By Michael Marley
LAS VEGAS--Who would have thunk it? At age 33, five time world champion Zab Judah, who has been fined and suspended for misconduct inside the ring and had misadventures outside it, now carries himself like a distinguished gentleman.
No more yelling, whining or throwing ring stools at the referee (hello and get well soon, Jay Nady).
Maybe it's better late than never personal maturity or maybe it's a matter of the slick boxing southpaw from Brooklyn realizing he had better learn to say hello before it's time to say goodbye to an up and down career which has left him with a 41-6-2, 28 KOs ring resume.
But, regardless of how he put aside childish things, Judah is clearly a force again, holding the IBF junior welterweight crown and possibly being "a decider" among the welterweights if he so desires.
I sat with Zab at Planet Hollywood the other day and found that Main Man-ny Pacquiao remains very much on his mind.
Unlike his former foe, Floyd Mayweather Jr., though, Judah approaches discussion of a possible match against the Pinoy Idol from a reverent position.
Not meaning he "worships" Pacman but that the New Yorker does pay his righteous respects to boxing's most popular performer.
"I respect what the man has done, I really do," Judah said. "I got to give him all that. I would love to fight him, two southpaws with markedly different styles. I think the people would love to see this because Manny fights so aggressively and I'm more the technician with my skills.
"Hell yeah, I respect Pacquiao. I like what he does in that he is like me in giving all credit to God. A fight between us would put his power against my speed and, like I say, it would be something worth watching. What we share, besides being boxers, is respect and love for God."
A Judah-Pacquiao matchup, at 147 pounds, is a fairly easy sell for the marketing folks given all that juicy fight footage to be had with Judah boxing Mr. Mayweather, Mr. Cotto (he got stopped in 11) and all the rest.
It's not like Judah has ducked or dodged anyone. Yeah, he lost to Cory Spinks but he then troucned the erratic St. Louis boxer in a rematch on Spinks' home turf.
As a practical matter, Judah also knows that Pacman promoter Bob Arum is favorably disposed to making such a fight although it's not at the top of his To Do List.
Judah keeps barking about how he wants to and will next fight aging Pacman nemesis, Juan Manuel Marquez, but that picture seems foggy to me, what with the Mexican counterpuncher supposedly shedding his Golden Boy Promotions coat a week hence and maybe joining forces with Arum's Top Rank.
(By the bye, I would say that Filipino Flash Nonito Donaire trying to exit TR and go to Golden Boy with Juan Ma coming in the opposite direction hardly seems like a fair "player swap" given that the Fil-Am is a decade younger than JMM. But we shall see what we shall see.)
Judah, meanwhile, has his fistic fantasy about Pacman.
"Sure," Judah said, "Manny hits hard, we know this. But I can hit hard and box. I do not waste any punches. I'd like to get with Pacquiao and I will beat him, I know I can."
No bragging, no garbage chatter.
This is the new, improved "Lion Of Judah" and he cuts right to the chase.
Well, he's not chasing Megamanny but he'd like to be in the money hunt for Manny.