by Hans Olson
When Zab Judah committed to returning to the 140 lb division in 2010, he did it with one goal in mind; to again rule the division. He will take his first step toward doing just that on March 5th when he fights for the vacant IBF Junior Welterweight title against the rugged Kaizer Mabuza in Newark, NJ. Mabuza, South Africa, is the #1 ranked Jr. Welterweight according to the IBF’s rankings; a distinction he earned in a title eliminator victory back in February of 2010 against the hard hitting Kendall Holt. In a division that carries names such as Amir Khan, Timothy Bradley, Devon Alexander, and Marcos Maidana, the fact that Judah/Mabuza is for a vacant title has been met with some negativity from fighters and pundits alike. As a fighter though, Zab has been around the fight game long enough to not let any such negativity detract him from what is, above all else, a great opportunity for him. “It means a lot to me to be put in this position (to become world champion)” Judah said in a recent conference call. “Kaizer Mabuza is a very tough fighter. He brings a great style to the ring of boxing, and he brings exciting fights. He’s known as a home wrecker and he’s coming across the world, so I know he’s coming in 100% prepared for us. I know he’s gonna try to come in there and win his first world title, but Zab Judah is in there and I’m looking to become the 5 time champion of the world. I’m not gonna stop.”
Since entering the ring back in 1996, Judah has long been one of the most wildly entertaining personalities in and out of the ring. Zab “Super” Judah brought excitement and pizzazz en route to becoming a unified Jr. Welterweight Champion, and an undisputed Welterweight Champion. Along the way, there were many bumps and bruises, highs and lows of varying degrees. Since refocusing his career, Zab has looked sensational, though his last fight against the hard hitting Argentinean Lucas Mattysse had many folks doubting again when Zab was dropped hard late in the fight. Fortunately for Zab, he had fought a very good fight up until that point, and secured the deserved decision. Although it wasn’t the dynamic performance many had hoped for, it still showcased Zab’s fearless chance taking…something he has not been given just credit for over the years. “My last fight was Lucas Matthysse, another fighter people didn’t know anything about, but now you guys know about him” said Judah. “With Matthysse everybody was saying to me, ‘he’s nobody, nobody knows him’. But now people see he’s a very rugged, tough, strong puncher, and like I said the guy has exceptional punching power.”
Exceptional punching power. That is something Zab has shown throughout his career, but also something he has shown his ability deal with. The combination of both gave him the fancy nickname “Pernell Whitaker with Power” when he first made waves in the late 90’s. Now campaigning back at the division where he saw his first success, he has also brought along the real Pernell Whitaker for this training camp. It seems Zab is running on all cylinders. “Training camp is going well. We picked up a helping hand, Pernell “Sweetpea” Whitaker. He will be a new member of Team Judah. At this point I’m just taking experiences and sapping knowledge everywhere we go, sucking it all up. I need it. I’m going to get the best, to be the best.”
A win here for Zab sets up many interesting opportunities in the division. Who wouldn’t want to see Zab tested against another bomber in Marcos Maidana? How about a southpaw speed fest against Devon Alexander or Victor Ortiz? If fight fans aren’t clamoring for those fights yet, March 5th might be a night when that chatter starts.