Whitaker focuses on Judah

By Francis Walker
Updated: February 27, 2011

Brooklyn, NY–When Zab Judah (40-6, 27 KOs) enters the ring on Saturday, March 5, to challenge KazierMabuza(23-6-3, 14 KOs) for the vacant IBF junior welterweight title there will be a familiar face in Judah’s corner. Former four-division world titlist and 2006 Hall of Fame inductee,Pernell Whitaker is currently training the former undisputed world welterweight champion in perhaps the biggest fight of his career.

“You can’t even imagine the feelings I am having right now about this kid (Judah),” Whitaker said. “He’s like a student all over again, it’s like re-teaching the guy some of the best things about himself. Nobody probably knows better than me, other than his father, about his fight game. It’s been easy for me to give him the transformation to do all the things I know he can do very well, and to please the crowd.”

Judah, in his previous bout last November, survived a tenth round knockdown en route toward a close split-decision against tough Argentinian Lucas Matthysse. Judah was in tremendous shape, but absorbed punishment in the later rounds. Whitaker, best recognized for his defensive skills, recognizes Judah’s gift of power and speed. However, he wishes to improve the young —- use of defense.

“Zab had a different mentality (before training with Whitaker),” Whitaker said. “It’s not Zab’s style being a knock out artist and trying to prove that he could punch. He’s a finesse fighter, he has probably the quickest hands in the sport and he has power. So he has to let all those things come together.”

Whitaker, along with Evander Holyfield, Mark Breland, and Meldrick Taylor, was part of the classic USA amateur boxing team that won gold medals at the 1984 Olympics. Whitaker’s Hall of Fame career included a unification of the WBC/WBA and IBF lightweight titles, a junior middleweight championship, a spectacular WBC welterweight title win against James “Buddy” McGirt at the famed Madison Square Garden in March 1993, a famous draw against Julio Cesar Chavez (1993), a memorable knockout of DiobeylisHurtardo (1997), and a controversial decision loss to Oscar De La Hoya (1997).

Whitaker, who also fought guys like Felix Trinidad, Julio Cesar Vazquez, Greg Haugen, Azumah Nelson, and Jorge Paez, can teach Judah a few things about fighting smart.

Whitaker added: “I’m a scientist now, I’m not a boxer, but I was a legend, I wasn’t just a boxer. I knew the game from A to Z. You can come to me with your opinion, but I know the facts. So what I’m doing with this young man is giving him the facts. If I think something don’t work, we won’t do it. I don’t take no risks, there’s no carelessness.”

At 140 pounds, Judah is in great company with the likes of Timothy Bradley, Amir Khan, Devon Alexander, and Victor Ortiz to name a few. Whiatker believes that Judah can claim the top spot in the junior welterweight class once more by training hard and remaining focused.

“I’m a defensive fighter,” Whiatker said. “That’s the first thing I’m going to remind him of, how to not get hit. That’s the main goal. To hit and not get hit is a beautiful feeling. All he has to do is stay focused. He’s transformed into something totally different than I’ve seen in old Zab. He’s a new father, he has a beautiful family, he’s into his church thing and his religion. He’s just more settled down than the Zab that I’ve seen in the past. When he boxes the way he knows how to box, I can’t see nobody in this division out-boxing Zab.”

Tickets for Judah-Mabuza, priced at $253, $103, $88, and $53, are available at the Prudential Center Box Office. CallTicketMaster at 800-745-3000 or www.Prucenter.com

Judah-Mabuza will also be aired on Pay-Per-View through Integrated Sports at a suggested retail of $29.95 beginning at 9 PM/ET, 6 PM/PT.

Amir Khan returns

WBA junior welterweight champion Amir Khan returns to the M.E.N. Arena in Manchester, England to defend his title against undefeated Irish sensation Paul McCloskey on Saturday, April 16. The bout will mark Khan’s first bout on his native soil in more than 16 months.

In 2010, Khan swept across the United States from coast-to-coast. In Madison Square Garden in New York City last spring, Khan bested hometown, Brooklyn native PaulieMalignaggi. In December, Khan slugged it out with Marcos Rene Maidana in one of the best fights of last year.

“I’m thrilled to be coming home to England to defend my title on April 16 and I promise my fans that I will give them a performance they won’t forget,” said Khan, who will be making the fourth defense of his title. “McCloskey is a tough contender, so I expect him to be in his best form. I’m in my prime now and I want to make a statement in this fight and show that I am the best super lightweight in the world.”

McClouskey, 31, a former three-time Irish amateur boxing champion, is anxious for the opportunity to beat Khan to win his first world title.

“Fighting for a world championship is a dream come true for me and I’m not about to let it go to waste,” said McCloskey. “Khan is a very good fighter and I respect him, but he is beatable and I plan to do just that. I’ve sacrificed a lot to get here and this is my time.”

Khan-McClouskey will be aired on HBO as part of a possible split-site doubleheader featuring Andre Berto’s sixth defense of the WBC welterweight title against Victor Ortiz in the United States.