I recently met Zab “Super” Judah’s mother Katherine outside a show along with matchmaker Rene Akins who is a relative of the Judah’s. I made the mistake of saying “I hope he’s not making a comeback!” She gave me a look that only a mother would give if something negative was said toward her son. “Yes he is fighting again,” said Mrs. Judah. I told her I would like to do a story on him and she gave me her business card so here goes. If you go on www.youtube.com after Lou Duva was out of the corner you will always see Zab’s mother in the ring right behind him.
I’ve been called “Mr. Controversy” of the boxing writers and Zab Judah could certainly be called a man of controversy. He had an amateur record of 110-5 and became an Olympic alternate in 1996 as a light welterweight. To get that far he had to defeat Hector Camacho, Jr. and Ishe Smith but lost to David Diaz. Then defeated Larry Nicholson to fight a rematch with Diaz in the box-off. Diaz would again become victorious and go to the Olympics.
“Was perhaps at one time the most talented boxer to come along since Ray Leonard. I used to call him Jab Judah because he was so perfect,” said Roy Foreman.
Judah a Brooklyn born boxer entered the professional ranks in September of 1996 and ran off 14 straight wins with 10 by stoppage. In his seventeenth fight against Esteban Flores a clash of heads caused a cut on Flores head with the decision changed from a technical draw to a no contest which was in March of 1998 in Pikesville, MD. It took until May 21st for the change.
Two fights later Judah defeated Micky Ward, 31-8, in Miami for the interim USBA super lightweight title. “My toughest fight (up until then),” said Ward. In October he traveled to D.C. to fight their hometown fighter Darryl Tyson, 47-11-1, and stopped him in the eleventh round in a defense of his newly won title.
In January of 1999 he defended the same title knocking out Wilfredo “Papin” Negron, 17-3, in Las Vegas. During the referee’s instructions Negron slapped down Judah’s hand. In the third round Judah went low and Negron plopped onto him squeezing his head between his thighs and dropping down in a sitting position forcing Judah’s face to the canvas. An obviously deliberate foul. In the fourth round a Judah right hook dropped Negron who on the way down tried grabbing Judah’s legs. In the fourth round Judah landed a right uppercut and as Negron was going down he grabbed for Judah’s legs. Little later in the round a four punch combination dropped Negron again. Then Judah continued on the attack ripping a right uppercut knocking Negron against the ropes followed by a right and left combination that had him out with referee Joe Cortez grabbing him before he hit the canvas.
In February of 2000 Judah won the vacant IBF super lightweight title knocking out Jan Piet Bergman, 38-2, of South Africa who won the WBC International super lightweight title. His two losses were to Kostya Tszyu in an IBF world title fight in Australia and to Junior Witter in the UK. “Jab was undefeated and completely dominating Jan and stopped him by KO in round 4,” said referee Steve “Double SS” Smoger.
Speaking of Witter Judah defended his title defeating Witter, 15-0-2, in Scotland. While being introduced Witter did a somersault and came up in front of Judah who jabbed him and Witter pushed him. Witter came out clowning not showboating because he didn’t have those skills. In the second round Judah continued to chase him mimicking him with his arms down. In the fifth round Judah knocked his mouthpiece out. It was a lopsided fight in favor of Judah. Scores were 118-110, 118-111 and 116-112.
In his next title defense he defeated former IBF champion who previously vacated the title Terron Millett, 22-1-1, at the Mohegan Sun in CT. A left dropped Millett in the fourth then a right hook hurt him and Millett threw a punch and landed on the canvas face first for a count.
Judah would score knockouts in title fights against Mexican Hector Quiroz, 31-4-1, of Montebello, CA (right eye closed, cut on bridge of nose stopped in 8), Reggie Green, 33-4 (a lead left knocked him into ropes and a combination dropped him. Referee Arthur Mercante, Sr. should have never let go on as Judah raced across the ring and dropped him with a right hook ending it), and Denmark’s Allan Vester, 18-0-1, the IBF Intercontinental super lightweight champion. Judah missed with a left uppercut but followed with a right hook driving Vester backwards and down. He got up holding his mouthpiece in surrender as the fight was stopped.
