The last time Zab Judah fought, he survived a 10th-round knockdown and intense pressure from Argentina's Lucas Matthysse in the late rounds to pull out a split decision in November.
Now Judah is returning to action against another foreign fighter headed for Newark, N.J., looking to trip him up in his quest for another title.
This time Judah -- the former undisputed welterweight champ and a two-time junior welterweight titleholder -- is looking to win a piece of the 140-pound title for the third time when he meets South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza for a vacant belt at the Prudential Center's AmeriHealth Pavilion on Saturday night (9 ET, Integrated Sports PPV, $29.95).
"Kaiser Mabuza is a very tough fighter. He brings a great style to the ring of boxing, and he brings exciting fights," Judah said. "He's known as a home wrecker and he's coming across the world, so I know he's coming in 100 percent prepared for us. I know he's gonna try to come in there and win his first world title, but Zab Judah is in there and I'm looking to become the five-time champion of the world. I'm not gonna stop."
Judah (40-6, 27 KOs), 33, who is from Brooklyn, N.Y., and will be the heavy crowd favorite, is right about Mabuza, 31, being something of a home wrecker.
In Mabuza's past two fights, he has traveled to the home turf of his opponents -- like he will be doing against Judah -- and won.
In September 2009, Mabuza (23-6-3, 14 KOs) journeyed to Ukraine and won a majority decision against Serhiy Fedchenko.
Thirteen months ago, he went to Atlantic City and stopped New Jersey's Kendall Holt in the sixth round for a major upset in the title elimination fight that set him up for a shot at the belt.
"You know I'm not joking; there's nothing amusing here," Judah said. "Kaiser Mabuza is a fighter who made his way to the No. 1 spot. There's nothing I can take away from that, there's nothing you can take away from that. So you have to give him his respect, because he made his way there."
Like with Matthysse, Judah is in the position of facing a difficult opponent who is not widely known to American fight fans.
"My last fight was Lucas Matthysse, another fighter people didn't know anything about, but now you guys know about him," Judah said. "With Matthysse, everybody was saying to me, 'He's nobody, nobody knows him'. But now people see he's a very rugged, tough, strong puncher, and like I said, the guy has exceptional punching power. Same thing with Kaiser Mabuza. He's an action-packed fighter, he's coming in here. This is a major opportunity for him. He sat around and waited for the opportunity for a long time, and I know come [Saturday], Kaiser Mabuza is not coming all the way from South Africa to lose.
"These guys, Matthysse and Mabuza, people side-stepped them because they're not familiar with them, because they're from different countries and they were doing things over there. People say, 'I'm not fighting them, they're nobody.' But evidently they are somebody, because they made their way up to the position they are at right now."
Said Main Events CEO Kathy Duva, Judah's promoter: "Some of you may have seen Kaizer Mabuza when he first came to New Jersey and scored an upset against Kendall Holt. We know what he can do. We know what Zab can do. There are so many fights that people talk about lately and the results are a foregone conclusion. This is not the case here. We have a very explosive combination of styles that is going to make for an amazing event. We are not just going through the motions here. This is about do or die for both of them."
To prepare for Mabuza, Judah brought in Hall of Famer Pernell Whitaker as an assistant trainer to his father, Yoel Judah, to shore up his corner. Judah and Whitaker have known each other for years, since Judah was a young pro who sparred with Whitaker near the end of his career.
While Judah's corner is stable and now also boasts Whitaker now, Mabuza's corner has seen a disruption that could be a problem.
His trainer, Manuel Fernandes, did not accompany him to the United States because of problems securing a visa. It was not until Friday afternoon South Africa time that Fernandes was finally granted a visa and left on the last flight to New York for the fight. He is expected to arrive in the United States on Saturday morning in time for the fight, according to Branco Milenkovic, Mabuza's promoter. Milenkovic said he considered pulling Mabuza out of the fight because it looked like Fernandes would not make it.
"I don't know how it will affect Mabuza," Milenkovic said. "This is so much of an issue that I was thinking to pull Mabuza out of the fight last Saturday. But out of respect for IBF and Main Events, I didn't do so."
Publicly at least, Mabuza has not let his training situation be an issue.
