Commentary

Zab Judah seeks respect, title shot

Former champ plans to climb over Vernon Paris on Saturday to reach the top again

Updated: March 23, 2012, 11:00 AM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Amir Khan and Zab JudahChris Cozzone/Fightwireimages.comZab Judah, right, burns to be champ again, which may eventually require a rematch with Amir Khan.

There have been many chapters in the up-and-down career of Zab Judah, and now he hopes to write a new one with a happier ending than the previous one.

The former undisputed welterweight champion and three-time junior welterweight titleholder closed his most recent chapter in forgettable fashion when he was dominated, then knocked out in the fifth round with a body shot -- Judah claims it was a low blow -- by Amir Khan in a 140-pound title unification bout in Las Vegas.

"I think people kind of forget that, just last July, I was the champion of the world," Judah said. "And now I am coming back to get what is rightfully mine. Every time you step in the ring, it means the same thing to every fighter. Vernon Paris means the same as Amir Khan meant to me. Anybody that knows me knows that winning means more to me than anything. I could care less who it is."

Indeed, the 34-year-old Judah will return to see whether he has what it takes to make yet another title run when he faces Detroit's Paris (26-0, 15 KOs), 26, in a title eliminator on Saturday night (NBC Sports Network, 10 ET) at the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, N.Y. The winner will become a mandatory challenger for the winner of the May 19 rematch between titlist Lamont Peterson and Khan.

It's not just the loss that Judah will be looking to shake off. It's also the wide perception, after such a poor performance against Khan, that he is a shot fighter. Judah dug himself a bigger hole by loudly complaining about the knockout body blow being low, going so far as to protest to the Nevada commission to try to get the result overturned, although that went nowhere.

"I think that in this fight I will get back the respect that I think I deserve at this point," Judah said. "I understand that everybody was a little upset after the last performance, but some things are out of your control. With this fight right here, we will bring back the Zab Judah of old. I feel almost like Superman. You know how Superman always retreated to the booth, and when he came out of the booth he was Superman again? Well, this is Zab Judah all over again. I am retreating back to my roots, Brooklyn, N.Y., and when I come out of the booth, I'll come out with flying colors."

Although Judah has fought previously in New York City, he has never fought in his home borough of Brooklyn during his nearly 16-year pro career. He is excited about fighting at home for the first time.

"It's great! This is the first time that I will be fighting in Brooklyn as a professional. It's a great feeling," he said. "You know, the last time I fought in Brooklyn I think was Golden Gloves."

Paris, to his credit, said he had no problem going to Judah's turf to take the most significant fight of his career.

"I'm not afraid to go into Brooklyn to fight him," Paris said. "It's more pressure on Zab to fight in front of his hometown. Nothing about Brooklyn scares me. That's where I want to go. Besides, he's never fought there, either."

The tripleheader also includes two heavyweight fights:

[+] EnlargeTomasz Adamek and Vitali Klitschko
Boris Streubel/Getty ImagesTomasz Adamek was most recently brutalized by Vitali Klitschko, but he should have an easier go of it against Nagy Aguilera on Saturday.

• Heavyweight contender (and former cruiserweight and light heavyweight champion) Tomasz Adamek (44-2, 28 KOs) will face Nagy Aguilera (17-6, 12 KOs). The fight will be Adamek's first since Vitali Klitschko dominated and stopped him in the 10th round of a heavyweight championship fight in September in Adamek's native Poland.

"Boxing is my life. Sometimes you win, sometimes lose. Last time, I lose," Adamek said. "I am 35 years old, but I'm still a hungry fighter. I want to come back and show everyone that I can win this fight and couple next [fights] and get again future title fights. Vitali is a different fighter than Nagy Aguilera. Nagy is my size. But every fight, you learn something. I am quick now, and I think I will be on [Saturday], but in Poland I was very slow. I was not true Tomasz Adamek."

The fight figures to be easy work for Adamek -- Aguilera is 1-3 in his past four fights and 2-4 in his past six, including knockout losses to top contender Cristobal Arreola and former titleholder Samuel Peter and a decision loss to Antonio Tarver, the former light heavyweight champion who was at heavyweight for the first time.

If Adamek wins, he likely will headline a "Fight Night" card on June 16.