Next up would be the toughest opponent and now an IBHOF inductee and then holder of the WBC and WBA titles Tszuy, 27-1, in Las Vegas. After winning the first round Judah was dropped to the canvas and upon attempting to get up fell to the canvas which brought about an automatic stoppage. Judah then went after referee Jay Nady putting a corner stool under the much taller Jady’s chin while being held back by others in the ring. Judah suffered his first loss in 28 fights.
It would be eight months before Judah returned to the ring in July of 2002 defeating Omar Gabriel Weis, 35-3-3, and former Argentina title holder scoring a second round knockdown in winning a lopsided decision. Judah would be inactive for a full year minus a day winning the WBO World super lightweight title over then champion DeMarcus Corley, 28-1-1, by split decision in Las Vegas. After defending the title knocking out Jaime Rangel, 30-4-1, in Atlantic City it was decided Judah would move up in weight to the welterweight division.
Judah was 30-1 when he met WBC, WBA and IBF champion Cory Spinks, 32-2, losing over 12 rounds in Las Vegas. It would be ten months and victories over Rafael Pineda 38-5 and Wayne Martell, 24-2 taking the vacant WBO Inter-Continental welterweight title against Pineda ending the Colombian’s career before getting a re-match with Spinks in the latter’s hometown of St. Louis in February of 2005. Ahead on all score cards Judah would stop Spinks in the ninth round to win the WBC, WBA and IBF world titles. “Probably was at his best in this second fight in St. Louis,” said Joe Pasquale (one of today’s top boxing judges)
After stopping Cosme Rivera, 28-7-2, in his first defense in the third round in Las Vegas Judah would defend his WBC title against the Argentine’s Carlos Manuel Baldomir, 41-9-6, in MSG, New York. While receiving instructions in the middle of the ring by referee Arthur Mercante, Jr., something happened that I have never seen before or after in a boxing ring. Judah whacks Baldomir with a right hook to the thigh. Whether it was something like this that spurred on Baldomir or not he would defeat Judah by decision. Baldomir was the aggressor throughout the fight. A head butt from Judah drew blood from the nose of Baldimir in the fifth. It was supposed to be a tune-up fight for Judah then fighting Mayweather, Jr. Baldomir got the judges scores of 115-113, 114-113 and 115-112 but Judah still got the fight with Mayweather.
Just three months later Judah found himself in the ring with Floyd Mayweather, Jr., 35-0, in Las Vegas. So when does the loser of a previous fight get a title fight? Was Mayweather, Jr. taking advantage of the situation? After six rounds Judah seemed to have it even. In the seventh Mayweather drew first blood with Judah’s nose and mouth. A 119-109 score by Glen Hamada? Please let’s get real. Score on other two judges were 117-111 and 116-112 in favor of Mayweather.
Judah took a year off to come back against Ruben Galvan, 27-11-2, but it ended in the first round a NC. He was beating Galvan to a pulp when what looked like a right hook to the scalp of Galvan’s head caused a cut. The ring physician was brought in stopping the fight which seemed premature. The commissioner’s decision was unjust to Judah who should have gotten the win since Galvan quit. Just two months later Judah got another title fight though being 0-2-1NC in 17 months. Seems when he wasn’t at his best they took advantage of Judah.
This time it was Miguel Cotto, 29-0, for his WBA welterweight title in June of 2007. It was the largest crowd in the last eight years at the Garden in NY. Cotto landed low blows in the first and third rounds. Referee Arthur Mercante, Jr., took away a point from Cotto in the third. “No excuses but those low blows took a lot out of me,” said Judah. In the ninth round Judah took a knee due to the fury of the round. He did come back and hurt Cotto just prior to the bell. In the tenth round Judah was bleeding from a cut and got wobbled several times. Both fighters received cuts. All three judges had Cotto in front 97-91 after ten rounds. In the eleventh round Judah was dropped with a combination. The referee Arthur Mercante, Jr., called a halt at 0:49 of the round.
