A wise man once said, “God only sprinkles the world with a select few slick southpaws” that wise man was six-time world champ and former undisputed Welterweight Champ Zab Judah. With the rumors swirling that Zab will get the opportunity to challenge for Keith Thurman’s WBA 147-pound strap on the Wilder/Fury undercard it’s a good time to look back at the career of “Super Judah”. This rumor has been stirred up by the media and Zab himself who tweeted out “I did it 6x already here goes #7 #TeamJudah #WeWillWin @ Barclays Center ” The fight will have plenty of skeptics and mockers wondering what the now 40-year-old Judah has done to earn a shot at another world title. Well, Judah has done quite a bit in his now 22-year career that began on September 20th, 1996.
This week in boxing history Zab stepped into a professional prizefighting ring for the first time. The future six-time world champ was the first fight on a loaded card in Miami, Florida at the James Knight Convention Center, a card headlined by one of the greatest fighters of his or any era, Pernell “Sweat Pea” Whitaker, it was nationally televised on HBO and also featured the likes of hard-hitting Samoan David Tua, Cuban standout out Diosbelys Hurtado. In the untelevised portion of the card, an undefeated power puncher Randall Bailey was featured as was the pro debut of future Cuban world champ Joel Casamayor. A memorable card indeed, a card that was kicked off by “Super” Judah making his pro debut against Michael Johnson who was also making his pro debut. Zab weighted in at 142, in between 140-147 the two weight divisions Zab would spend his entire career at.
Zab put on a spectacular dominating performance over a less than spectacular opponent. Zab scored two knockdowns in the first before finishing off the overmatchedMichael Johnson in the second round. Zab put on a show for the crowd that was just beginning to arrive, showing off his devastating lead hooks and straight left hands as well as his blazing hand speed, powerful combination, and lightning quick feet. A combination of unique and impressive skills that made the slick southpaw a threat and fan favorite two decades later. Zab would go on to become a multiple-time world champion in two separate weight divisions (140 &147), holding both the IBF and WBO 140 pound straps and becoming the undisputed welterweight champ a feat that Floyd, Pacquiao, Oscar, Sugar Shane or Whitaker were never able to accomplish. Given his extremely high level of success did Super Judah ever really live up to his incredible talents?
Judah put together numerous quality wins, wins over the likes of Terron Millet, Junior Witter, Corey Spinks, Chop Chop Corley and Lucas Matthysse a really solid resume for the Brooklyn native. However given his unique skills amd tricky southpaw stance Zab came up short in all of his fights for greatness. First, against Kostya Tszyu but also against Floyd Mayweather and Miguel Cotto, two fights were Zab started-out boxing beautifully, winning rounds against both legends before fading in the middle rounds. He no-showed against Carlos Baldomir, seemingly quit against Amir Khan when things weren’t going well and lost to Dany Garcia, a then young upstart champion in a life and death battle where Zab sort of re-established himself at a high level but ultimately came up short.
There has been a reoccurring theme in the biggest fights of Zab’s career where he starts off boxing beautifully and then fades late, perhaps its conditioning or motivation or just lack of interest but it has plagued the career of Zab throughout. In 2018, Zab has seemingly turned his life around straightened out found Christ in his life and lives for Him, and if he is indeed given this fight with Thurman, if the rumors are true, if there is fire where there is smoke, Zab will have one last chance to finish his career which started brilliantly and finish strongly this time. He can accomplish the rarest of achievements not just a ticket to the International Boxing Hall of Fame but more importantly and more rare in boxing a happy ending and a happy ending to a career that started 20 years ago this week