• Former heavyweight titleholder Sergei Liakhovich (25-4, 16 KOs) will face Bryant Jennings (12-0, 5 KOs), who defeated Maurice Byarm on Jan 21, in the main event of the first edition of "Fight Night."

"The biggest problem for him will be my experience," Liakhovich said. "I saw the fight [against Byarm]. He is young, has decent speed, decent power. He is a decent fighter. I will take him into the deep water and see how he does."

New Lampley boxing show

Jim Lampley, the longtime blow-by-blow announcer for HBO boxing, is getting his own show about the sport. HBO Sports announced that Lampley will host "The Fight Game with Jim Lampley," which is scheduled to appear periodically -- likely quarterly -- and will debut May 12 at midnight. HBO described the half-hour show as a "provocative, engaging and informative experience that delves into intriguing storylines, newsmakers and issues that are top of mind in boxing."

"Jim Lampley is a gifted broadcaster and one of the most accomplished journalists ever," said HBO Sports executive producer Rick Bernstein. "Developing a new program that will take advantage of all his talents, as well as the strong association that he and HBO Sports have with boxing, is an exciting endeavor. We look forward to launching this new program in a unique and stylish way."

Lampley, underused by the network for years, is happy to have his own vehicle on the subject he knows best.

"I'm excited for all of us boxing fans to have this new platform for comprehensive, unfiltered discussion and analysis of the sport," said Lampley, who was also one of the driving forces behind HBO's recent "On Freddie Roach" series. "And I am thrilled to work at the only television network capable of this type of program."

Besides the HBO Sports production team, filmmaker Peter Berg, who also worked on "On Freddie Roach," will serve as one of the executive producers.

The show will cover boxing events that air on not only HBO but also other networks, said Lampley, who has been with HBO since 1988.

Purse bids on tap

With junior middleweight titlist Austin Trout and interim titleholder Anthony Mundine of Australia unable to reach an agreement, a purse bid has been called for March 29 at WBA headquarters in Panama. Greg Cohen, Trout's co-promoter, says they want to make the fight, but that Mundine hasn't shown interest.

[+] EnlargeAustin Trout
Fight Wire ImagesIf Austin Trout, right, can't pin down Anthony Mundine to fight for the next defense of his junior middleweight title, James Kirkland could step in.

"I am 99 percent certain that Mundine will not take the fight," Cohen said. "Unfortunately, we have to go through the motions [because he's] our mandatory and at least this will flush him out."

If Mundine won't take the fight, Cohen said he hopes to make a fight between Trout and James Kirkland if Kirkland defeats Carlos Molina on Saturday in Houston.

The IBF has purse bids scheduled for March 27 at its New Jersey offices. One will be for the junior middleweight mandatory fight between titleholder Cornelius "K9" Bundrage (31-4, 18 KOs) and former two-division titlist Cory Spinks (39-6, 11 KOs), whom Bundrage already destroyed in five lopsided rounds two fights ago, and one for the junior lightweight mandatory between titleholder Juan Carlos Salgado (24-1-1, 16 KOs) and former featherweight title challenger Martin Honorio (32-6-1, 16 KOs).

Quick Hits

• The working date for heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko's 12th title defense, a mandatory against Tony Thompson, is July 7, Klitschko manager Bernd Boente told ESPN.com. However, the sides are negotiating the fight, and if they don't make a deal, a purse bid is scheduled for Tuesday at the IBF offices in New Jersey. If it goes to a purse bid, Klitschko is entitled to 85 percent of the winning bid, with Thompson due 15 percent, according to Dan Goossen, Thompson's promoter. Goossen is interested in bringing the fight to Washington, D.C., Thompson's hometown, although that's a long shot. The likely American broadcaster is Epix, according to Klitschko adviser Shelly Finkel. Epix televised Klitschko's March 3 fourth-round destruction of Jean-Marc Mormeck. Klitschko (57-3, 50 KOs), who regularly packs 50,000 into stadiums in Germany, will be facing Thompson (36-2, 24 KOs) in a rematch. He knocked out Thompson in the 11th round of a dominant performance in a 2008 mandatory defense in Germany. Thompson has won five fights in a row, each by knockout, to again become a mandatory challenger.

[+] EnlargeJessie Vargas
Al Bello/Getty ImagesWelterweight prospect Jessie Vargas, of Las Vegas, is being lined up to appear on another Floyd Mayweather Jr. undercard at the MGM Grand.

