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Azad Championship Report - A Different Zab, the Same Zab

(Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)
(Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)


In talking to Zab Judah last week before he departed for his familiar haunts of Brooklyn, New York - where he faces WBC/WBA junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia on Saturday night at the Barclays Center (Showtime 9 p.m., ET) - he swore up and down that as fight week approached, he wouldn’t engage in any of the hysteria or the lunacy that broke out at the opening press conference to announce this event (originally scheduled for February 9th).
 
Well, on Tuesday during a Garcia meet-and-greet at a Modell’s Sporting Goods, Zab and his boys decided to crash the party and, well...this happened: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8V8SbZ12s88&feature=youtu.be
 
Yeah, Zab’s gonna Zab.
 
He just couldn’t help himself. But in all honesty, it looked like he and his crew were really there to just stir things up and try to get under Angel Garcia’s skin (which, by the way, they succeeded in doing so) and have a bit of fun. Perhaps give the mouthy father of the defending champ a taste of his own medicine. When Maxboxing spoke to Judah while he was still in Las Vegas, he seemed to be over what took place at the original presser back in early December when things got heated between the two camps.

“Y’ know what it was? It was entertainment at the beginning,” he said, recalling that verbal altercation that nearly became a battle royale. “At first, it’s going on; it’s happening. It wasn’t funny to me because I was puzzled, ‘I know this man ain’t talking crazy.’ Ya know what I mean? But then once I got home and got a little rest, I said, ‘Listen, I ain’t got to fight Angel Garcia. Angel Garcia gotta live with the embarrassment of coming in that ring and picking his son up on April 27th. That’s it.”
 
Judah, who’s no stranger to boisterous fathers in the corner, says he doesn’t necessarily mind a trainer or father engaging in such behavior. He believes that in boxing, they are so closely connected at times that “It’s like killing two birds with one stone,” he says. “It is what it is. It’s part of the game plan. It’s a system they’ve used for years to win fights. Danny just sits there and the father goes crazy and gets the fighter hyped up and everything like that. But as a professional and a 17-year veteran of this game, I’ve seen better stuff than that. I’ve walked with Mike Tyson; I’ve been in Mike Tyson entourages. So I’ve seen it all. That little game they play is nothing.”
 
As Judah says this, he’s chuckling. Yeah, Zab’s been around the block and his past is checkered with incidents that include tossed stools at referees, dice games in Miami and battles with glass shower doors (spoiler alert: Judah lost that one). Dealing with the Judah of the past couple of years is nothing like dealing with that version of Judah. There was a time when this guy was an unpleasant individual and incredibly unlikable. No, he’s never claimed to be perfect but he has changed noticeably.
 
“I just found peace within myself from the goodness of the Lord. The Lord allowed me to stand back and look at myself. I just found peace in myself and I figured out a lot of things I’m doing were unnecessary,” he admitted. Nowadays, Judah’s a friendly and amiable individual, well-mannered and respectful. “I would like to be seen and looked at as an approachable, likable, great boxer; that’s it. I don’t want anyone to stand back and be intimidated by me or ‘He’s an A-hole’ or anything like that. I don’t want that. I want people to say, ‘Yo, he’s cool and on top of that. He’s a great fighter.’”
 
They say youth is wasted on the young. Zab perhaps is the very example of that. But if you look at his career accomplishments, they are vast. He’s won multiple titles, battled some of the best fighters of this past generation and made some coin. Could he have done more? Perhaps, but you always got the sense that he squandered some his prodigious God-given tools at times. But 99 percent of prizefighters would love to have his résumé. On the flipside, a guy with his skills had no business ever losing to the likes of Carlos Baldomir. Judah just might be the most achieving underachiever in boxing history.
 
Many times, the toughest foe he ever faced was himself.
 
“That’s 100 percent. Y’ know what? A lot of people, when they talk, it’s not about Zab’s skills or ‘Zab don’t got skills’ or ‘Zab can’t fight.’ It’s ‘Did he prepare for the fight?’ Like they say, it takes some more time than others and I guess I was one of those kids that took a little more time to figure things out than the rest of the world.”
 
As Judah says this now at age 35, he easily laughs at himself. He knows he was a knucklehead for years, someone who just didn’t get it.
 
“But I figured it out now,” he claims. “I understand. I was born with natural, gifted talent so I didn’t have to really go in the gym and train hard to beat these guys. It was easy. I mean, I’m not going to name nobody but a lot of guys, I knocked them out and I didn’t even train. But now, I cross the ‘T’s and dot the ‘I’s and I’m ready.”
 
He openly and often credits his faith in his belief in God. Yeah, yeah, Judah’s had more reinventions than Madonna but this time around, win, lose or draw, you tend to believe him. He says of his past ways, “I was living in the Matrix. I was living for the money, the cars, the girls, the jewelry. I was blinded. Once I saw life for what it really was, I pulled it together real, real quick.”
 
Judah was a real life hip-hop video (you know which ones) back then. Now, he’s much more domesticated as he moved out west to Las Vegas a few years ago. Hey, nobody is calling him St. Judah, OK? You can still get him riled up but if Garcia’s father would’ve stepped to him like that years ago, this would’ve gone out into the streets (although, Judah did try to meet up with him again in the hotel lobby after everyone had cleared out).
 
