Zab Judah is “Super” once more.
It had been a little more than a year since Judah regained the IBF junior welterweight belt with a seventh-round stoppage of Kaizer Mabuza. Eight months since he lost it by fifth-round knockout to Amir Khan.
But on March 24, when he viciously beat down previously undefeated Vernon Paris (26-1, 15 knockouts) on the way to a ninth-round stoppage on NBC Sports Network’s “Fight Night” from the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, N.Y., Judah (42-7, 29 KOs) gave himself a shot at wearing the belt once again.
Paris, 24, of Detroit, had vowed to make Judah’s age a factor in the fight, even as Judah promised to prove that he still could be a force in the talented 140-pound division.
By the time referee Steve Willis stopped the fight, with Judah pummeling Paris in a neutral corner at 2:07 of the ninth, the 34-year-old southpaw had dominated nearly every round, seemingly channeling the 22-year-old version of himself who had stopped Jan Piet Bergman in February of 2000 to capture his first title — the vacant IBF junior welterweight belt.
Judah defended that belt five times, with four knockouts, before losing it via second-round stoppage to Kostya Tszyu in November of 2001.
For the clash with Paris, Judah was trained by his uncle, James Harvey, who replaced former champion Pernell Whitaker. A southpaw like Judah, Whitaker debuted in the fighter’s corner for his win over Mabuza.
RingTV.com: You seemed to be so energetic, similar to the Zab Judah of old, but is that how you felt?
Zab Judah: I felt good. I really felt like I didn’t save anything. Nothing is a substitute for hard work. I keep telling these guys, when they say, “Old,” I’m not old.
If you look at the guys in the Top 10 in the world, you’ve got the Klitschko brothers. They’re older than me. You’ve got Sergio Martinez, and he’s older than me.
You’ve got Erik Morales, and he’s older than me. I’m only 34 years old, and I feel great. I’ve had a great career. I’ve never taken any major punishment.
RingTV.com: Did Paris’ pre-fight trash-talking motivate you?
ZJ: I didn’t let that bother me. I just went in there, and, you know, when you do it, you try to do it with some class.
It was just my skill. God was with me. After the fight, I just told him, “You know, I understand that it was just one fight.”
I told him, “keep working hard.” But as far as motivation, you know, the only thing that motivated me was my money.
ZJ: The only transition was that my uncle Jimmy is my head trainer right now. We’ve got a chemistry because he’s been with me from day one. I’ve had him with me since I first stepped into the ring when I was six years old. He was in my corner then.
With that being said, that’s my man. You know, he put together a great plan, but in my team, everyone has their part. My uncle Jimmy, he put together the overall game plan for everything. We’ve been doing that as a team.
RingTV.com: What is Whitaker’s status?
ZJ: Pernell, to me, he’s an excellent trainer, and he’s always going to be with us. Always.
RingTV.com: How validating is it to have a shot at Peterson, if not Khan, again?
ZJ: It’s very validating. This is going to be perfect. I’m glad that I’m in position to make that happen. I will be the mandatory to face the winner of the Lamont Peterson-Amir Khan fight, and we’ll see what happens.
RingTV.com: How was it for you to fight in your home town of Brooklyn for the first time as a professional and for only the second time since your Golden Gloves days as a teenager?
ZJ: It was perfect. I’m very much looking forward to coming back to Brooklyn again.
RingTV.com: Your thoughts on potentially fighting Garcia, which I understand your promoter, Kathy Duva, may be looking into?
ZJ: I like Erik Morales, he’s a good fIghter. I like Danny Garcia. He’s a good, young fighter. I sent him a Tweet after the fight congratulating him.
I heard about the fight but I hadn’t seen it yet. If a fight with Danny Garcia makes sense, and my people get with his people, why not? He’s a good, young fighter.
At one time, they said that Zab was finished. But I’ve always been there and I’m in top shape. I don’t really get into that other stuff. Like I said before, we’re all human beings. We all put on our pants the same way. I’m game.
RingTV.com: How long do you feel that you can continue to do this?
ZJ: I don’t know. Until I’m retired. God has blessed me and I have taken advantage of it. I’ve always performed to the best of my ability.
Now, I’ve got it back. When you do it the proper way, God is there, and God has given me my skills back.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org