• Golden Boy Promotions is rounding out the May 5 HBO PPV card headlined by Floyd Mayweather Jr. challenging junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez will defend his slice of the 154-pound title against former champ Shane Mosley in the co-feature, while the two other bouts that will be part of the telecast are not finalized but in the works. Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez told ESPN.com that he is working to finalize a bout between 22-year-old welterweight prospect Jessie Vargas (18-0, 9 KOs), one of Mayweather's fighters, against Alfonso Gomez (23-5-2, 12 KOs), the former "Contender" star who is coming off a sixth-round knockout loss to Alvarez in September (although he certainly gave Alvarez some problems).

"We have a verbal agreement, and it looks like it will happen," Gomez said. "We've sent [Alfonso Gomez's manager] Gary [Gittelsohn] a contract." Said Gittelsohn: "It will happen for sure. We came to an agreement on the purse, and Alfonso is already training. I think it's a very winnable fight. It's a terrific opportunity for Alfonso. I absolutely believe he can win the fight and should win the fight. It's a huge step up on Vargas' part."

The other televised bout likely will involve featherweight contender (and former junior featherweight titlist) Daniel Ponce De Leon (42-4, 35 KOs). "We've been trying to come up with the best possible fight for him," Gomez said.

• Top Rank is finalizing two bouts that will be on the Manny Pacquiao-Timothy Bradley Jr. HBO PPV telecast June 9 from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Mike Jones (26-0, 19 KOs) will face former junior welterweight titlist Randall Bailey (42-7, 36 KOs) for a vacant welterweight belt. Jones, who is 28, will have a significant youth advantage against the 37-year-old Bailey. Also, junior featherweight titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux (10-0, 7 KOs), the two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist who won his belt Jan. 20 by knocking out Rico Ramos in the sixth round, will make his first defense against Teon Kennedy (17-1-2, 7 KOs), who is 0-1-1 in his previous two bouts. Promoter Russell Peltz, who co-promotes Jones with Top Rank and also promotes Kennedy, told ESPN.com that both deals have been agreed to and that he is only waiting on the paperwork.

• Junior lightweight titlist Adrien Broner will make his second title defense on May 19 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, according to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer. The fight, against an opponent to be determined, will serve as HBO's televised opener to the main event rematch between junior welterweight titlist Lamont Peterson and Amir Khan.

"Adrien is definitely on May 19, and we're in discussions with HBO about an opponent," Schaefer said. "It's a great spot for Adrien to be seen, because that will be a very highly rated show." Schaefer said that if Broner wins, he would return to HBO to headline a "Boxing After Dark" card in his hometown of Cincinnati on Aug. 18, likely against fellow Golden Boy fighter Vicente Escobedo (25-3, 15 KOs). Schaefer said the plan could change, depending on how May 19 goes, but "with a young fighter like Broner, you want to make a plan. I would like to have him fight in May, then in the summer, again in the fall and again in the winter. I want to keep him busy. He's an exciting fighter and has a lot of charisma. I'd like to see him fight five times this year."

Broner (23-0, 19 KOs) won a vacant title via third-round knockout of Vicente Rodriguez in November in Cincinnati and made his first defense on Feb. 25, knocking out top contender Eloy Perez in the fourth round of a one-sided fight in St. Louis.

[+] EnlargeJuan Manuel Lopez
AP Photo/Dennis M. Rivera PichardoJuan Manuel Lopez is still picking himself up after being stopped by Orlando Salido on March 10 and then making serious (and unfounded) accusations against the referee in the fight.

• Facing a possible one-year ban by Puerto Rican boxing authorities, former featherweight titlist Juan Manuel Lopez apologized for a second time to referee Roberto Ramirez, whom Lopez accused of stopping his March 10 fight against titleholder Orlando Salido because he had wagered on the fight. Salido badly hurt and dropped Lopez early in the 10th round, and when Lopez got to his feet, Ramirez stopped the fight because Lopez was in bad shape, prompting the fighter to make the accusations in his postfight interview with Showtime's Jim Gray.