The mere thought has him chuckling. He states, “I hate to even think back to him. The ‘old Zab’ but when I think back at what he would’ve did, there probably wasn’t going to be no fight today because Angel Garcia would probably got hurt really bad. That would’ve forced Danny and Showtime and everybody to say, ‘No, no, no, we don’t want to do business with this guy,’ so I’m kinda glad. See, this is the goodness of the Lord. The Lord came in and wiped all that clean. He took it all outta my heart. I don’t even think half of the way I would’ve thought in the past. I mean, we were in New York City. It would’ve been ugly.”
 
(OK, maybe not all of it but Judah is much more restrained nowadays.)
 
Judah is a substantial underdog this weekend but even this late in the game, he still has a blend of speed and power that provides an element of danger for Garcia.
 
“I think he’s going to be very surprised,” said the southpaw with a record of 42-7 (29). “Everyone in that arena, everyone watching on the television screen is going to go, ‘Whoa!’ That’s my plan. I’ve worked so hard and dedicated myself to this fight night on April 27th, to leave everybody like, ‘Whoa.’”
 
This has to be it for Judah, who’s had more lives than a cat. You know what they say in boxing: Nine strikes and you’re outta here. Does Judah have one more in him?
 
“I feel great about this opportunity. I feel great about this situation and like I said, I’m excited, man. “It was funny. Mike [Tyson] was in the gym yesterday. He came by and he was just like, ‘Yo, you...look...amazing.’ He said, ‘You’re going to leave the world shocked.’”
 
BROTHERLY LOVE
 
As word broke on the evening of January 26th at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas (where Lucas Matthysse destroyed Mike Dallas in one round) that Garcia would be pulling out of the February 9th date, there were a lot of conspiracy theories thrown around as to what really caused this fight to be backed up.
 
A week or two later, Garcia’s girlfriend seemed to out him on Twitter for his late-night escapades (don’t you just love Twitter?). Judah took all of this in stride. It seems as though he has recon out there.
 
“It’s funny,” he said. “I got a lot of family that lives in Philadelphia, as far as the East Coast, period. I got family up and down. I got cousins that see Danny out all the time in the strip clubs and stuff like that and be calling me on the spot like, ‘Yo, he in here right now. Yo, he over here drinking.’ Like it’s funny. I hear his father [say], ‘Danny, don’t drink.’ My cousins are like, ‘Zab, we’re right here looking at him drinking. He’s got five bottles on the table and he’s drinking right now. We’re looking at him now.’”
 
Judah can’t help but laugh and be amused by this. After all, this was him in years past.
 
“When I hear stuff like that, I just go to the gym, no matter what time it is - because in Vegas, gyms are open 24 hours, plus I own my own gym - so I just go to the gym, play some basketball, do some workout, while I know my opponent is in the club looking at girls, drinking alcohol and I’m in the gym working out. So ya know what I mean? I feel like I got the mental and physical advantage on Danny already. I feel like his team behind him, Al Haymon and Golden Boy, I think they knew Danny was nowhere near ready for February 9th, so they postponed the fight. But listen, you know and I know if you weren’t ready for February 9th, there’s no way in the world you can be ready for April 27th. It’s only two months later.
 
“If the kid has a problem with hanging out and partying because he’s a young kid, I was young at one time and you couldn’t tell me nothing! I partied like...he made his first million dollars when he fought Erik Morales. We know that he just made a bunch of money. He’s enjoying himself. He went through the holidays, Christmas, New Years; Of course there’s no way in the world he would’ve been ready for February.”
 
TOP RANK SCHEDULE
 
Some dates that were tentatively planned by Top Rank for the summer and fall have been shifted around, according to Bob Arum. First of all, it looks like the suspended Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. will be pushed back a few weeks.
 
“We’re not screwing around with the [Nevada] commission. They said June 16th (he could return), that knocks out June 15th and we’re now looking for a date in July, July 13th. HBO wants a show June 15th and we’re going to go with another show on June 15th, something without Chavez.”
 
Arum says Chavez’s fight could take place in Mexico and names like Darren Barker and Brian Vera have been prominently mentioned. So now the HBO date on June 15th will be headlined by WBO featherweight titlist Mikey Garcia. As for who he’ll face, Arum announced, “It’ll be a Puerto Rican. It’ll be either [Juan Manuel] Lopez or [Orlando] Cruz.”
 
And Manny Pacquiao?
 
“He’s fighting either [Brandon] Rios or [Mike] Alvarado. It’ll be in November and it’ll be at the Venetian in Macao,” said Arum, who explained why the “Pac-Man” was being moved off an October 13th slot. “The reason why we moved it to November is because once the Venetian decided that they wanted Macao rather than Singapore, there’s some Chinese holiday in October and they thought it was preferable we move to November.”
 
So now with that void in October, if the September 14th bout between Tim Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez has to be moved (http://www.maxboxing.com/news/promo-lead/top-rank-and-golden-boy-claim-september-14th), then this seems to be a ideal fit to place the fight.
 
SUPER FLURRIES
 
Arum says that in addition to newly-minted flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada, expect the “Mexican Russian” Evgeny Gradovich to face Mauricio Munoz and a heavyweight tilt between Andy Ruiz and Joe Hanks to land in Macao on July 27th...Oh, and of course, Zou Shiming will headline that show...The Saul Alvarez-Austin Trout fight on Showtime had an audience of approximately 1.1 million, which, by their standards, is very high. But it’s still about 21 percent below the audience “Canelo” got on HBO...The presser (which could be a lot fun) for Garcia vs. Judah is being streamed today by Showtime Sports at 1 p.m. ET (http://www.ustream.tv/shosports)...I thought the latest “30 for 30” on ESPN, “Elway to Marino” was excellent in every way...Is Marc Gasol really the best defender in the NBA?…I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.


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