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Monday, October 22, 2012
Judah passes on Peterson fight

By Dan Rafael

For those of you who bet that the mandatory fight between junior welterweight titleholder Lamont Peterson and mandatory challenger (and former titleholder) Zab Judah would never happen, you win.

On Monday, Judah was dropped from the fight by the IBF because he failed to sign his contract by the deadline following the purse bid for the match. Now the organization is moving on. It ordered negotiations to begin between Peterson and former titlist Kendall Holt, the next-highest available contender in the IBF's ratings.

"My plan is to try a negotiation and hopefully make the fight without going to a purse bid," Gary Shaw, Holt's promoter, told me Monday after he received the letter from the IBF ordering the fight.

"I believe it's a very competitive fight. Kendall is very healthy now and he is excited for the opportunity."

Holt had right shoulder surgery in August to repair a longtime nagging problem.

I was one of those people who never believed that Peterson-Judah would happen, for one simple reason: money.

As in, there was none in the fight.

Headbangers Promotions, which is run by Cologne Hunter, the wife of Barry Hunter, who trains and manages Peterson -- who is basically a son to them -- won the purse bid for the bout for peanuts, just $50,000. Nobody else bid, and none of the television networks were interested in the match.

The only reason Headbangers bid was to make sure Peterson was protected from getting stripped. It was a hedge against their real plan -- a big-money rematch in December against welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. on HBO. When Bradley was a junior welterweight titleholder, he schooled Peterson in a near-shutout in 2009. Still, the rematch was being planned until Bradley decided he didn't want to fight Peterson again and did us all a favor by turning down a $2.3 million purse.

That left Peterson in position to make just $37,500 (his 75 percent share of the purse bid) against Judah, who would have made just $12,500 for the fight.

Peterson signed his contract and seemed ready to take the fight. He probably could have made more than $37,500 because his people controlled the fight and would have had revenue from the gate (Peterson would draw for this fight in his hometown of Washington, D.C.) as well as whatever other revenue they could generate from a small TV deal or sponsorships.

That said, I think Peterson called Judah's bluff by signing and won.

Never in a million years did I believe Judah (42-7, 29 KOs) would fight for such chump change, even though he told me in an interview earlier this month that he would.

"We are in," Judah told me after the purse bid. "I know the bigger picture. I know what Zab Judah winning means. I said I ain't doing this only because of the money. I'm fighting because I still love the sport and I love what I do, and I know I'm good at it. I'm doing pretty fine in life. I'm not starving. I ain't never worked in my life. Boxing is all I ever did and I live great, and every time my back is against the wall, like with this here fight, I pull it out."

Maybe Judah believed it when he said it, but ultimately, he passed on the fight by not returning a signed contract to the IBF by its deadline.

So now we are down to Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs) -- who still has a huge public relations problem after testing positive for the banned substance synthetic testosterone, which forced the cancellation of his May 19 rematch with Amir Khan -- against Holt (28-5, 16 KOs).

If the major networks wouldn't buy Peterson-Judah, I very much doubt they will show much interest in Peterson-Holt, at least not for premium money.

The IBF ordered that negotiations be completed by Nov. 22. If they are not, there will be a purse bid. And we'll go through this whole process all over again.