In his latest apology, Lopez held a news conference in Puerto Rico and said, "I want to apologize again, now in public, to Roberto Ramirez for the comments I made after the fight against Salido. I'm embarrassed for all that happened and I want Ramirez to forgive me. I don't remember what I said, I'm ashamed. I saw the fight, and really, I was hurt. Roberto made a good job in stopping the fight. I apologize again to Ramirez and to all the fans in Puerto Rico and around the world." The 28-year-old Lopez (31-2, 28 KOs), who has won titles in two weight classes, said if he is banned by the Puerto Rican commission for a year, it will "advance my retirement. Boxing is my job. I couldn't go a year without fight."

• Cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck will meet interim titleholder Ola Afolabi in a mandatory fight on May 5 in Erfurt, Germany. The sides agreed to a deal Wednesday, and a purse bid was called off. Huck (34-2, 25 KOs), who will be making his ninth defense, will be facing Afolabi (19-2-3, 9 KOs) in a rematch of his first defense in 2009. He narrowly outpointed Afolabi, who has won five fights in a row since, including a fifth-round knockout of Valery Brudov to claim the interim belt on March 3. The interim title was available because Huck had gone up to heavyweight to challenge Alexander Povetkin on Feb. 25. Huck lost a controversial decision and elected to return to cruiserweight to make the mandatory against Afolabi. Sauerland Event's Chris Meyer also said the vacant European heavyweight title bout between Alexander Dimitrenko (32-1, 21 KOs) and Kubrat Pulev (15-0, 7 KOs) has been shifted from the March 31 undercard of super middleweight Arthur Abraham's bout against Piotr Wilczewski in Kiel, Germany, to the May 5 card. Meyer said the reason was "to allow both fighters a proper preparation time," noting that Dimitrenko is coming off an elbow injury.

• Featherweight titlist Jhonny Gonzalez (51-7, 45 KOs) of Mexico will make his fourth defense against the Dominican Republic's Elio Rojas (23-1, 14 KOs) on April 28 in Mexico, in a bout that had originally been scheduled for April 14 but was pushed back two weeks. Rojas is a former titleholder who was stripped of his belt after long stretches of inactivity and was declared a "champion in recess." He won a belt in Japan in 2009 when he outpointed Takahiro Ao. He made one defense, a decision against former titlist Guty Espadas Jr. in February 2010, but injuries forced him into a long layoff. Rojas returned for a tuneup -- an eighth-round knockout victory against Arturo Gomez in September -- setting him up for the mandatory shot against Gonzalez. "Jhonny's looking to get past Rojas and re-establish himself as a major champion on HBO or Showtime," promoter Oswaldo Kuchle said.

• England's James DeGale (11-1, 8 KOs) will make a mandatory defense of his European super middleweight title against former world titlist Cristian Sanavia (45-5-1, 13 KOs) of Italy in Frederikshavn, Denmark, on April 21, Sauerland Event announced. DeGale, a 2008 British Olympic gold medalist, recently announced that he had left promoter Frank Warren. DeGale, 26, will be making his first European defense since claiming the title via majority decision against Piotr Wilczewski in England in October. Sanavia, 37, has twice held the European title and held a world title in 2004. He is vastly experienced and counting on that edge against a much younger opponent. "DeGale had a great amateur career, but he has never been inside the ring with somebody as experienced as me," Sanavia said. "This is my last chance to get back to where I belong, which is the very top of the super middleweight division. I will win on April 21."

[+] EnlargeDiego Magdaleno and Fernando Beltran Jr.
German Villasenor/Top RankDiego Magdaleno got a new foe for Friday's fight -- and no pushover -- when Fernando Beltran Jr. stepped in for the injured Eduardo Lazcano.

• Junior lightweight contender Diego Magdaleno (21-0, 7 KOs) of Las Vegas has a new opponent for Friday night's "ShoBox: The New Generation" main event (Showtime, 11 ET/PT). He will face former two-time junior featherweight title challenger Fernando Beltran Jr. (36-7-1, 20 KOs) of Mexico at the Casino Del Sol in Tucson, Ariz. Beltran stepped in for Eduardo Lazcano late Tuesday, after Lazcano suffered a rib injury. Beltran was able to be ready on short notice because he had a fight scheduled last weekend in Mexico that was canceled when the opponent dropped out. In the opener, welterweight Yordenis Ugas (11-0, 5 KOs), a 2008 Cuban Olympic bronze medalist, will square off with Johnny Garcia (11-0, 8 KOs) in a scheduled eight-round bout.

