When you ask Judah what he knew about Conte- who will forever be associated as the founder of BALCO and being the chemical mastermind in reshaping sports history through the use of “the clear” and “the cream”- he says, "Well, the first thing you know about Victor is what everyone else knows about him, the different kind of scandals he’s been through but Zab Judah as a person, I’ve been through a lot in my life. I’m pretty sure if you Googled me, you’re not going to see a choirboy come up." As he says this, he laughs heartily and yes, there was this particularly infamous dice game back in South Florida a few years ago. "So I’ve learned from my own experiences never to judge a person and always just to give a guy a shot. I reached out to Victor and like I said, everything’s been great. I feel like a million bucks.
"All I want is what every fighter should do, put your arm out and be willing to take the test."
It’s ironic he says this, because it was Judah, not Floyd Mayweather, who first broached the subject of having more comprehensive testing for boxing in light of the growing use of illegal performance enhancing substances that have become prevalent in all sports. Back a few years ago, as he was slated to face Shane Mosley- who ironically, was a BALCO disciple during Conte’s darker years- he brought this up, only to be shot down. "Yeah, yeah, I was one of the first guys that kind of heard about it and stumbled over it. Shane was taking illegal substances. Like I said, whether it was true or not, I heard about it and I automatically, back in the day, said to Golden Boy [Promotions], ’Let’s do a drug test.’ People looked at me like, ’What, are you retarded?’ Ya know what I mean? ’We don’t do that in boxing. Who are you to change the rules?’ People listen to what Floyd says because Floyd, he has the stage right now. He has a great presence in boxing and people do want those big fights. You want those big fights? Take the test.
"I don’t see nothing wrong with what he’s doing. I’m actually behind the movement. Like I said, any fighter, anybody, any commission, I can hold Victor Conte, hug him in one arm and put the other arm out and say, ’Let’s take the test.’"
This brings us to Conte, who’s gone through a renaissance of sorts, much of it through his involvement with the sport of boxing. When asked about his involvement with Judah, he explains, "Zab has been doing both hypoxic training and I created an individualized nutrition program for him, much like I’ve done in the past for others like Nonito Donaire." (For more background on intermittent hypoxic training with Donaire, who is perhaps the most open about his association with Conte, here’s an article from this past December: http://www.doghouseboxing.com/DHB/Kim120410.htm) "Nonito lives there in Vegas and has been working closely with Zab and we did comprehensive testing with Zab and I put together a program to address his specific needs and work with him on his specific goals and so he’s been doing a supplementation program, as well as the hypoxic training and says that he feels great."
So what did Conte know about his newest client?
"To be honest, I knew he was at the very top, elite level and he first came to my attention with what happened with the Shane Mosley fight, when that got postponed when [Zab] got injured. I knew about his relationship with Mike Tyson. I think that Zab today- and I don’t know a lot about his past but I knew he was from Brooklyn and so on- but the one I have interacted with is a great guy. He seems to be at peace with himself, very confident; he’s very intelligent and open to new-school training technologies and I think a part of his decision to embrace some of the things I do has to do with his trust in Nonito Donaire and the success he has had."
According to Conte, Judah is very compliant. To be under his tutelage, there really is no other choice. "I always tell athletes that I work with, it’s not enough to know what to do- you have to do what you know and that’s the bottom line. I can do all sorts of assessments and determine what the specific needs are and what are the appropriate dosages of various nutritional ingredients should be, to help them achieve an optimum balance but it does take religious compliance to get the type of results and performance enhanced goals that these world-class athletes are looking for. So they’ve got to take these things in the morning, take things before training, take things after training, and take things at night before they go to bed and to religiously comply with that is not easy. And a lot of athletes that don’t take it seriously; they’re not going to get the type of results as someone who has religious compliance.
"I believe that Zab has great compliance with the hypoxic training protocols and as well as all the nutritional recommendations I made for him."
Judah regularly texts Conte and sends him photos of his hypoxic training logs. Conte says that while Judah uses supplements from his company, SNAC (an acronym for “Scientific Nutrition for Advanced Conditioning”), he has also prescribed for him other nutritional products outside his own brand.
Judah admits, "I think my problem in the past was listening, taking orders. Zab Judah was never too fond of taking orders from people and I think know that I’ve humbled myself and I allow myself to listen more. Let my trainer, Pernell Whitaker, and my uncle, Jimmy, and Morris East, I let these guys take charge. I just listen."
In the past, Judah, wasn’t exactly Jack Lalanne as it related to his diet. He says now with the advice of Conte, his wife Christina cooks healthy meals. You are, as they say, what you eat and now, this vehicle has the right gasoline in its tank. "[Conte] showed me a lot about the body. He showed me things I had no idea about. He showed me about a lot of myths, ’You can do this and do that’. He showed me you can’t [avoid good nutrition] but when you treat the body well...your body is almost like a car. It’s like a high-performance car. I’m like a Bugatti right now, a racing Bugatti and when you put the right fuel and the right oils and the right treatment in the car, it runs at high-level speeds."
