By Jake Donovan
Ever since he decided nearly two years ago to return to the 140 lb. division, speculation began as to how much longer Zab Judah could extend his stay at the championship level.
How often Judah continues to win these days will ultimately provide the answer to that question. Making the weight, he insists, is as much of a guarantee as expecting the sun to rise in the morning.
“140 is the weight class I feel great at, that I make easily,” Judah states while presently deep in training for his March 24 title eliminator with unbeaten contender Vernon Paris at the Aviator Arena in Brooklyn. “I can go eat a Filet Mignon burger and still make weight. It’s my solid, natural weight and I have no problem making it.”
The charismatic Brooklynite won his first belt more than a decade ago during his days as an undefeated player at 140 lb., with his reign lasting more than a year before running into Kostya Tszyu in late 2001. Another alphabet reign followed two years later before moving up to welterweight.
Judah managed to capture the lineal welterweight championship, stopping Cory Spinks in nine one-sided rounds on the road in St. Louis in their Feb. ’05 rematch. The win remains a career-defining moment, though the end of his reign – less than a year later – provided the worst patch of his career, winning just twice in a span of seven fights over a stretch of more than two years.
In returning to the 140 lb. division, Judah has been able to squeeze out a few more lives of a career that never quite lived up to its full potential. His first major fight at the weight put him in position to capture his fifth championship, though required surviving a late rally and knockdown by then-unbeaten Lucas Matthysse to eke out a split decision in nearby Newark.
Judah returned to the championship stage four months later, recovering from a flash knockdown to knock out Kaizer Mabuza in the seventh round of their vacant title fight just over a year ago.
The reign was short-lived, however, as he fell behind early and never got untracked in last July’s unification bout with Amir Khan, suffering a fifth round knockout in the process.
As far as Judah is concerned, the March 24 fight is on that same level – largely because the former two-division champ has convinced himself that every opportunity could finally be his last.
“Every time you step in the ring it means the same thing to every fighter,” Judah insists. “Vernon Paris means the same as Amir Khan meant to me. Anybody that knows me knows that winning means more to me than anything. I could(n’t) care less who it is, the opportunity at hand is just Zab Judah stepping in and being the best Zab Judah that he can be.”
Whether or not that version shows up on March 24 is always a question mark. For the moment, Judah at least sounds jovial, genuinely looking forward to the high-risk challenge.
“I’m excited again. I’m feeling back to 22 years again. I promise that I will give the excitement that I gave you when I was 22 years old.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com .