• Mexican lightweight Marvin Quintero (24-3, 20 KOs) will travel to the Philippines to face fellow southpaw Al Sabaupan (18-0-1, 13 KOs) in a title elimination bout on April 14. The winner of the bout will become the mandatory challenger for titlist Miguel Vazquez (30-3, 13 KOs) of Mexico. "Quintero is a very hard puncher, as is Sabaupan, so this fight is going to be a slugfest," said Gary Shaw, Quintero's promoter. "Marvin has four consecutive knockouts, and I expect he'll come out swinging for the fences when he steps in the ring. If he is victorious, then I'll move quickly to get him in the ring with the IBF champion, Miguel Vazquez." Said Quintero: "I've worked very hard to get in position to fight for the IBF lightweight championship. My dream of becoming a world champion is very close, and I'm not going to let anything stop me from accomplishing my goal. After I step in the ring with Sabaupan, my hand will be raised." Quintero said he isn't concerned about going to the Philippines for the fight. "I'm a warrior and I'll fight anyone, anywhere," he said. "My game plan is to get the knockout early and call it a night."

• Former junior welterweight titlist Paulie Malignaggi (30-4, 6 KOs) may be going all the way to Ukraine for his mandatory shot against welterweight titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko (32-0, 21 KOs) in his hometown of Donetsk, Ukraine, on April 29, but the fight will be available in the United States. Integrated Sports' Doug Jacobs told ESPN.com that he had secured American rights and the fight will headline a live 1 p.m. Sunday pay-per-view card.

• Promoter Frank Warren announced light heavyweight titleholder Nathan Cleverly's next fight, which is scheduled to come against Robin Krasniqi on April 28 at the famed Royal Albert Hall in London. However, at the moment, Warren hasn't received a sanction from the WBO, which recognizes Cleverly as its titleholder. WBO president Paco Valcarcel said he wouldn't sanction the fight because when he sanctioned Cleverly's optional defense against Tommy Karpency on Feb. 25, part of the deal for doing so was an agreement that the winner's next fight would be against the mandatory challenger within four months. Cleverly (24-0, 11 KOs), in a homecoming fight in Wales, scored a shutout decision win against Karpency, but Krasniqi (37-2, 13 KOs), born in Serbia and living in Germany, isn't the mandatory challenger and, like Karpency, has never beaten anyone resembling a top opponent.

• Promoter SES Boxing won the recent purse bid to stage Robert Stieglitz's mandatory super middleweight title defense against England's George Groves. SES Boxing, which promoter Germany's Stieglitz, bid $792,000, beating the only other offer, which was $782,000 from Frank Warren, Groves' promoter. SES Boxing said the likely date of the fight would be April 28, in one of two German cities, Dresden or Dessau.

Quotable

Froch

"I am so pumped up for the fight and I've got to give Lucian Bute credit. I've given him stick in the past for not fighting the top opposition. He didn't enter the Super Six, but he beat who was put in front of him. He's not often fought out of his hometown, so to put his title on the line in my backyard, he's either very confident or very stupid -- I think he's very confident, and he's the champion, so why not be confident? I'm coming into the fight on the back of a loss, and when I did that after the Kessler defeat, I was so tuned in to beating Arthur Abraham, and it was a whitewash -- and that's how I feel about this fight."
-- Former super middleweight titlist Carl Froch, on challenging titleholder Lucian Bute, who wasn't invited into the Super Six but is now going to Froch's hometown of Nottingham, England, to defend his belt May 26, at this week's kickoff news conference

Bute

"I would like to thank Carl for accepting the fight and stepping in the ring with me. Big fights take time to negotiate, but I'm glad that this fight has come. Both Carl and I have had similar careers so far. For me, it's the right time to come away from home and defend my belt, and in my heart I believe I will be victorious. I've been criticized for not fighting away from [Quebec]. I remember when Joe Calzaghe fought away from home at the end of his career, he received the respect he deserved for doing that, and that's what I am looking to do. Carl is a good, strong, aggressive fighter. He will have 9,000 cheering for him, and not many for me. It has all the ingredients for a great fight."
-- Bute, on going to England to defend his title against Froch