The story of the “new and matured” Judah has been written before ad nauseam but as you talk to Judah, who is calm and placid like never before (he didn’t even drop more than one “Ya know what I’m sayin’”), you’re more prone to believe it this time around. His marriage to Christina, who he calls, "a great lady in my life," seems to have given him a foundation that has been sorely lacking before in his domestic life. As for Conte, there are some who will never forgive and forget. He’ll be that guy who irrevocably changed the course of athletics and will be the face of steroids. Perhaps these two are a perfect fit, two men, at differing stages of their life, trying to make up for past ills and looking for redemption.
However, there is a certain taboo working with Conte- at least for now.
"Absolutely, that’s one of the first things I discuss with the athletes is what they have to be prepared to answer these tough questions and there is a price that they pay in terms of suspicion for their association with me," he stated, "but the bottom line is, these athletes like Nonito and Zab and others, that are now coming to me, elite boxers, I believe they’re some of the cleanest boxers in the sport. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be coming to me and so I greatly appreciate this opportunity, based upon past mistakes that I’ve made, where athletes like Zab and Nonito and there are some others, that I’ll be working with in the near future that trust that they have in me. It really means a lot."
As for the willingness for he and his clients to put themselves through extra testing procedures, Conte says without hesitation, "Yes and they know that’s part of working with me. That I’m pushing for this, I’m trying to help Dr. Margaret Goodman now to develop a program, a health and safety and testing program for boxers and they know this. And Zab has stepped up and said that he would be willing to random testing. Nonito, of course, is willing and there are others that I can’t disclose at this time but have expressed to me that they are willing to step up and once a fight is signed for, whatever that seven, eight-week time frame is, they will enter a random testing pool and they’ve got nothing to hide. They’d like to express that to the trainers."
When it’s all said and done, no matter what assistance was provided by external sources, this is about the fighter and his execution.
Judah says, "Victor Conte’s a man; he’s a human being, so he’s no special doctor where if you can’t fight, he can put stuff into you to make you fight. There’s no such thing but he can bring the great performance that’s inside of you, clearly. That’s what I’m looking for to show the world; he’s a clean guy. Like I said, I can hug Victor with one arm and put the other arm out, ready for the test."
So what kind of Judah is to be expected on the night of July 23rd?
"A total animal," he says. "A total animal."
Not only is this a big fight for Judah but a watershed moment for Main Events, which reunited with Judah last year.
"I think he’s absolutely ready to win the big fights," said Kathy Duva, the head of Main Events, which has deftly moved Judah into this position. "Zab has taken all that promise, all that potential that he had as a young man and he has put that together with an incredible amount of maturity and wisdom that can only come with experience and bringing a real team together with him for the first time in his career since he left Main Events, where basically everyone has got his back working for him and then adding the cherry on top, which is Pernell, his trainer. I think he’s got a formula where he has to succeed."
Duva admits that she didn’t know about the union between her fighter and Conte. "I really don’t have a lot of information about that. Our understanding was he had simply had a conversation with this guy and that he is now all about working out right and eating right. Zab has been working on this fight on his nutrition for the first time probably in his career, where he’s really thinking about how much protein he’s eating and that sort of thing, which is kinda second nature for a lot of athletes. This is all part of the progression he’s been making in his career from being a young kid who got in that ring very ill-prepared and just depending on his ability and now becoming a mature person who’s starting to think about all the phases that come with preparing properly, working out enough, eating right, all of those things. I think everyone in life learns that lesson at some point in their life as they get older."
OK, but why was the British media excluded? Was it another case of “taxation without representation” as they were not cut in on the British pay-per-view, like Tim Bradley was offered?
Duva clarified, "Actually, it’s no participation without compensation." She went on to explain their position by stating, "I don’t think there’s any doubt that Zab Judah participating actively in the British pay-per-view marketing would have raised the value of it, obviously. He’s got a big, big name in England. He won his first world title in England when he fought Junior Witter, he’s had all of his major fights televised there. He’s arguably had more fights televised there than perhaps Amir Khan has – certainly major fights.
"I could not understand why they would not want him to participate. Again, why on Earth would he go out of his way to market something that he absolutely has no reward in?"
What type of fighter/man is Pawel Wolak, who engaged in a classic edition of “Friday Night Fights” this past weekend with Delvin Rodriguez at the Roseland Ballroom? After this draw, he tweeted (@PawelWolak): “The goal was to entertain I am really glad you all were. A win would have been nice but boxing is etertainment. So I hope I achieved that.”
