By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — If Vernon Paris is as aggressive against Zab Judah inside the ring as he has been outside of it, Judah will more than have his hands full later tonight.
Detroit’s Paris continued to unload on the former welterweight and junior welterweight champion prior to his biggest televised appearance.
“He is not the fighter that he used to be, that’s for sure,” Paris said. “Any time you get in the ring, and then you get hit with a punch and you try to find a way out, first and foremost, I want to say this — he got hit with a body shot when he fought Amir Khan. He claims for it to be low. He heard the referee count. He chose to stay down.
“Second of all, if it was a low blow, I’ve never seen a fighter in my life get hit with a low blow and not get up from it. He’s washed up. He don’t want to fight no more. He’s fighting for a payday, and fighters like him need to retire.”
The 34-year-old Judah’s poor performance against Khan has raised doubt about Judah’s ability to continue competing against top opponents. The 24-year-old Paris is undefeated, but unproven at the highest level. The most noteworthy win on Paris’ resume is a seventh-round stoppage of Baltimore’s Tim Coleman (19-3-1, 5 KOs) on Aug. 5 in Santa Ynez, Calif.
Judah suspects Paris isn’t ready for a fight of this magnitude, a 12-round IBF elimination match that’ll earn the winner a shot at the victor of a May 19 rematch between Washington’s Lamont Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs) and England’s Khan (25-2, 20 KOs).
“He’s going to try to come forward, he’s going to try to throw punches,” Judah said. “But when he realizes he’s in there with a real fighter, he’s going to start looking for an escape route. I’m prepared for him to do dirty tactics and look for an escape route out of this.”
Paris predicted Judah would be the one seeking an escape route Saturday night at the Aviator Sports & Events Center in Judah’s native Brooklyn (NBC Sports Network; 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT).
“He got hit with a body shot [in the fifth round against Khan], tried to make it like it was a low blow,” said Paris, who floored Coleman three times with body shots before their fight was stopped. “As usual, Zab was trying to find a way out of a tough fight. He’s a coward. I’m actually praying that he don’t quit, or try to find an exit in this fight.
“This is my first time being in New York. I want us to be able to put on a good show. I’m pretty sure he’s going to try real hard, but once he understands that he’s not going to hurt me, once he understands that I can punch, I’m pretty sure he’s going to be trying to find an exit.”
Paris also scoffed at Judah’s suggestion that he’s not ready to take what is an indisputable step up in class for the six-year pro.
“I’ve been doing this since I was 11 years old,” Paris said. “I’ve sparred with people his caliber plenty of times before. I mean, for him to sit up there and say I’m not ready for this level of competition, he has to understand this is what I do. I box for a living. I’m a professional fighter. I’m 26-0 for a reason. So let him keep on believing that, let him keep on thinking that. And when we get in that ring, we’re going to see.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.