By Ryan Songalia (photo by Emily Harney)
NEWARK, NJ - The topsy-turvy career of former junior-welterweight and welterweight champion Zab Judah appears to be on the upswing for the moment following a spectacular third round knockout of former WBC interim lightweight titlist Jose Armando Santa Cruz at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ. The fight was televised by ESPN2's Friday Night Fights.
Judah, now 39-6 (27 KO), weighed in at 141 to his opponent's 143 in hopes of returning to glory in the division he first won championship glory in. With titlists Timothy Bradley, Devon Alexander and Amir Khan in need of a recognizable dance partner, Judah's name has to be re-entered into title fight discussions at 140 pounds.
Judah, 32, of Brooklyn, NY started out boxing conservatively with 1-2 combinations to the head and body. The speed advantage held by Judah was apparent from the get-go but became more evident once Judah began opening up in combinations in the second round. Santa Cruz, 29 of Lincoln Heights, CA looked slow and ineffectual as he followed Judah around looking for answers.
A restless crowd looking for Judah to unveil some of his old magic was gratified when Santa Cruz reached in to land a right hand to the body and was greeted with a flush left uppercut to the chin with :45 seconds left in the round. Judah followed up on his advantage by pummeling Santa Cruz along the ropes before the referee halted the bout at 2:33 of the third.
"The fight basically went as planned," said Judah, who co-promoted the show through Super Judah Promotions alongside Main Events. "I got behind my jab and let it set everything up. [New co-trainer] Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and my Dad [Yoel Judah] told me, 'When my jab is on, I can knock anybody out.
"Looking to the future, I'm not looking for them in any particular order. Timothy Bradley, Devon Alexander, Amir Khan - I'll pick them off one by one."
Santa Cruz, now 28-5 (17 KO), loses for the first time since being stopped by Antonio Pitalua in 2008.
With the win, Judah registers his third consecutive victory since losing to Joshua Clottey by technical decision for the vacant IBF welterweight title.
In the televised co-feature, Alex "The Brick City Bullet" Perez (12-0, 7 KO) won a unanimous decision over Edvan Dos Santos Barros (10-10-1, 7 KO). The scores were 77-75, 78-74 and a farcical 80-72. Barros, who loses for the eighth time in his last ten performances, took the fight on short notice to fill-in for Jeremy Bryan-conqueror Vincent Arroyo.
Perez, 28, of Newark, NJ, started out boxing from his southpaw stance and looking to drop counter right hooks on Barros, 31, of Deerfield Beach, FL by way of Salvador, Brazil, resorted to lunging in to get his offense going. The fight began to heat up in the second as Perez finally found his range with the right hook and landed effectively. As would be the pattern throughout the fight, Barros got his best work done along the ropes.
Perez was all too happy to oblige his opponent, despite being four inches taller at 6-foot-1. Perez continued to languish on the inside and trade shots upstairs, hoping to catch Barros with his shorter punches. Barros briefly gain control of the fight in the fourth and fifth rounds as Perez, perhaps looking to take advantage of his first television exposure, swung wildly in hopes of a knockout.
Perez continued to land the bigger punches up top and closed the fight stronger but failed to make a statement as a "must-see" prospect at 147.
"It was a good learning experience but I was affected by the headbutts," explained Perez, who said the head clashes began in the second round. "I give my performance a C+; I was really rusty."
Perez, who got his nickname after being shot a week after his pro debut, was fighting for just the third time since 2007.
Welterweight prospect Sadam Ali (8-0, 4 KO) of Brooklyn, NY continued his unbeaten tour through the lower ranks of the boxing world with a dominant third-round TKO win over Julias Edmonds (7-8, 0 KO). The 21-year-old former 2008 US Olympian scored a knockdown in each of the three rounds before the referee stepped in at 1:14 of the third.
Adam Kownacki got his first taste of adversity as he rose rose from a first round knockdown to score a second round TKO over Damian Clement at :42 of the second round. Kownacki, 21, of Brooklyn, NY by way of Lomza, Poland hit the canvas for the first time in his career moments into the first round as he walked into a short left hand. Undeterred, the heavyweight went right back on the assault and began to overwhelm Clement with activity before scoring his own knockdown later in the round. Kownacki continued the assault and dropped Clement once again on a hard right hand, ending the fight. Kownacki is now 3-0 (3 KO) while Clement drops to 0-3.
Jersey City, NJ cruiserweight prospect Patrick Farrell suffered his second blemish in the past six weeks as he was held to a draw against Newton "The Butcher" Kidd. Farrell had the superior workrate and closed the fight stronger but was frustrated at times by the unorthodox Kidd. Judges scored the bout 57-57 twice, and 58-56 for Kidd. Farrell is now 5-1-1 (3 KO) while the Bronx, NY resident Kidd goes to 7-7-1 (4 KO).