Tomorrow evening provides, very likely, the last chance for Zab Judah to to redeem a career that has been stuttering since he reached the pinnacle of the sport way back in 2005. It was that year he became the undisputed World Welterweight Champion. It’s been a tough ride ever since.
There are very few fighters who possess the natural ability of a cat like Zab. It’s a rarity to find a fighter who achieved as much as Zab in the early 2000’s, only to blow it all in the latter half of the decade.
His career since then has been littered with one misstep after another. A farcical showdown with Floyd Mayweather in 2006 signified both the biggest fight of his career and the beginning of the trip down the mountain.
Always known for his occasionally thuggish tactics within the ring, the world observed a total meltdown against Mayweather. Realizing the fight was lost on points and that there was no way to get through Mayweather’s renowned shoulder roll defence, Judah lost control.
A series of low blows led to a brawl erupting between the two corners. The street dudes in both men showed up that day, along with those personas of their respective corners. You don’t grow up in a place like Brooklyn and not know how to maintain respect. Especially when everyone knows you as a boxer of some repute.
Judah went on to win a few fights and lose some big ones in the aftermath. It’s unfortunately been the story of his career. When faced with the top level of competition the mental fortitude required of an elite champion is simply not present. Then Judah met Amir Khan.
It looked, to this writer and many other observers, that we’d seen the end of the road for Judah. Going down in the fifth round to what was clearly not a low blow, it looked as though the fight had left the man.
It’s a terrible thing to see a once proud warrior, a man who never knew the word quit, lay on the mat and not want to get up. It’s entirely likely the body shot took all the wind out of him, and perhaps it was ring savvy that told Judah to sell the blow as illegal to gain more time for himself, but more than anything it looked like a man who was done with the punishment.
It wouldn’t be the first time a fighter realized in the middle of the bout that it wasn’t worth it anymore. That the cruel hands of fate had decided that there was no more left in the tank for Judah and it was time to call time on an outstanding career.
A dude like Judah doesn’t think like that though. He returned under a year later and exhibited a form we hadn’t seen in years. Maybe there still was fight left in this cat, if he could put on a clinic the way he did against Vernon Paris. Maybe.
And that’s the hope we all have as fans, that a once great warrior still has something left deep down in the reserves. We saw it with Erik Morales upon making his dubious comeback. Fight fans went from worrying for his health to wondering just how far he could make it in his last couple of years.
Unfortunately it was Danny Garcia, the very man Judah faces tomorrow evening, that put it all in perspective. In Garcia we had a young, hungry champion desperate to prove that he deserves to fight amongst the best. Watching El Terrible be decimated by the man was almost too much to watch.
So on Saturday Judah enters the ring, hoping for a very different result. He’s not as old and has not been as nearly as many wars as Morales. That is certainly in his favour. He also has a deep hatred for Angel Garcia, the loud mouth father of one of the sports rising stars. Claims of snitching reverberated last year, serving to stoke the fire that burns in Judah.
Saturday is the last chance for Judah. He needs to enter the ring and prove us all wrong for one last time. He just might possess the fire and desire necessary to do it.