Tuesday, June 5, 2007


Zab Judah will meet WBA Welterweight champion Miguel Cotto on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden and he hopes to add another belt to his collection.

NEW YORK CITY - Listen to Zab “Super” Judah talk and you realize right away that his tongue moves as fast as his fists. Nothing about Zab Judah is slow and even his life seems to be lived at hyper-speed.

His boxing career has gone by so quickly that it doesn’t seem possible that he turned pro 11 years ago at age 18. But in those 11 years, Zab Judah has crammed in a lifetime of living and fighting. And come Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, when he meets the dangerous punching, destroyer from Puerto Rico named Miguel Cotto, Zab is going to have to continue moving fast if he wants to keep his career in boxing alive.

HBO boxing blow-by-blow man Jim Lampley smiles from ear-to-ear when he’s asked to describe Brooklyn, New York native Judah. “He can talk. He has a great smile. He’s fun to be around. Zab has the kind of personality that can get your attention,” says Lampley.

Judah’s rat-a-tat words come out of his mouth as fast as he delivers his rapid fire punches. Despite having suffered the highs and lows of the boxing game, Zab is never at a loss to describe himself or what tools he’ll use to whip the undefeated, WBA welterweight titlist Cotto when the two meet in the ring.

One thing about Zab is that he is constantly looking for your acceptance that you know what he is saying. Let Zab tell you about himself: “Yo, I got handspeed. I got power. I’m mean. You know what I’m sayin’? I’m mad. I want vengeance. I got somethin’ to get. You know what I’m sayin’?”

Judah was blessed from the beginning with the rare blend of speed, quickness, power and athleticism that few professional boxers will ever have. He was reared in a boxing family and he was a young prodigy that was sensational as an amateur and his success continued right on into the pro ranks. When he is focused and up to the task at hand he is as good as any fighter you’ll see. His only real problem has been the fact that he loses his focus after a few rounds and he tends to think that he’s got a fight won before it is half over.

If title fights were only six rounds, Zab Judah would be champion forever, because in the first few rounds of any of his fights he is as close to a perfect fighting machine as there is. Zab manhandled the great Kostya Tszyu in the first round of their November 2001 unification fight and he nearly blew Tszyu clear out of the ring in the first three minutes. But then, the fight unraveled for him.

“I came back to the corner after the first round,” describes Judah. “I said to my corner ‘Yo, I got this dude yo.’ And my father was like, “No! Keep your hands up and stay focused and handle your business first!” And I’m like, ‘Yeah, alright, whatever.’ I go out there, drop my hands, start backin’ up, lookin’ pretty, you know what I’m sayin’? I go backwards and he caught me – Bop!”

Judah was caught square on the chin with an unbelievably straight, accurate and powerful right hand from Tszyu and down he went. He jumped up immediately and then fell down again, at which point referee Jay Nady waived the fight off. “People that know me - my will and my heart – doesn’t allow me to sit on no ground,” says Judah. “You know what I’m sayin’? So I jumped up and my equilibrium wasn’t good yet.”

He’s blazed his way to titles in both the 140 and 147 pound divisions as well as a record of 34-4 (25) KO. Because of his youth, many thought that Zab Judah would be the fighter that would rule boxing for many years. But, he has served two lengthy suspensions from boxing and also has had to pay two hefty fines. The first suspension was for six months and it was handed down after Zab tried to attack referee Jay Nady because Judah thought that Nady waived off the fight with Tszyu too quickly.

In April of 2006, after his fight with Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Judah was suspended for a year and fined again for his role in a 10th round melee that involved himself, his father and several members of Mayweather’s corner. Again, Judah outclassed, outfought and showed glaring flashes of brilliance early against Mayweather and he won most of the early rounds of the fight. But then somehow, the ball of energy and talent that is Zab Judah unraveled yet again and he lost a unanimous decision.

When asked about what the year-long suspension after the Mayweather fight meant to him, Zab was realistic and he was not bitter. “I wanna’ thank the Nevada Commission ‘cause they helped me man, you know what I’m sayin’? They put me on a little time out. It got me good, it got my mind right. It got me a chance to shake off a couple of battles. It got me good, you know what I’m sayin’?”

Judah has grown up in the ring and in front of the eyes of boxing fans. At age 29 he could be poised to claim his spot on the pound-for-pound list if he can make it by Cotto.

He can do it and he has proved it to us before. Zab never looked better than the night when he beat former welterweight champion Cory Spinks in Spinks’ hometown of St. Louis in February 2005. Judah was relentless that night and he stopped Spinks in the 9th round. That was the fight that the Zab Judah that many had been waiting to appear for years finally emerged. It was the one night that he put it all together.

But Judah’s reign was short-lived, as in his very next fight he ended up losing to the then unknown Carlos Baldomir by way of a split decision in the The Theater in the basement of Madison Square Garden. Judah blamed the loss on his then promoter Don King because, as Zab claimed, “Don had me all over town promoting the fight, you know what I’m sayin’? I was worn out, yo!”

Through it all, Judah has never lost faith in himself or his ability. “No matter what you do to me you can’t keep me down,” says Zab. “I’m going to pop up and come back somehow, you know what I’m sayin’?”

In taking on Cotto, who has a record of 29-0 (24)KO there is real danger for Zab. The expressionless Cotto breaks bones when his punches land and he is the type of marching ahead, pressure fighter that never stops coming forward and he is dangerous throughout a fight. His punches sound like a car door being slammed and they land with thuds that have broken cheekbones, jaws, ribs and even the shoulder of one of his opponents. He folds guys up like a cheap lawn chair when he lands his hook to the body. As a 147-pound puncher, Miguel Cotto is as scary and as imposing a fighter as you will find.

Zab, however, sees Cotto differently. “He’s a decent fighter, you know what I’m sayin’? You know what I mean? He’s basic. Takin’ nothing away from him. One thing that I’ll give him, the best asset that he’s got going for him, he’s a strong mental person, you know what I’m sayin’? He determined, he’s goin’ to keep tryin’. Miguel Cotto is a fighter. He’s not goin’ to lay down. You gotta’ put him down. I’m gonna’ put him down.”

The fight appears to have captured the imagination of the New York boxing crowd. The fight is already a near sellout at Madison Square Garden as hoards of Puerto Rican fans will be rooting for Cotto while large numbers are also expected to turn out to see if Zab can make Brooklyn proud. More seats had to be made available in the Garden and it’s the first time in six years that the upper mezzanine has been opened for a boxing match.

“Naturally we are ecstatic, but not totally surprised,” said promoter Bob Arum about the demand for tickets. “We’ve been grooming and showcasing Miguel Cotto at The Garden and on national television for years in preparation for exactly this circumstance. New York has embraced Miguel and this fight as proven by the action at the box office. I expect the same thing internationally with sales. This isn't going to be 'Dancing with the Stars,' it's a real fight and the fans know it. This fight is generating the same buzz we had for the Roberto Duran versus Davey Moore fight 24 years ago.”

As for Judah, he’s excited to be fighting in the big room at Madison Square Garden and in front of his hometown people. He feels Cotto is made for his style. “It’s gonna’ be even better for me ‘cause he’s a fighter I can close my eyes and hit all day because he’s not going to go nowhere, you know what I’m sayin’? He’s young, he’s macho, he’s hungry, he’s got that swagger with him right now, you know what I’m sayin’? He’s the Puerto Rican king right now. With Tito being gone right now he’s thinkin’ he’s the king right now. But I’m gonna’ show him, you know what I’m sayin’?”

Yes Zab, we know what you’re saying.

JUNE 2007

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