Former 140-pound titleholder and welterweight champ Zab Judah was ringside at the first-ever boxing event at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., in October when Philadelphia’s Danny Garcia knocked out Mexican legend Erik Morales in the fourth round in defense of his RING, WBA and WBC junior welterweight belts.
Morales represented the fifth consecutive bout against a current or former world titleholder for Garcia (25-0, 16 knockouts), a 25-year-old boxer-puncher who owns decisions over ex-beltholders Nate Campbell and Kendall Holt from April and October of 2011, respectively.
Garcia had also decisioned Morales for the WBC’s belt in March of 2012, and added the WBA’s version with a fourth-round stoppage of Amir Khan in July of last year.
“I’m growing as a fighter and getting more confident and I’m believing in myself more,” said Garcia. “Every time I step into that ring, no matter who it is, I always know that I’m going to win the fight. No matter whether I’m the underdog or not.”
But when he returns to Barclays Center against Judah on April 27, Garcia knows that he may well be in against the most accomplished, if not, the craftiest and most skillful opponent he will have faced.
“I could say that he’s different, I could say that he’s faster, I could say that he’s more experienced, but we really don’t know until we step into the ring. No doubt, you’ve got to respect anybody who puts on gloves and who was a world champion,” said Garcia.
“You’ve got to respect him as a man. I never go into the ring not respecting another fighter. He’s got two hands just like I got two hands. If you don’t respect nobody, you can get knocked out. I’m going into the fight focused and 100 percent.”
Once the RING, WBA, WBC and IBF welterweight titleholder as well as the WBO and IBF junior welterweight beltholder, Judah was last in the ring in last March, when he stopped previously unbeaten Vernon Paris in the ninth round to rebound from a fifth-round stoppage loss to Khan in July of 2011.
Although many consider Judah to be at the twilight of his career, Judah believes that he can still be a force in the talented 140-pound division by returning to his home town and recapturing his youth against Garcia.
What will Judah bring to the ring that Garcia has not yet experienced?
“Everything. It’s just me coming into the ring, period. Just me being in Brooklyn at Barclays Center that will be something that he’s never seen before,” said Judah (42-7, 29 KOs), a 35-year-old Las Vegas-based Brooklyn native.
“He did open up the Barclays Center but he didn’t open it up against me. That’s something that he’s never experienced. That’s my city. I’m the king of that city and on April 27, I’m going to show it.”
Judah’s past includes losses to world champions such as Joshua Clottey, Kostya Tszyu, Miguel Cotto, Carlos Baldomir, Cory Spinks and Floyd Mayweather Jr., with the setbacks against Cotto and Clottey, Mayweather, Spinks and Baldomir taking place in the welterweight division.
Judah was 22 and undefeated when he captured his first crown, the vacant IBF junior welterweight title, with a fourth-round stoppage of Jan Bergman in February of 2000.
Judah defended that belt five times, with four knockouts, before being dethroned via second-round stoppage against Tszyu in November of 2001.
Judah regained the IBF junior welterweight belt with a seventh-round stoppage of Kaizer Mabuza in March of 2011. But Judah lost the title to Khan, ending a streak of five straight wins, three of them by knockout, since a ninth-round technical decision loss to Clottey in August of 2008.
Like he did against Paris, whom he fought at The Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, Judah said he is motivated, yet again, to be competing on his home turf.
“My whole focus is different, it’s like when they told me told me that I was going fight Paris in Brooklyn,” said Judah, whose disputed split-decision win over Lucas Matthysse in November of 2010 preceded his match with Mabuza. “For me, it’s the opportunity that excites me, not the people or the situation.”
Garcia, however, insists that the momentum will change once Judah feels his power.
“I feel like a lot of my opponents say that they’re more experience than I have when I’m getting ready to fight them, but none of that matters when I step into the ring. So it doesn’t matter once you get hit,” said Garcia, whose past two wins were over Khan and Morales, respectively.
“When you get hit, it don’t matter how much experience you’ve got. If you can’t take the punch, that’s the only thing that matters. I’m in great shape, and I’m focused, and I’m doing the right thing. When that’s happening, the only person that can beat me is me. I’m ready to do, I feel strong, and it’s going to be an epic night on April 27.”
Note: Garcia-Judah was postponed from its original date of Feb. 9 due to a rib injury suffered by Garcia.
Garcia explained how the injury occurred, and said that he is recovered and ready for April 27.
“It was nine weeks out from the fight. I was Saturday. I was sparring. I sparred three different guys, and I did 12 rounds. After I got done sparring, I had a sharp pain on my side. I thought maybe it was a cramp or something, but when I cooled down, I couldn’t put my hands past my head. I couldn’t stretch because the pain was so severe. So I went to the ER and got my ribs checked, and they said I had a bruised rib and that it would take four to six weeks to heal. So I tried to train with it another week,” said Garcia.
“But I couldn’t run or anything because it was taking my breath away. So, we had to make the decision. I was supposed to spart that Saturday, and I couldn’s spar, so I couldn’t go into a championship fight not sparring for three weeks. Timing is everything. So we had to make the smart decision and we had to postpone the date. But now, I’m 110 percent ready, and we’re four weeks out, and it’s coming faster than you know it. I’m 110 percent ready. We started back sparring at the right time. We did a couple of treatments when I finished with training, and I’ve been feeling strong and ready to go.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Tom Casino
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]