By Matt Uplinger
February 9th, 2013 could be Zab Judah’s last chance to rise to the occasion of a big fight and prove his detractors wrong. He squares off with rising star Danny Garcia in a super lightweight world title unification bout at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn, New York. To no surprise, Zab is currently a +500 underdog according to Vegas. He has been treated accordingly as the B-side in this fight and rightfully so.
Danny is coming off of a string of impressive wins and sporting an undefeated record of 25-0. He staked his claim in the sport by knocking out Amir Khan in July 2012 and put the exclamation point on it when he annihilated Erik Morales in their rematch just three months later. Judah has had a long rollercoaster ride of a pro career spanning seventeen years and racking up five world titles. He is often criticized for his lack of focus, tiring late in fights, and always coming up short in big fights. So it’s no surprise that when this fight was announced, many boxing fans were upset. I was not one of them.
I believe that when the Floyd Mayweather Jr. era really kicked off in 2007, it attracted many fans that were relatively new to the sport. Most of this wave of fans missed out on a lot of great fights prior to 2007, including Zab Judah’s storied career. Sure, fans can lookup Judah on BoxRec and see who he won and lost to. But anyone who grew up watching him, like myself, knows that the record books don’t tell the whole story. The story of one of the most athletically gifted boxers in the history of the sport who lived a very chaotic wild life while in his prime.
Zab’s story is one of wasted talent. He suffered losses to guys like Kostya Tszyu and Carlos Baldomir who were both far below his level of talent. While they were training and staying out of the limelight, Zab was partying at clubs late into the night, starring in music videos with rappers like Shyne, and getting into street fights like the one captured on video in Miami over a game of cee-lo gone bad.
These incidents are a stark contrast to the calm, born-again Christian Zab Judah of today. Judah’s recent fights have shown us that he still has in his arsenal that lethal cobra-like left hand that has ended many fights prematurely, although he doesn’t appear to have that same spark he had in his younger days. Zab always appeared to be at his best when he fought angry. In my opinion, he matched Floyd Mayweather Jr. skill-for-skill in the first five or six rounds of their fight back in 2006 while consistently beating him to the punch and screaming insults to punctuate flurries. He appeared to be winning the fight until he ran out of gas and Floyd made the necessary adjustments to dominate the rest of the fight. In my opinion, Judah was the only boxer to ever go toe-to-toe and out-box Floyd, even if it only lasted a few rounds.
What makes the Garcia-Judah fight especially interesting to me is the spark that Judah showed at the press conference when Angel Garcia disrespected him. Fans have become accustomed to Zab entering the ring to gospel music and appearing very calm and reserved at events. This was the first time we have seen Zab “Super” Judah lose his cool in a long while. Angel Garcia struck a nerve with his disrespectful comments and may have awakened a sleeping giant. Maybe this was the wake-up call that Zab Judah needed; the motivation he needed to bring him back to the style that made him a household name. As I’ve said many times before, ‘a motivated Zab Judah is a dangerous fight for anyone.’