison Square Garden before his scheduled appointment with Floyd Mayweather later that year. He says of that defeat, "I got beat by Don King. Don King beat me, ya' know. That fight was about me and Don, me just disobeying Don. Don King beat me. It was me and Don and me not wanting to work through his terms and his system. So with that being said, I mean, everyone seen it. At the end of the fight, Baldomir looked like he was in a car accident and I ain't have a mark on my face. So you guys do the judging for that one."
He still eventually got the fight with Mayweather several months later but he lost millions off his purse. From there, Judah basically became a high-priced B-side to the likes of Miguel Cotto before his career faded into “Bolivian” for a few years.
Now, reunited with Main Events and back where he belongs at junior welterweight, at age 33, he might just have one last run in him at the world-class level. And to do it, he will need this title to entice the Tim Bradleys, the Amir Khans and any other marquee name in this division to face him.
"Oh, this is the golden ticket," stated Kathy Duva of Main Events, "and it was explained to him that way when we decided to do this fight. This is it, the express train. Once he wins this fight, how on Earth can anyone deny him? And he's not going to just win it; he's going to look great doing it."
The sanctioning bodies are spurious in nature and often-times filled with mind-boggling rules and regulations (even downright corruption) but make no doubt about it, no matter what anyone says, they are important and vital to those who possess them.
"Evander Holyfield used to say all the time, 'Everyone tells me the titles don't mean anything except every time I have one, I make a lot more money than when I don't,'” Duva recalled. “And that's the truth. If only for going into a negotiation- and let's put enticing people into the fight to the side- just as a person going in to make the deals, my guys the champion. I'm going to make more money for my guys than if he's not. That's a fact. So add the fact that he's got a lot of young guys who are going to try to avoid him because he's a dangerous fight for them and we've got to give them a reason to want to fight him. And if they want to say they're the unified champ, they're going to have to fight him."
Currently, the WBC and WBO belts are held by Bradley, with the WBA trinket in the possession of Khan. To win the IBF version of the title, Judah will have to get through a rugged grinder, who, in his last bout, stopped Kendall Holt back in February of 2010.
"Kaizer Mabuza is a tough fighter. I know he's coming from South Africa; he's coming in here to try and win the championship of the world," said Judah, who trained with boyhood idol Pernell Whitaker for this bout. "I've prepared for a guy that worked to the best of his ability to get here. Like I said, his fight with Holt, which was one year ago, we all know him sitting out a whole year of boxing, what that can do to your skills and I just think that come Saturday night, it's gonna show."
Judah promises that unlike the past, he will not be caught looking ahead (Yeah, I know, I know; we've heard this before from him).
"I'm not thinking towards none of them people right now. I'm thinking of Kaizer Mabuza on Saturday night," he states. "After Saturday night, at about one o'clock in the morning at the post-press conference, ask me the same question and I'll have an answer for them."
Duva has been lobbying hard for Judah to get a marquee fight and will have more leverage if Judah wins this title. But the real decision is made by the television executives, who she believes would consider him to be a viable option at that point. "I certainly do get that impression and while nothing is ever a sure thing and I don't want to look past this fight, I feel very confident that if you just look at the players on the board and what they can and can't do, it just looks like there's a place for him to go."
This show is a small pay-per-view show distributed by Integrated Sports, meaning that Duva's company is putting up its money, living off the gate and hoping more than few folks purchase this event. Main Events won the right to stage this event by winning the purse bid. She admits this is a loss leader, designed to get Judah and Main Events into bigger, more lucrative bouts down the line.
"Of course," she admitted. "This is an investment we're making and we may come out of this without losing money but when you work this hard and don't make money, that's an investment too. This was necessary to get him to where he wanted to go and the time frame he wanted to go there."
That's promoting. Lots of entities who call themselves such wouldn't dare ever put on a promotion without a site fee and/or television subsidy. In an era when most blue-chip boxers only perform, at most, twice a year as they wait for their slots on HBO and Showtime, more than ever, you need promoters willing to risk their own money to keep their clients more active in between these dates. Duva has been able to do that with Tomasz Adamek, who, for the most part, has been shunned for whatever reason by the premium cable networks.
"That's basically our business model, the fighters that come with us, that's part of the reason they're coming because they have the assurance they're going to perform frequently," she explained. "I don't know how anybody can be at the top of their game and fight only twice a year. A few people manage to do it but, for the most part, from what I've seen over my career, if guys are active, they're just better. And for two reasons: one, physically, as fighters to grow and learn and progress. Second of all, it's better for their marketing and public relations, so people know their names. If you're only in the news twice a year, then people are going to forget about you. So if you're in the news three, four times a year, they're going to remember you twice as much."
If you want to order this fight, here's the info from a Main Events press release:
Judah vs. Mabuza will be distributed in North America by Integrated Sports Media for live viewing at 9 PM/ET 6 PM/PT on both cable and satellite pay per view via iN Demand, DIRECTV, Avail-TVN and DISH Network in the United States, as well as Viewer's Choice, Shaw and Bell TV in Canada, for a suggested retail price of only $29.95
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