By Jake Donovan
Zab Judah has officially poked the bear.
Unbeaten 140 lb. contender Vernon Paris took none too kindly to recent remarks made by Judah in hyping up their March 24 title eliminator at the Aviator Arena in Brooklyn. NBC Sports Network will televise the bout, in which the winner will be guaranteed a title shot against whoever is victorious in the May 19 rematch between Lamont Peterson and Amir Khan.
In preparation for this fight, Judah claimed in a recent Main Events press release to have watched Paris a couple of times and is hardly impressed by what he saw.
“I don’t know much about him,” Judah claims. “I’ve seen a couple of fights, but actually I fell asleep. It was nothing that amazing to see.”
It’s hard to believe that Judah is speaking on the entertainment value of the fights that put him asleep, since Paris is less than a year removed from his thrilling 7th round knockout of Tim Coleman last summer on ESPN2 Friday Night Fights.
Whatever his meaning behind the insult, Paris envisions a scenario that can help the transplanted Brooklynite – now fighting out of Las Vegas – remain true to his comments.
“Zab says he sleeps on my fights, huh,” Paris (26-0, 15KO). “Well, he can go to sleep in our fight, too. I got no problem putting his ass to sleep on March 24.”
Paris surprised many by so quickly agreeing to terms to face the former two-division champ, a fight that comes with a modest five-figure payday and a short drive from Judah’s old stomping grounds. At risk is his unbeaten record as well as a lofty sanctioning body ranking, while Judah is believed to be one loss away from forever being regarded as an afterthought.
Such was thought to be the case after his one-sided fifth round knockout loss to Amir Khan last summer. However, the IBF – who is sanctioning the eliminator – elected to put Judah back into position where he is once again one fight away from yet another title shot.
It may not be right, but it is what it is. Paris has no problem with navigating around the sport’s politics as he believes it will be an isolated incident and not what to expect in the future.
“Unlike Zab, I actually respect my opponents, unless they start acting stupid like Tim Coleman did,” Paris states. “I got all the respect in the world for what Zab accomplished back in the day. But I think even he knows that his time is up.
“He wants to start popping that sh*t to psyche himself up or whatever, that’s on him. But he’s just making it worse for himself. Leave me alone and you got a shot. But the more he talks, the worse it’s gonna be for him.”
Judah enters the fight having suffered the aforementioned knockout loss to Khan, just one fight after seemingly turning around his career with a title-winning knockout over Kaizer Mabuza last March. The win over the South African appears to have been his last hurrah, as he looked faded and badly outgunned in being overwhelmed by Khan in their HBO-televised unification bout last July.
What he brings to the table in the March 24 bout is his name and his Brooklyn roots. Paris has every intention of reminding him that neither will do him much good on fight night.
“Zab can start saying all he want about being down with Mike Tyson, knowing this cat and that cat from the BK and all the sh*t he’s accomplished in his career. Don’t none of that help him once the bell rings and I’m deep in that ass. All he’s got is memories. I’m the future. Whatever he think he got, I’m coming to get it.”
Though he thoroughly believes himself to be the superior fighter in this matchup, Paris gladly defers to Judah on one subject in particular.
“I was talking to a group of kids recently about boxing. They asked me what it feels like to be knocked out. I told them they’d have to ask Zab, since he’s the sleep expert. He talks all that back in the day stuff, but doesn’t talk about being knocked out back in the day. He just let Amir Khan knock his ass out. When I come to his hood on March 24, he get to go back to sleep again.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]