I’m sure by now you’ve read a bunch of testimonials on this pitched battle but here’s what I want for these two brave men- an opportunity to cash in on their efforts. In the immediate aftermath of this encounter, I tweeted that I’d like to see a rematch put on the undercard of Antonio Margarito-Miguel Cotto II at Madison Square Garden (where it needs to be) and pay these guys much more than what they received the first time out. Heaven knows they deserve it and it’ll finally give the fans a worthy undercard bout. With the buzz created by Wolak-Rodriguez, this is the rare undercard fight that will actually move the needle in terms of pay-per-view sales and ticket buys.
- ESPN2 paid about $50,000 for this fight, compared to the $1.7 million HBO paid for the bout between Paul Williams and Erislandy Lara. Just do the math and be sickened by the disparity but more so, by how often this takes place. It’s one thing if HBO regularly got bang for its buck; sadly, in recent years, that hasn’t been the case, which is why we will have new leadership in place over there.
- On that note, I have to give a big hand to Doug Loughrey, who programs ESPN’s boxing franchise. Yeah, he has this strange fixation for Cuban boxers but overall, his 2011 has been stellar based on the budget he’s given, which is oftentimes less than 50-grand a show. He’s done quite a lot with just a little.
- What Wolak and Rodriguez also showed is that fights should be made and programmed by the network not just solely on if both boxers are ranked highly and/or deemed “important” by a few journalists, like they did to near-hyperventilation with the bust that was Tim Bradley-Devon Alexander. These two styles meshed; they had a certain mindset and made for great dance partners. Yeah, the bout between Wladimir Klitschko and David Haye was certainly hyped but which fight helped create fans: Klitschko-Haye or Wolak-Rodriguez?
The failing of the Ross Greenburg-Kery Davis regime showed that just because HBO might say it’s a “big fight” certainly doesn’t make it so. And it takes more than just the mightiest paycheck to make decent matchups on a consistent basis.
- So what’s the best thing I can say about the Juan Manuel Marquez-Likar Ramos fight? Well, it was one helluva stream provided by Toprank.tv (seriously, that thing was flowing like the Nile for all three bouts). Do I think the fight was fixed? No, but I do think Ramos - who was picked for a reason- was legitimately knocked down but decided he didn’t want anymore. Honestly, despite his attempts to play dead- where the only thing missing was drawing a chalk outline around his prone body- if I’m the athletic commission, I hold up his purse.
Seriously, I don’t think Top Rank is going to offer up a fight for free for the masses to see, only to engineer a dive and create a negative buzz surrounding their November 12th pay-per-view show between Marquez and Manny Pacquiao.
- In a year filled with good fights, Kevin Mitchell’s eighth round stoppage of John Murray was another one to add to the list. It was a pitched battle that saw Mitchell play the role of matador in goring the hard-charging Murray. Just my opinion but I don’t think Mitchell would be a bad opponent for WBA lightweight titlist Brandon Rios, although some would rather see “Bam Bam” in there with Michael Katsidis, who stopped Mitchell early last year.
-Brian Viloria became a three-time world champion by outpointing JC Miranda for his WBO flyweight title. What I’ll always remember about this fight is that the Filipino stream I got had intervals of about five minutes in between each round. I’ve watched telethons that didn’t take as long as watching this contest. What also stood out is that this telecast was sponsored by Colt 45. I didn’t even know that was around anymore. I was half-expecting Billy Dee to walk in at any moment.
This was supposed to be a tune-up for Marquez but honestly, this was like him just checking the rear view mirror...As for Rafael Marquez, honestly, while he won his fight by TKO, he looked like a very faded guy in there...I’m hearing that the upgraded streaming service is just part of a larger overhaul of the Top Rank website, which will open some eyes...While Frank and Jamie McCourt didn’t reconcile, Nonito Donaire and Top Rank have come to a truce and will be moving forward together...I talked to Y2K, he laughs at the overhyping of “Carmageddon”...I saw Lakers big man Andrew Bynum at the Wild Card Boxing Club on Saturday afternoon. He’s staying in shape by getting in a boxing workout with Freddie Roach. No, he’s not preparing for his return bout with JJ Barea...Roach says he expects Jorge Linares to face Antonio DeMarco for the vacant WBC 135-pound title...“The Season” on Showtime, which follows the exploits of the San Francisco Giants, is really good. It would have been better if my San Diego “Super” Padres hadn’t choked last year and become the World Series winners and had the show be about them...I cannot wait to hit my favorite Las Vegas venue this Thursday afternoon, the Mandalay Bay (where the flyin’ fishes play). And yes, the Goose will be overflowing like the Mississippi River this weekend. Come by and join the fun...I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.