After Judah scoring a pair of wins he fought for the vacant IBF welterweight title against Joshua Clottey, 34-2, of Ghana, that ended in the ninth by TD with Clottey in front 87-84 and 86-85 twice. Judah thought the nasty cut on his right eye lid was from a head butt but the replay seemed to show an uppercut from Clottey caused the cut. Judah felt he was ahead and so did the fans.
After scoring three straight wins Judah met with Argentina’s Lucas Martin Matthysse, 27-0, with Judah coming off the canvas in the tenth round to win a split decision. This earned Judah a vacant IBF super lightweight title fight with Kaizer Mabuza, 22-6-3, of South Africa. Judah got knocked down in the fourth only to come back and drop Mabuza in the seventh stopping the fight and won the title. Both fights in Newark, NJ, and covered by this writer. Zab was backed in a corner when Mabuza threw a right than hit off Zab’s right shoulder and he countered with a short left leaving Mabuza going head first halfway through the ropes. Referee Sam Viruet should never allowed Mabuza continue after the eight-count. Mabuza stumbled toward a neutral corner and when asked to come forward by the referee stumbled to him. Then Zab jumped all over him ending it.
In July of 2011 in Las Vegas Judah defended his IBF title and Amir Kahn, 25-1, his WBA Super world lightweight title. It was a lopsided bout in favor of Kahn. He hurt Judah and hovering over him holding the head of Judah down with his elbow and landed a borderline right to the mid-section which dropped him. It seemed the only way Judah was going to win this fight would be by disqualification not by decision.
It would be eight months before Judah fought again stopping the previously unbeaten Vernon Paris, 26-0, in an IBF light welterweight title eliminator in the ninth round in Brooklyn. Since a title fight wasn’t given to him he was inactive for thirteen months before returning to the ring challenging Danny “Swift” Garcia, 25-0, for his WBA Super and WBC super lightweight titles in Brooklyn. At the final press conference Judah went off on promoter Oscar De La Hoya at the final press conference. Part of the Golden Boy team Bernard Hopkins had to step in to try to calm Judah down.
Judah was at 140 from his debut in 1996 to 2004 when he went up to 147 going as high as 150 the end of 2007. In 2010 he dropped back to 140 going 4-1. Garcia was making his third defense. The fight was at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn in April of 2013. Judah was almost dropped in the fifth round and was down in the eighth round. The scores at the end in favor of Garcia were 115-112, 114-112 and 116-111. The knockdown played a major part on two of the judge’s cards. “Danny was in control in the early rounds, but Zab displayed great heart and came back strong in rounds 8 thru 12. Zab was a pleasure to work with in both bouts (Bergman). Excellent fighter,” said Steve “Double SS” Smoger.
In December of 2013 Judah would have his last fight moving back to 147 for the vacant NABF title against Paulie Malignaggi, 32-5, at the Barclay Center in Brooklyn. It was billed “Battle of Brooklyn” and Judah was 36 years-old. Judah was representing Brownsville and Malignaggi Bensonhurst. “I was very motivated for this fight. I came to fight and so did Paulie. He did a good job staying outside. It just wasn’t there,” said Judah.
Judah dropped Malignaggi in the second round with about 30 seconds left in the round. His best round was the seventh when he threw punches in bunches but couldn’t finish Malignaggi off.
Judah lost by scores of 117-110 twice and 116-111.
The 2 1/2 years off may have given Judah a much needed rest. He is 38 with a birthday coming up in October. If he can make 140 the WBA champion Ricky Burns would be someone to aim for. His mother informed me today it could be late 2016 or early 2017 he plans to return.