Kathy Duva is a patient soul, as non-combustible a boxing promoter as you'll find. She needs patience when overseeing one Zab Judah, who will fight Vernon Paris (26-0) in the main event on a Duva show at the Aviator Complex in South Brooklyn, N.Y., on Saturday night. That bout, an IBF 140-pound title shot eliminator, and the undercard bouts will air on NBC's cable sports channel, with the featured bouts to kick off safely after the March Madness contests have finished up.
Duva betrayed not a hint of dismay when she informed me on Thursday at noon that she had no idea til late in the game that legend Pernell Whitaker would not be training Judah (41-7) for this bout, or be working his corner in Brooklyn. Slight surprise was present in her voice, yes. But Duva has to be of a certain mindset when dealing with Judah, who although 34 and who has seen the light, in the form of a born-again-type conversion to Christianity a couple years ago, can still be mercurial. The boxer still has the ability to swerve at a moment's notice, as he did in his most recent outing, when he crumpled to the mat off a shot to the belt line by then WBA champ Amir Khan and was counted out for a fifth-round TKO loss, costing him his IBF strap. Afterward, he cried foul, protesting the launch landed on his groin, and he hasn't strayed from that belief since the July event.
Duva can't let herself get overheated or frustrated at the boxer's idiosyncrasies, and she didn't as she cooly told me that she learned that Whitaker, who was with Judah for his past two fights, was out, only right after a March 6 conference call. On that call, Judah indicated that he and Whitaker were still an item -- not a given, because some theorized after the Khan loss that the defensive whiz Whitaker wasn't the right fit for Judah, who is best when he takes it to his foe and lets his offense be his best defense.
"Pernell Whitaker is family, he will always be with us," Judah said on the call. In retrospect, that assertion is more vague than it seems on surface. A family member, one can argue, is always with you -- in your heart, in your head, even if he isn't physically next to you.
I asked Duva the circumstances of the Whitaker split, and she said she had no clue. "You'd have to ask Zab," she said. That wasn't possible, as I was with Annabelle and Juliette this morning, when the last press conference to hype the Aviator card took place in New York.
For the record, Duva said, Judah's dad, Yoel, won't return as chief second. His uncle, James Harvey, will lead Judah's corner in Brooklyn.
FYI: Tickets are still available, and Duva wants hoops fans to know that widescreens will be on at the Aviator, so you can get your basketball fix on during the fights if you so choose.