Gosh, he sounded good. Zab Judah, whose talent is undeniable, sounded like his head was screwed on straight. It was like the 35-year-old was dialed in and ready to show Danny Garcia that the Brooklyn-bred ole dog wasn't ready to concede his turf, and let the kid from Philly toss him to the retirement scrap heap.
At the Judah Brothers Gym in East New York on Tuesday afternoon, I found myself talking to the family and friends of Judah. Yes, ok, they are people who are fond of him and may, in fact, be irreparably biased in his favor ahead of his Saturday scrap at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It is entirely possible that these folks were thinking that the former junior welterweight and welter champion could spring the upset versus the champion Garcia.
Judah (42-7, 29 KOs, has been stopped 3 times; 4-1 in last five fights) conceded to press at the open workout that, at the age of 16, he was handed the keys to the kingdom and misused that power frequently.
Doors opened for the mega-talented Brownsville hitter. He'd stride into the room, and grab the goodies with both hands. There were hijinks, brushes with authorities, reports of over-partying and under-training. There were dustups with dad-trainer Yoel. There were breakups and periods of uneasy truces with dad. And yet, here we are, almost 17 years after he debuted as a pro, Zab Judah is still on the big stage, getting another chance to show off the high-grade hand speed and power that, when properly channeled, stamp him as a superlative sweet scientist.
The boxer's humility impressed me, as when he said, "What do I do? I fight people and knock them out or vice versa." That's pretty new for Zab, who has never lacked for confidence. Here, he was allowing for the possibility of a loss, and not in a way, to my eye, which betrayed a lack of confidence. Instead, I read in his voice a respect for Garcia (25-0 with 14 KOs), the 25-year-old who holds stoppage wins over Amir Khan and faded Erik Morales.
Judah told one and all that he was ready to rock and that he sees this fight as a potential entry into the Hall of Fame. He said would be "bringing back the Zab Judah you guys know." He meant the A-grade Zab, who would be focused and ready to exhibit the best of his arsenal. Not the man whose focus sometimes wavered and shrank away from showing off his attributes.
I sensed a serenity and firm belief in self. Was I reading too much into his voice and inflection? We will have to wait till Saturday to get the answer whether we'll see him in the best of form, or a sub-par version which tantalizes, and then disappoints.
If you aren't heading to Barclays, Showtime will televise the Judah-Garcia scrap, which is being promoted by Golden Boy.
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