I read today Light Welterweight contender Zab Judah is promoting his next fight on the notion it represents his debut in his native Brooklyn and is therefore, publicity implies, likely to evoke a return to the glories of his past. Like many 34-year-old pugilists before him, Judah is attempting to invert the natural course all fight-careers take; decline, by reaching for the placebo effect fleetingly afforded by trainer change, managerial move or in this case a fight in his home town.
The fight represents the 49th of Judah’s professional career. A significant fighter for more than decade, he outclassed Mickey Ward almost 14 years ago as a lean 20 year old, there remains an unwelcome sense of the unfulfilled about him. Perhaps merely because his prime was synchronised with those of contemporaries Floyd Mayweather, Kostya Tsyzu and Shane Mosley. In their midst, he has never enjoyed a period of dominance nor become the attraction he was presumed to when emerging in the shadow of his idol Mike Tyson’s late 1990′s incarnation.
There have been perhaps two pivotal moments within his compendium of performances. The first his crushing defeat to the devastating right hand of Kostya Tsyzu in 2001; notable enough but further engrained into the psyche of the gathered audience because of Judah’s reaction to being hit – the ‘chicken dance’ remains a YouTube staple - but also his attempt to harm referee Jay Nady at the end of the fight.
Second, would be the loss to Carlos Baldomir in 2006. A circuit Welterweight, admittedly streaking at the time, who tainted Judah’s subsequent fight with Floyd Mayweather by defeating a poorly motivated Judah. Hindsight supposes Mayweather would beat Judah regardless of form or fitness but one wonders whether Judah entered the seminal fight of his career with the requisite self-belief?
At its conclusion, even with the coolness of detachment, Judah’s career will be hard to assess or summarise. Victories over good men like Ward, Cory Spinks and Reggie Green not to mention a green Junior Witter, DeMarcus Corley and decent fighters like Rafael Pineda too, are all worthy entries on any record posted in the Welterweight ranks.
The defeats mentioned tallied with losses to Miguel Cotto, Cory Spinks, Joshua Clottey and Amir Khan illustrates he cannot quite assume dominance over elite fighters.
It is also equally unlikely 24 year old Vernon Paris of Detroit, Michigan – who fights on following his own turbulent past which left him shot three times in one incident and later stabbed, an altercation which left him with a collapsed lung and a lifestyle choice to make – will be unduly intimidated by the Brooklyn setting of their crossroads clash.
Speaking to Mike Brudenell of the Detroit Free Press last year, ahead of his clash with Tim Coleman, the Kronk fighter revealed family and faith were now his motivators and guide;
“I’ve been going to church and leaving it in the hands of the Lord,” Paris said . “I’m not getting shot. I’m not getting stabbed anymore. I’m not getting involved in trouble. The past is bad. It would make a good movie or book. But I’m going from the hood to Hollywood.”
In today’s press release, now widely published, Judah adopted the usual cliche to deflect questions about his vintage as a contender and the vigour he will encounter on March 24th. Not only was he dismissive of the threat Paris will pose but he tried valiantly to propose he was improving with age; a rare phenomenon for those beyond their 30th birthday.
“With age you get better,” Judah suggested. “The older you get, the better you get… and the more money you make. Old is great! This fight is for my legacy. I look forward to going home and having a great night.”
For the record; the winner will establish themselves as the number one contender within the IBF’s rankings. The significance of which is open to conjecture…..and cynicism.
At 34, Judah cannot recover from back to back defeats, Khan halted him in 5 in his last outing, if he is to reposition himself for a world-title shot but I suspect Paris may prove too much at this stage and prove once again; that Judah has had opportunity enough already.
And if the bad-boy baton is passed to Paris, it will have a colourful custodian who will be more seasoned for his dance with Super Zab.