Judah’s Last Stand
By Coach Tim Walker – It wasn’t too long ago that Zab “Super” Judah (born Zabdiel) was considered one of the world’s absolute best boxers. His skill set was of the type that awed audiences. Quick movements. Slickly styled. Really, really fast hands. As a child prodigy, he began boxing at the age of 6 under the direction of his father, former six-time kickboxing champion, Yoel Judah as did many of his brothers. His family is large, 9 brothers and 2 sisters, and as is the case in many large families, Judah’s being no exception, order must exist within the household or chaos will prevail. The strong minded Yoel assured that there was structure within the home.
Article posted on 13.07.2010
Life, however, is not linear and discipline does not come with a disclaimer guaranteeing paths of the straight and narrow. This is evidenced through life, in particular, Zab’s life where he cut a path, at least in part, away from some of the expectations of his parents, mentors and maybe even society itself. It is not uncommon for young adults to chose peers over parents or social acceptance over social responsibility. In instances such as these, adolescents define the type of people they opt to be as opposed to whom the world expects or wants them to be. For Judah it was an acceptance and devotion to the rough Brooklyn streets he grew up on..
Judah’s obvious talent and love for street life combusted into an excellent amateur boxing career. He surmounted an amateur record of 110 wins 5 losses on his way to winning 3 New York Golden Gloves titles, 2 US National Titles and a PAL National Championship. That’s a 96% winning percentage folks and shouldn’t be taken lightly. In fact, two of his five amateur loses were to one man, current professional boxer David Diaz. Those losses occurred while he was attempting to qualify for the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games (once in the qualifier and the second in the box off). Thus, as an amateur Super Judah suffered losses to only four boxers. That’s pretty good.
Judah brought that deeply embedded persona with him into the professional boxing ranks in the form of a gold grill, tattoos and a street swagger and reputation that was as talked about as his difficult to solve speedy-handed southpaw style. Those things alone, however, will neither earn nor sway corporate sponsorships. Judah ruined any chances of those types of mega-endorsements, hard to come by for boxers in this day and age, on November 3, 2001 after being floored by then WBC, WBA light-welterweight champion Kostya Tszyu. Judah overwhelmingly won the first round and a portion of the second before getting hit with a solid right hand that put him down. He attempted to get up but fell awkwardly to the mat again which caused referee Jay Nady to stop the bout. In the aftermath, Judah basically assaulted Nady by grabbing him in a choke-like motion and subsequently threw a stool across the ring. To his credit, Nady never responded. For his trouble, Judah was fined $75,000 and suspended for 6 months. During his suspension he became boxing’s public enemy number for his actions in the ring as his frequent apologies did little to win many of his fans back.
The rough times didn’t end there. Three years later he mounted an offensive against talented but light-handed Cory Spinks. The fight was viewed as a prelude to possibly a Mayweather showdown. Judah, however, unexpectedly lost via a unanimous decision and left many questioning his dedication and talent altogether. Approximately one year later he rematched Spinks and earned a round 9 TKO victory. Again, a showdown with Mayweather became the talk of the boxing world. All that stood in his way was a win over little known Carlos Baldomir. Again, Judah fell short of the goal when he lost via unanimous decision in a stunner. Still, Judah and Mayweather opted to move on with their PPV fight.
On April 8, 2006 while facing Floyd Mayweather Junior, Judah fell afoul, literally. Judah was thought to be one of the few 140-147 pounders with the hand speed to match Mayweather. When the fight began, Judah’s hand speed seemed actually faster than Mayweather’s. However, hand speed alone was not enough to earn Judah the victory. Mayweather, known for his high boxing IQ, made several adjustments and by the end of round 4 had begun to swing the fight. In the tenth round things were going Floyd’s way and many ringsiders, me included, thought that Judah was close to being taken out. His response was an old school maneuver intended to buy a soon to fall fighter in a desperate situation a little more time, a seemingly intentional low blow followed by an equally illegal rabbit punch. This prompted Roger Mayweather to enter the ring and go after Judah. Subsequently, Judah’s cornerman/father, Yoel Judah, also entered the ring. This could have been interpreted as a double disqualification. Instead, referee Richard Steele cleared the melee, the fight resumed and Mayweather won. Subsequently, the main culprits in the debacle were fined: Zab Judah ($250,000 one year suspension), Roger Mayweather ($200,000 one year suspension), Leonard Ellerbe ($50,000 4 month suspension) and Yoel Judah ($100,000 one year suspension). The hits didn't stop there. Judah's previous unexpected losses proved very costly as the PPV generated only 350,000 buys.
Since the loss to Mayweather, Zab has been stopped early twice. Once by Miguel Cotto and again at the hands of Joshua Clottey. Now it seems that the once promising career is nearing an end. The soon to be 33 year old Judah is a big, big risk for the young crop of hopefuls. Once the fighter being called out, in recent interviews, Zab is the fighter calling out others and in all honestly he’s calling out the young lions of the sport in a sort of gate-keeper role. At this stage fighters such as Timothy Bradley, Amir Khan, Devon Alexander and Marcos Maidana are paying little heed to him which speaks volumes as to where he is currently viewed in the big picture (great risk for little reward).
Fighters who lose big bouts are prompted to reset their careers. This can be done by fighting off television, taking on lesser opponents or going into a self imposed recuperative mini-retirement. When Zab lost to Tszyu his next opponent was Omar Weis. After losing to Spinks he faced Rafael Pineda. In fact, Zab has reset his career 4 or 5 times and you sort of get the feeling that this might be the last hoorah.
It’s not surefire that having an excellent amateur career will translate into a prolific professional career but Zab was thought to be one of those rare boxers whose talent would transcend boxing. Unfortunately, he only occasionally lived up to that billing. Examine his resume and you’ll notice that there have been other less than stellar points in his career as well. Losses to fighters he could have beat and less than great performances against a few he did beat. Nevertheless, boxing is not a sport of coulda-shoulda-woulda’s. It is a sport of do’s and didn’t(s). In the ring you either you get it done or you don’t and your pay scale and legacy are leveraged against how successful you are.
August marks the date that Judah steps into the ring against Jose Santa Cruz, a 32 bout veteran boxer who is 3-2 in his last five fights and is primed for dismantling at the hands of Judah. Honestly, Cruz isn’t a scrub fighter but Judah is somewhat expected to win the bought. Thus, real test for Judah is can he land a big name if he is successful against Cruz? If he can’t then the door may be closing on him sooner than he’d like. This is certainly not the way any of us thought his career would be ending when he pounced onto the professional boxing scene. Regardless, the paths you take along way absolutely determine how and where you end up. Judah may be at the end of his saga, let’s hope he makes it memorable ending and gives us something more to remember him by other than the paths behind him.
Coach Tim Walker is a contributing writer for Eastsideboxing.com and his own personal blog at boxing4life.blogspot.com welcomes comments. To suggest fighters for Monthly Stud and The Project please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Check me out at www.myspace.com/coachtimwalker.
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