Will History K.O. Zab Judah’s Future? By Joseph “The Mad Boxing Genius” Torres (July 12, 2010) Doghouse Boxing
In the twilight of his career, Zab Judah has come full circle. He is returning to his old promotional stomping ground over at Main Events in the latest installment of his career. However, he is not just another boxer on Kathy Duva’s talent filled roster. He will return as a partner bringing into the fold his own promotional company, Super Judah Promotions. The move back to Main Events may prove to be a good choice. This is where he arguably had the most success in his career. Since his departure from the Jersey based promotion, his career has had some huge highs coupled with some real rock bottom lows.
Main Events guided Judah’s early career that lead to his first major title in 2000. However in 2001 he lost his IBF junior welterweight title in a unification bout against Kostya Tszyu. Tszyu iced the Brooklyn native with a laser like right hand in the 2nd round. Not long after, Main Events and Judah parted ways. This is when the cracks in the foundation of his career started and it has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride since then.
He would later move up seven pounds to welterweight. He found success by winning the undisputed title when he stretched Cory Spinks in the 9th round only to lose the WBC portion of the undisputed championship to unheralded Carlos Baldomir two fights later. He then lost the last remaining title of his undisputed championship (The IBF) to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in his following fight. After those two significant losses, he followed it up with a string of victories, defeats, cancelled bouts and inactivity. But with success or failure, Judah has been anything but dull.
Now that he is back with the people who brought him to prominence at the beginning of the millennium, he’s got a plan! It’s a plan that will start this coming Friday on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights as he takes on Jose Armando Santa Cruz. Judah will now campaign back at his original weight class of 140-pounds. This bout however will be contested at 143 pounds which is not quite the junior welterweight division but far from the welterweight limit. In theory, this sounds like a great plan since the welterweight division will be slowing down in the very near future culminating with a possible match between pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao and #2 pound for pounder Floyd Mayweather Jr. The junior welterweight division right now is as rich as Belgium chocolate fixed with future boxing stars and boat load of money to be made. Going back will give Judah some meaningful opportunities.
The current highly touted younger fighters of the junior welterweight division would lick their chops at an opportunity to make a name for themselves (and money) off a guy like “Super” Judah. One thing though… it appears that Judah isn’t looking to be a stepping stone for the younger guns. He is looking to take each of them out one by one and rule a division he should have dominated 10 years ago!
Judah appears in some ways to be looking for redemption. The reputation of being an underachiever has plagued him in the past. Now that he is more or less out of the welterweight equation, he is going to go where the money and the respect lies next in boxing. However, the red flags are rising. There are many reasons why this plan of Judah’s is flawed but none are more relevant than “history”! Historically, fighters do not fair well when they decide move one or two weight classes south.
What do we know about Zab Judah at this point?
We know that the welterweight division’ strangle hold on all of boxing will soon loosen up when Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquaio decide to make a fight or make it clear that the fight can’t be made.
Either way, the saga we call Mayweather/Pacquiao will be over soon enough and the junior welterweights will soon take center stage. The biggest opportunities long-term will lie at 140-pounds.
We know that size wise, Judah is better equipped to compete at junior welterweight rather than welterweight. With guys like Paul Williams hovering around, and up and comers like Mike Jones who stand 6 feet or more, compared to Judah’s 5’7 frame, it’s a not a bad plan on Judah’s part. However, we also know that he left the junior welterweight ranks for a reason.
Like most fighters, Judah was getting older and filling out, making it difficult for him to remain in that weight class. To reverse the natural development of an aging fighter’s body once it has gotten used to a new and higher weight is a hard journey.
Although he’s determined to compete once again at the junior welterweight limit, there have been more critically acclaimed and accomplished fighters, many from his era, who could not successfully make the transition back down.
Oscar De La Hoya
Despite showing tremendous discipline and dedication for all of his big fights, Oscar De La Hoya could not return to his welterweight glory days. Having fought at junior middleweight or higher for 7 years prior to “The Dream Match” against Manny Pacquiao, there were legitimate concerns whether he could get back to 147lbs. By using an unorthodox diet he came in at 145 pounds but by fight time he was weak and dehydrated. In the end it cost him his career as he got pummeled by the “Pacman” for 8 solid rounds before throwing in the towel. He announced his retirement soon thereafter.
Chris Byrd accomplished a lot for someone who did not have the size or the power to complete with the athletes in his division.
In his first professional fight, Byrd weighed in at 169 pounds. Less than two years later he was competing with the big boys in the heavyweight ranks. After a knockout loss to undefeated, inexperienced and perhaps equally undersized Alexander Povetkin, Byrd decided to move down to Cruiserweight. However, the pounds just kept melting off so easily that he instead decided to go all the way down to light-heavyweight.
Byrd who was fast and slick was originally deemed a serious threat at 175 pounds. It turns out that he was too slow and still powerless and got stopped by Shaun George his first time out. Byrd has only fought twice (losing once to George) since making the move down and hasn’t fought in over a year. Had he stayed in the lower divisions and made his way up throughout his career, this man could have been a legend!
Roy Jones Jr.
The story of Roy Jones Jr. was an unexpected fall from grace.
Wanting to make history by winning a portion of the heavyweight title, the undisputed light-heavyweight champion Roy Jones Jr. gained 25 pounds to face WBA titlist John Ruiz in March of 2003.
He stunned the world by easily outpointing the bigger and stronger Ruiz to win his belt. However, a growing feud of words between fellow Floridian Antonio Tarver proved too much for Jones to stay put (among other things). He made his way back down to the light-heavyweight division losing 25 pounds of muscle to face “The Magic Man”. Although he won the contest, it was the toughest fight of his career and ended up getting cold-cocked 6 months later to Tarver in a rematch. He was never the same again.
Since the first encounter with Tarver, he’s lost 6 of his last 11 fights, 3 of his 6 losses came by way of the knockout (all at light-heavyweight except for 1 contest at cruiserweight). The damage of losing that weight robbed the boxing world of more dazzling performances by the man who was once referred to as “Superman” by one of the greatest promoters of all time Don King.
Although these are only three examples, it does not get any more real than that. Even if you were to take it a step further, one can examine other boxers who have tried to lose the pounds like Riddick Bowe or on a lower scale Brian Minto (heavyweight to cruiserweight), all who had to learn the hard way.
Judah wasn’t able to realize his full potential when he was a young and uber-talented blue chipper. It is hard to imagine that he can make a serious statement at age 32 and will likely be 33 when he faces one of the elites at junior welterweight.
Has history already sealed his fate or can he finally be “Super” for the first time in his career?
Does he really have a chance to compete with the likes of Amir Khan, Marco Maidana, Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley who are younger, hungrier who have less wear and tear and are equally as skilled as him?
Is this just a ploy for one more big pay day before he calls it a career?
History says that the future appears grim for the once promising Judah. However, one thing is clear, Zab Judah’s career has been a roller coaster, up and down and around and round. Whatever happens, you can be sure that that the people will buy their ticket and are more than willing to stand in line for one more “Super” ride!