"I'm glad to be back in America," he said. "It's an honor to me to fight a person like Zab Judah. I think he had his time. He's a former world champion. I think this is my time, because I'm still hungry for success. And I promise him, when I take the ring I change, I become a new man. I'm hungry for success so you have to expect that it will be like fireworks."
Pavlik's comeback fight
Former middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik, who is ticketed to return to action May 7 on the Showtime PPV undercard of the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley main event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, likely will face Texas light heavyweight Alfonso Lopez (21-0, 16 KOs), co-manager Cameron Dunkin told ESPN.com.
Dunkin said the bout likely would be at a maximum weight of 170 pounds. Lopez, 28, has fought primarily at light heavyweight, but has fought several fights at super middleweight.
"He's not done yet, but I watched the tape of him and I'm going to send it over to the Pavliks, but I said I am OK with him as the opponent," Dunkin said. "They've never overruled me in all these years and we have a verbal agreement [with Lopez]."
Pavlik (36-2, 32 KOs), 28, of Youngstown, Ohio, has not fought since April 2010, when he lost a unanimous decision and the middleweight championship to Sergio Martinez. He recently spent two months in an alcohol rehabilitation facility before coming out in early January.
"He's excited about fighting and training really hard and almost ready to go," Dunkin said of Pavlik.
Despite Lopez's impressive record, Pavlik would represent, by far, his most notable opponent.
"He's a good fighter, not an embarrassment in any stretch of the imagination, but he is not any pound-for-pound list either," Top Rank's Carl Moretti said. "He's the right kind of opponent for Kelly coming back."
Chavez eyes title bout
Middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. (42-0-1, 30 KOs) will forgo a planned fight against David Medina (22-2, 10 KOs) on March 19 in Mexico, according to Top Rank.
There are two reasons. First, Chavez has a mandatory shot against titlist Sebastian Zbik (30-0, 10 KOs) in the works for June 4 and nobody wants to jeopardize it. Also -- and more important, according to Top Rank's Carl Moretti -- is the fact that Chavez's trainer, Freddie Roach, and strength coach, Alex Ariza, will be unable to prepare Chavez for the fight because they will be in the Philippines getting Manny Pacquiao ready for his May 7 fight with Shane Mosley.
"That was the biggest thing, that Freddie and Alex will be in the Philippines," Moretti said. "That and that the Zbik fight would be right behind it if he fought in March."
There had been internal discussion about Chavez facing Medina with a substitute trainer for the March fight, but that idea was scrapped.
The Zbik-Chavez fight has not been signed, but the sides are talking, Moretti said. Showtime and HBO have both expressed interest in the fight, too, he said.
With Chavez-Medina off, junior flyweight titlist Roman Gonzalez's defense against Manuel Vargas is expected to headline the card. Welterweight Alfonso Gomez had been ticketed for the undercard, but Moretti said he would not be ready following shoulder surgery late last year, a procedure that forced him to withdraw from a December fight with Chavez.
Collazo to return
Former welterweight titlist Luis Collazo (30-4, 15 KOs), 29, who suffered razor-close points defeats to Ricky Hatton and Andre Berto in title bouts, is getting back in the ring. Collazo will fight an opponent to be determined in a junior middleweight fight on the undercard of pal Dmitriy Salita's bout April 13 in Brooklyn.
Collazo lost a close decision to Berto in January 2009 in one of that year's most exciting fights. He returned in June 2009 to score a sixth-round knockout of soft touch David Gogichaishvili on a club card in South Carolina, but has not fought since, while waiting for his promotional contract with Don King to expire.
Nirmal Lorick, Collazo's trainer and adviser, told ESPN.com that the promotional contract expired Feb. 10 and that Collazo was anxious to fight again.
"We'll go to 154 pounds and see how he feels, but Luis wants to stay busy," Lorick said. "We're done with our contract and we're doing our own thing right now. Luis is really happy. He is free of the contract. He was getting the right opportunities before, but we're glad to be back."
Salita, who will fight in the main event in a welterweight bout against an opponent to be named, is dedicating his fight to his late trainer, Jimmy O'Pharrow, the founder of Brooklyn's Starrett City Boxing Club, where Salita trains.
O'Pharrow, a stalwart in New York boxing circles who also worked with Collazo, among others, died last week at 85.
