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No love lost between Judah, Mayweather

LAS VEGAS -- There was a time a few years ago when "Pretty Boy" Floyd Mayweather and Zab Judah were pals, hardly the "Sworn Enemies" that their welterweight showdown is billed.

If you saw Mayweather at one hot spot on the Strip, Judah was often there with him -- two of boxing's best running the clubs together and having a good time into the wee hours.

When Judah would come to town, he often spent time at Mayweather's home, and Mayweather even got permission from promoter Bob Arum for Judah to work out at the Top Rank Gym, even though Judah was promoted by Arum rival Don King.

But those days are over. They are not friends anymore and "Sworn Enemies" is not too off-base as a fight title.

They'll meet at the Thomas & Mack Center Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) in front of an expected sellout crowd of more than 17,000 as Mayweather looks to further enhance his stature as the sport's pound-for-pound king and Judah tries to salvage his career in the wake of his stunning welterweight title loss in January to unheralded Carlos Baldomir.

But this won't be the first time Mayweather and Judah will share a ring, and by most accounts the first time they met in an April 2004 sparring session, it was all Mayweather.

Judah (34-3, 25 KOs) was training for a May 15 fight against Rafael Pineda and Mayweather (35-0, 24 KOs) was getting ready to face DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley two weeks later.

Mayweather and Judah were in top shape heading into their respective fights when they met for four rounds that, as the story goes, ended with Mayweather giving Judah a beating and their friendship turning ice cold.

"I'm the one who called the dogs off to stop Zab from getting his ass whupped," said Roger Mayweather, Floyd's uncle and trainer.

As the story goes, Judah had been unnecessarily rough with Wes Ferguson, a lightweight prospect Floyd Mayweather manages, during a sparring session a few days earlier.

The incident caused tension between Mayweather and Judah, and when Mayweather arrived at the gym a couple of days later, Judah was there with their mutual friend, heavyweight titlist Hasim Rahman.

"I instigated the whole thing. I did that," Rahman said proudly, but refusing to give an account of the session because Mayweather and Judah are "both my guys. You can't do that to me."

When it was suggested to Rahman that perhaps Mayweather dominated Judah, Rahman smiled and said, "Hey, I'll leave it alone. I just saw two guys working."

Mayweather said he remembered arriving at the gym that day.

"I could tell by how everything was looking, there's going to be a problem," Mayweather recalled.

Then Rahman suggested to him that he spar with Judah, who is a southpaw like Corley.

"I said, 'You know me, I work with anybody.' Everybody at the gym said, 'Oooooh.'"

Mayweather said Judah came to him, away from everyone else, a few minutes later to see about sparring together.

"He was beating around the bush like he wanted to work," Mayweather said. "So I said, 'You don't have to beat around the bush. If you want to work, we can work.' He said, 'Yes, we can work.' I said, 'Let's work today.' He didn't want to let his pride get in the way because he was already upset because earlier that week we had played basketball, like four games of basketball, and I had beat him in front of all of his friends real bad. I beat him so easily in basketball."

So in the ring they went.

Mayweather, who often records his sparring sessions, said he decided not to tape this one because he didn't want to embarrass Judah with the outcome later.

Mayweather said nothing much happened in the first round.

"We had a feeling-out round," he said. "Actually, to tell you the truth, I didn't even want to come out too hard on Zab. I was like, no, I don't want to do this because once I felt him out I was like, this guy, he can't mess with me. It was a feeling-out round because I didn't go into my bag of tricks."

After that, things became more heated when Judah started to talk smack.

"So, second round, we come up, he gets to talking," Mayweather said. "Once he gets to talking, I said, 'You know, that's exactly what I wanted you to do. Now you're talking and now I'm able to put the hurt on you.' Then, you know, I got the best of him easy. I mean, it was like, to be honest, it was some easy work. And this is the same guy who before [Saturday's fight was signed] talked all this trash. Called me 'Punk.' Called me 'Pretty Girl.' Now this guy doesn't even want to cooperate or promote the fight."

Mayweather said the session got "really got out of hand real bad."

"My uncle Roger was up on the ring apron," Mayweather said. "He's like, 'No, his daddy's got to stop this because it's not cool. His dad [trainer Yoel Judah] was like, 'Get out of the ring.' Zab was like, 'No, let me keep going.' [Yoel] said, 'Man, get out of that ring before that man kills you.'"

Yoel Judah, who has done most of the talking for his son, wouldn't address the session.

When told of Mayweather's version, Yoel's response was, "Whatever he said, that's what happened. You make sure you watch the fight. Whatever Floyd said, that's what happened. All right? Just be there."

Zab Judah has refused to speak the media during the promotion and although he wouldn't answer questions specifically about the sparring session, he did allude to it one of his few remarks.

"I know all about Mayweather and what it takes to beat him," he said. "I'm going to be aggressive real early and go right after him."

Should make for a interesting sequel, shouldn't it?

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.