Judah won the IBF junior welterweight belt with fourth-round stoppage over Jan Piet Bergman in February 2000, a year after having served as a cornerman for 18-year-old fellow Brooklyn native Malignaggi in New York’s Empire State Games.
“I had a jump start in my career. I was a champion of the world before he turned professional,” said Judah, who turned 36 last month. “It has been 18 years that I’ve been a solid professional. I’ve had a good career. Five world titles in two different weight classes.”
On Dec. 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the teacher will meet the student when Judah (42-8, 29 knockouts) takes on Malignaggi (32-5, 7 KOs) on Showtime.
The New York natives shared their thoughts about their upcoming bout in a video that can be viewed by clicking here.
“Zab was a guy that I admired, especially when I was an amateur. When I was on my way up, this was a guy that had motivated me, just being from my region… I was 16, sparring in Gleason’s Gym. I remember sparring with [former titleholder] Junior Jones, a guy on a world championship level like that,” said Malignaggi, a two-division, two-belt titlewinner who turned 33 on Nov. 23.
“And, yeah, I would get my ass kicked. I would pack my bags up in the gym, put on my street clothes, go home with a headache. I would take the train home and on the train I would think like, ‘Man, is this for me? Can I really do this? I’m not sure,’ you know? But man, I would sleep it off and then the next morning, I was ready to go to the gym again. So I was determined.”
Judah hammered previously undefeated Vernon Paris on the way to a ninth-round TKO victory in March of 2012 before rising from an eighth-round knockdown to give Danny Garcia this past April prior to losing a close unanimous decision to RING, WBA and WBC 140-pound champion at Barclays Center.
“His last fight with Danny Garcia, he dug deep and gave Danny a pretty good run for his money late in that fight,” said Malignaggi. “What he showed me is that he can be a live dog late in the fight, and a live dog is always a dangerous dog over 12 rounds.”
“Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and I wash my face, and I see the cut on my eye, and I say, ‘Danny Garcia, uhhh,’” said Judah, who was stopped in the fifth-round of a junior welterweight title bout with Amir Khan in July of 2011 before facing Paris. “But I know that when he washes his face, he’s saying, ‘Zab Judah, uhhh,’ you know what I mean? But it’s war wounds. It’s war wounds.”
Judah’s other losses were to Joshua Clottey, Kostya Tszyu, Miguel Cotto, Carlos Baldomir,Cory Spinks and Floyd Mayweather Jr., with all but the ones against Khan and Tszyu taking place in the welterweight division.
While a 147-pounder, Judah split victories with Spinks, falling by unanimous decision in April of 2004, but winning the rematch — and the IBF, WBA and WBC 147-pound belts — by ninth-round knockout in February of 2005.
Judah won the IBF’s vacant 140-pound belt by seventh-round stoppage of Kaizer Mabuza in March of 2011 before relinquishing that to Khan. Judah also owns a split-decision victory over Lucas Matthysse from November of 2010.
“I’ve fought some of the biggest and the best in boxing today. The Cotto fight. The Floyd fight,” said Judah. “I’m still a force to be reckoned with and now I’m going to go in there and finish the chapter out beautifully.”
Malignaggi is trying to rebound from June’s split-decision loss to Adrien Broner that dethroned him as WBA 147-pound beltholder, having won the belt in April of 2012 with a ninth-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Ukrainian Vyacheslav Senchenko.
Senchenko represented Malignaggi’s fifth straight victory as a welterweight during a run that had included two knockout wins. Before facing Broner, Malignaggi had earned a split-decision victory over Mexico City’s Pablo Cesar Cano at Barclays Center in October of 2012.
“Time after time, they’ve said that Paulie has no power,” said Judah. “But when he goes in there, he makes the magic happen, and that’s why the call him ‘The Magic Man.’”
Malignaggi’s other losses were against Cotto by decision in June of 2006, by 11th-round knockout Ricky Hatton in November of 2008, and by controversial unanimous decision to Juan Diaz in the latter’s home town of Houston in August of 2009, a setback that Malignaggi avenged the same way in Chicago in December of that year.
“Let’s face it, we’re both multi-division world champions, and we’ve done it for a long time at a high level,” said Malignaggi, who claims that he is a different fighter from the one who faced Hatton, crediting California-based trainer Eric Brown for the transformation.
“I’ve never lost to a guy that people say, ‘Who was that?’ But at the day’s end, as good as they were, there were things that I could have done differently,” said Malignaggi. “A loss to Zab in this fight would be two in a row. It would put things in perspective and make me think about things for my future.”
Photo / Tom Casino, Showtime
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org