By Kevin Francis, courtesy of The Daily Star
PEOPLE have found God in peculiar places over the years – but never anywhere like this!
Zab Judah has transformed a turbulent lifestyle by turning to the Almighty here in Sin City.
Yes, Las Vegas, where 24-hour drinking and non-stop gambling are two of the more respectable leisure activities.
The 33-year-old IBF light-welterweight champion meets WBA king Amir Khan in a unification contest here on Saturday and says his approach will be a far cry from the Judah of old.
This is the fighter suspended for six months after throwing a stool across the ring and shoving a gloved fist into the throat of referee Jay Nady.
He was also fined £46,000 for the incident, which happened after he lost to Kostya Tszyu in 2001.
Then, after a low blow against Floyd Mayweather Jr five years ago, the cops had to enter the ring to end a massive fracas.
That resulted in another fine of £217,000 and a one-year ban. Add a tempestuous teenage lifestyle and it is hard to see Judah turning to God. But that’s what happened after he moved to Vegas.
He revealed: “When I first came here, that wasn’t my goal. I came to Las Vegas to have fun. I found myself living here and then I found I had to change my life.
“To change my life, I had to find God. People say, ‘How do you serve God living in Sin City?’ I say I do a great job at it.
“It’s a secret, but Las Vegas has the most churches per capita of any city in America. That’s big.”
The cool, calm Judah I spoke to yesterday was a different character to the one I’ve seen inside and outside the ring over the years.
He knows it too, and said: “To know me is to love me. If you Google Zab Judah, you get lots of street fights and brawls.
“That happens when you are young. I’m sorry for those situations but as a man moving forward, I can never look back. I make things positive from here on.”
Judah puts much of his current situation down to the influence of his trainer Pernell ‘Sweet Pea’ Whitaker, a former world champ at four different weights.
He said: “It’s a privilege to be with him and I made my pro debut in 1996 on one of his undercards.
“He was one of the greatest pound-for-pound fighters, one of the great defensive fighters. To have him as my coach is a great thing.
“It took one call to reach out to him and let him know that my focus is 100 per cent. We call it the S&S team – it stands for Super Judah and Sweet Pea.
“He has put together a great strategy. He is a scientist and I’m a student in one of his classes. He is No.1 for me.
“To have one of the great defensive fighters of our era beside me is great.”
KHAN v Judah will be live on Primetime pay-per-view, channel 480 on Sky, for £14.95.
European champion Darren Barker will face arguably his toughest test after promoters Matchroom sealed a deal for him to fight legendary Argentinian WBC middleweight champion Sergio Martinez in Atlantic City on October 1st.