• James Kirkland, who has not fought since March 2009 because of a prison sentence for gun possession by a felon, makes his return on Saturday's Saul Alvarez-Matthew Hatton undercard at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Kirkland was on his way to a junior middleweight title shot before his legal problems that cost him an 18-month prison stint and time at a halfway house. Now living in Las Vegas and training with Kenny Adams, Kirkland (25-0, 22 KOs), who turns 27 on March 19, meets Ahsanid Gibbs (10-2, 4 KOs), who has lost two fights in a row, in an eight-rounder at 163 pounds. If Kirkland wins, he is scheduled to fight on the HBO PPV undercard of the April 9 Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana fight. Co-manager Cameron Dunkin will be watching Kirkland closely. "I just want him to be in good shape and I want to see his reflexes good. I just want to see a good performance. He's fighting a solid guy, and then we'll move on to April 9 and, hopefully, that will be a good fight and then, hopefully, he can find a spot on HBO somewhere and work toward a title fight," Dunkin said. Promoter Oscar De La Hoya will also be watching to see how Kirkland looks after the long layoff. "I'm expecting him to be rusty, maybe his timing with punches won't be there, but that is expected," he said. "I will expect him to come out like a bull, like a lion who hasn't been fed for two weeks and has been in a cage for a month. I expect him to fight hard, but have some rust. I know he's motivated. We've got to keep him in the gym and he will become a champion."
• Although Top Rank hopes to match unified bantamweight titlist Nonito Donaire with fellow titleholder Anselmo Moreno (30-1-1, 10 KOs) on May 28 in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the Philippines' Donaire grew up, the opponent and place could change. Top Rank's Carl Moretti told ESPN.com that there is interest in bringing the fight to Atlantic City, N.J., to take place in the upstairs arena at Boardwalk Hall. And if Top Rank can't close a deal with Moreno, he said it is possible that Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs) could defend his belts -- which he won Feb. 19 with a crushing second-round knockout of Fernando Montiel -- against junior bantamweight titlist Hugo Cazares (34-6-2, 24 KOs) of Mexico.
• Oscar De La Hoya, along with a trio of prospects Golden Boy promotes -- Adrien Broner, Danny Jacobs and Seth Mitchell -- are headed to the Middle East for a week as part of a USO tour to visit American troops. They will go in the coming weeks, although the specific dates and exact location have not been released due to security concerns. "On a mission to boost troop morale, the group will participate in boxing clinics, share techniques and extend their thanks to America's troops serving in the Middle East," according to the formal announcement.
• Although former pound-for-pound king Roy Jones Jr. has been in talks for a spring fight in Russia with cruiserweight contender Denis Lebedev (21-1, 16 KOs) of Russia, the fight appears unlikely. "They made us an offer and we countered. There is a huge gap, and I don't see it happening based on what I know now," John Wirt, CEO of Jones' Square Ring Promotions, told ESPN.com. Lebedev is coming off a split-decision loss to titleholder Marco Huck on Dec. 18. Jones (54-7, 40 KOs), 42, was a four-division titleholder, but is way past his prime. He has lost two fights in a row in lopsided fashion: a first-round knockout to Danny Green in Australia in December 2009 and a near-shutout decision to Bernard Hopkins in their April 2010 rematch.
• Featherweight contenders Juan Carlos Burgos (26-1, 19 KOs) of Mexico and Panama's Celestino Caballero (34-3, 23 KOs), a former unified junior featherweight titleholder, could meet in May on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights," Caballero promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com. Burgos lost a very competitive decision to Hozumi Hasegawa for a vacant featherweight belt in November and rebounded to crush Frankie Archuleta in two rounds on "FNF" on Feb. 25. An out-of-shape Caballero is coming off a shocking upset loss to junior lightweight Jason Litzau in a November HBO bout. "Caballero had the worst night of his career and didn't do near what you would expect a guy of his caliber to do in the Litzau fight, but with Burgos, he will be in with another top featherweight and he can prove he deserves a shot at a title," DiBella said. "He's not coming back against a stooge. He's coming back against one of the best featherweights in the world. Burgos is a very good fighter and he will elevate himself to where he will deserve another title shot if he can beat Caballero. It's a great ESPN fight."
