Mr. Judah’s Jersey Journey

By Francis Walker, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: January 4, 2011

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NEW YORK (BASN) — Former unified WBC/WBA and IBF welterweight champion Zab Judah has fought his way back into the mix the junior welterweight division.

The 33-year-old Brownsville, Brooklyn, N.Y. native had a successful 2010 and emerged as the IBF No. 2-ranked contender. Judah (39-6, 26 KOs), on March 5, returns to the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. and will compete for the vacant IBF 140-pound crown.

Main Events won a purse bid with a reported $50,000 and it’s up to IBF No. 1-ranked Kaizer Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs), South Africa, to accept the fight.

According to IBF Championships Chairman, Lindsay Tucker, “It is a 50-50 split of the earnings between the two fighters. Kaizer is ranked No. 1 by the IBF, and Judah is No. 2. Where the fight will be held is up to the winning bidder.”

Should Mabuza opt not to fight Judah, the next available challenger is No. 3-ranked Victor Ortiz. Fresh off his dramatic 10-round draw with Lamont Peterson in December, Ortiz is promoted by Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions.

Main Events and Golden Boy worked together in promoting an IBF/WBO eliminator between Judah vs. Lucas Matthysse (another Golden Boy prospect) in November.

Judah-Matthysee was a very interesting and surprisingly tactical boxing match. Judah survived a 10th-round knockdown and a series of anxious moments in the final rounds en route to a razor-thin split decision.

The judges’ scores were identical at 114-113.

Another bout at the Prudential Center on March 5, will be Judah’s third consecutive bout at the increasingly popular, fan-friendly venue.

In August 2010, Judah launched a successful debut by stopping Jose Armando Santa Cruz in the third round.

Judah has won four consecutive bouts dating back to November 2008. A fifth consecutive win will propel Judah toward status of champion with hopes of landing a big fight in 2011.

“We are very happy that Zab has the opportunity to fight for the IBF Junior Welterweight title right here in New Jersey,” said Main Events CEO Kathy Duva. “Winning this fight will put Zab right in the mix with the winner of Bradley-Alexander and Amir Khan.

Zab will work very hard to win this fight so that he will be one step closer to his ultimate goal of unifying all of the Junior Welterweight titles by the end of 2011!”

Undefeated WBO champion Timothy Bradley plans to unify his 140-pound title against unbeaten WBC champion, Devon Alexander at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan on January 29.

HBO will televise what should be one of the most anticipated fights of the year.

WBA champion Amir Khan, recently fought and defeated interim WBA jr. welterweight titlist, Marcos Rene Maidana in one of the best fights of 2010. Khan is hoping to fight in his native England this summer and Judah has reportedly extended an open challenge to Khan.

Khan, Bradley, and Alexander doesn’t have Zab’s experience.

Judah has competed in 16 world title fights. Perhaps his biggest victory was when he unified the World Welterweight Championship by traveling to St. Louis, Missouri to unseat a heavily-favored Cory Spinks in his hometown nearly six years ago. Judah unleashed an unmerciful beating on Spinks, who outpointed Judah in their first meeting in April 2004.

Another memorable Judah victory was when he rose from the canvas to knockout Jan Bergman in round four to claim his first world title – the IBF junior welterweight title in February 2000.

Judah’s career has also been marred by losses in some of the biggest fights imaginable. Judah could have been a stapled-fixture and elite superstar had he beaten Kostya Tszyu for the World Junior Welterweight Championship, but instead was knocked out in horrible fashion in November 2001.

Judah’s post-fight tirade earned him a six-month suspension from boxing.

In January 2006, Judah squandered the unified world 147-pound championships in a shocking loss to Carlos Baldomir on one of the most historic stages in sports – Madison Square Garden.

Additional losses to Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, and Joshua Clottey has led one to wonder whether Judah missed his opportunity to maximize his unique blend of hand speed, quickness, combination-punching and power.

In many, many of his fights we’ve seen bits and pieces of Judah’s gift as a fighter. While Judah is very gifted and a very talented fighter, he has struggled to put it all together in one big performance against an elite fighter which is why the Matthysse win was so important.

Judah is older than a lot of the top fighters at 140 pounds. Matthysse was the young, hard-hitting, prospect with the glamorous undefeated record.

Judah showed a lot of heart and muscle in weathering a storm in the later rounds. Judah proved that he deserves to be in the same mix of the top junior welterweights. He has enough experience, along with the skill and will to maneuver and plow his way through fights.

But is it enough to beat Khan? Bradley? Alexander? Ortiz?

We won’t know for sure unless the fights are made