• DiBella, who promotes middleweight Peter Manfredo (37-6, 20 KOs), told ESPN.com that he is in talks with representatives of titleholder Felix Sturm about making that match for Sturm's next title defense, which would be in Germany. "That's a fight we love. They're interested and we're interested in the fight. It would be early summer," DiBella said. On Feb. 19, Sturm (35-2-1, 15 KOs) knocked out another DiBella fighter, Ronald Hearns, in the seventh round.
• Top Rank, which has not done ESPN2 cards since its exclusive deal with the network ended in 1998, will put on a "Friday Night Fights" card at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on May 6, the night before it promotes the Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley Showtime PPV card at sister property MGM Grand. The headline fighter is slated to be Las Vegas junior lightweight Diego Magdaleno (18-0, 6 KOs) against an opponent to be named, Top Rank's Carl Moretti told ESPN.com. Also ticketed for the card is former featherweight title challenger Bernabe Concepcion (28-4-1, 15 KOs), a Pacquiao protégé, and light heavyweight prospect Mike Lee (4-0, 3 KOs). Moretti said the show will take place in one of Mandalay Bay's ballrooms and be configured for about 1,500. He said Top Rank is looking forward to a return to ESPN. "We're going to put on a good show and we would welcome the opportunity to do as many shows as possible," he said. "It gives us another platform to expose younger fighters coming up as well as put on good fights, so why not take advantage of it?"
• Lightweight contender John Murray (30-0, 18 KOs) will defend the European title in London on April 2 against Karim El Ouazghari (11-1-2, 4 KOs) of Spain, a fight made when promoter Frank Warren could not finalize a deal with Kevin Mitchell, Murray's British rival. The fight will now headline the card that night as the original main event, light heavyweight titlist Jürgen Brähmer (36-2, 29 KOs) defending against interim titlist Nathan Cleverly (21-0, 10 KOs), has been moved to May 21, also in London.
• Promoter Lou DiBella has an April 8 "ShoBox" (Showtime) tripleheader in the works to take place in Laredo, Texas. The prospect-laden card features super middleweight Marcus Johnson (20-0, 15 KOs) in the main event against Dyah Ali Davis (18-2-1, 9 KOs). Junior welterweight Danny O'Connor (14-0, 3 KOs) meets Gabriel Bracero (14-0, 1 KO) in the co-feature with welterweight Willie Nelson (16-0-1, 10 KOs) opening the show in an eight-rounder against an opponent to be determined.
• Paul Williams, who was knocked out in the second round of his November rematch with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, was slated to return on HBO on April 30. However, the fight will instead be pushed back until at least June, according to promoter Dan Goossen. When Williams does return, against an opponent to be determined, he intends to drop down to welterweight.
• Former junior flyweight champ Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon (34-1-1, 6 KOs), training for his rematch with champion Giovani Segura (26-1-1, 22 KOs) on April 2 (Integrated Sports PPV), was well inside the maximum allowable weight at his official 30-day prefight weight check. Calderon was 116½ pounds for the fight, which will be contested at 108 pounds. Calderon, who will travel to Segura's native Mexico for the fight, could have weighed as much as 124.2 pounds. Segura knocked Calderon out in the eighth round in August in a fight of the year candidate on Calderon's turf in Puerto Rico. "I'm always near from my weight for the fights, but I'm training too hard for Segura and working in some new and old things," Calderon said. "I'm working now for more strength for Segura."
"Doctors say it should be no problem. It should be as strong as before. Yesterday, it was raining, for example, I felt it. I feel the weather. Good thing the fight is [Las] Vegas. The chance of rain is slim." -- former junior middleweight titlist Yuri Foreman, who fights Pawel Wolak on March 12 on the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga Showtime PPV card, on fighting for the first time since tearing his ACL and undergoing knee surgery after his loss to Cotto in June.
"It was a very happy day for me. I got up at four in the morning, as normal, and finished training at 10 at night. It was no different except that I received phone calls of congratulations from all over the world and that was happy for me. But I worked normal like every day." -- middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, who is training for his fight against Sergei Dzinziruk on March 12 (HBO), on how he celebrated his 36th birthday on Feb. 21.