Updated: June 17, 2010, 12:10 PM ET

Judah moving on down to jump-start career

Rafael By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com
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Zab JudahJohn Iacono/SI/Icon SMIIt's been awhile since we've seen Zab Judah, right, campaign as a junior welterweight.

Zab Judah, the former two-time junior welterweight titlist and former undisputed welterweight champion, has been to the top.

He's also scraped bottom more than he probably cares to remember -- losing fights he was supposed to win (like to Carlos Baldomir), being badly knocked out (by Miguel Cotto) and having his license revoked for a year and being fined $250,000 (for his role in a melee that took place during his loss to Floyd Mayweather).

Judah has had more chapters in his career than a good book. He's hoping to start yet another one now that he's reunited with original promoter Main Events and returns to action July 16 after an eight-month layoff.

"At this part of my career, I have some say with what goes on and I want to finish my career off strong, like I started it," said the 32-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., native.

Judah is going "just across the water, a hop, skip and a jump from New York," to headline "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2) at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., where he'll face former interim lightweight titlist Jose Armando Santa Cruz at a maximum weight of 143 pounds.

Judah said his days at 147 are over and that his intention is to fight in the deep 140-pound junior welterweight division. Certainly, the addition of a name fighter like Judah to the talented crop of youngsters at 140, including titleholders Devon Alexander, Timothy Bradley and Amir Khan, would add even more interest to the division than there already is.

"At the 140 pounds, I want to let people know I am the best," Judah said. "My plan is to make 140. I can make it now."

Judah (38-6, 26 KOs) won't be at 140 to face Mexico's Santa Cruz (28-4, 17 KOs) because he said there is no reason.

"Why do it now? There's no title involved in this fight and those three extra pounds are a comfort, like a comfy pillow," he said. "But I'm campaigning at 140. That's my thing. I don't want to hear no questions about 147."

Judah had success at welterweight, beating Cory Spinks to become undisputed champ in 2005, but he said the move up in weight was only for money. He said he wants to fight men his own size now.

"I always felt that fights I was getting, guys were bigger than me," Judah said. "What if we went to my weight class and we were the same size, how would I do then? A lot of time when I fought, I would only go up to like 151, maybe 150, after I weighed in. I was giving away too much. Let me go back to where I'm comfortable."

Between the size aspect and potential riches at 140, Judah decided to move down.

"There are a lot of talented fighters at 140 pounds. That is one of the main reasons I am coming back to the division," he said. "Khan has good speed and power. Devon is a young little plant that is starting to sprout flowers. Bradley is a fast fighter with speed and power. You gotta give it up to him. That's why I want to be in this weight class."

Judah, of course, is also very confident.

"But compared to my skills, they're still green to me and I can go in there and steal from these little kids. I'm like a schoolyard bully," Judah said. "They're like little kids to me. I can go in there and take what's mine. I don't need to single them out and make one feel bigger than the other. Whichever one comes first, we'll figure out who will be the next victim."

Most assume he'll get past Santa Cruz, so Judah addressed the big three in the division: Alexander, Bradley and Khan, all of whom are fighting on HBO, which has televised many Judah fights.

Alexander is from St. Louis, where Judah has a history; it's where he knocked out hometown fighter Spinks.

"Devon is a good fighter, but the fight with Devon isn't about Devon. It's about St. Louis and Zab," said Judah, who could have faced Alexander in August on HBO but didn't want to have to re-sign with Alexander promoter Don King to get the fight. "They get these fly-by-night champions in St. Louis. Like a Batman movie, they put out the signal and I go to St. Louis and clean up for them. He happens to be one of the guys holding a title at 140, so he can be next in line. I'm like a hungry wolf.

"I want to fight him in St. Louis. It's like my third home. I would love for it to be in St. Louis. They need to get that fly-by-night champion out of there."

Judah attended Khan's dominant 11th-round knockout of fellow New Yorker Paulie Malignaggi on May 15 and came away impressed with the Brit.

"I like the kid. He's a good fighter," Judah said. "He has a longer reach than I thought he did. I think it would be a good matchup for Zab Judah."

Judah was offered a July fight with Bradley but didn't take it as he sorted out his promotional situation.

"I've seen him fight a couple of times. He's a smaller fighter," Judah said. "Every now and then he tries to be a bully. I think that would be another excellent fight for myself."

Eventually, Judah hopes to be back on HBO in one of those big fights.

"Me and HBO are cool. That's the Home Boy Network," he said. "It's a business. I understand what they want. They want exciting fights, we want big money. We gotta meet in the middle.

"We'll be looking to sit down with those guys very shortly."

Main Events' Kathy Duva said she's already talked to HBO about Judah and that "they want to see him get into the ring and fight" and then they'll talk more specifically. She added that if Judah is successful next month, the plan is for Judah to fight again Oct. 2 in Newark.

Calderon by knockout?

Chris Cozzone/FightWireImages Ivan the Terrible: Calderon, right, promises to bring the pain to Jesus Iribe.

With Puerto Rican star Miguel Cotto defeating Yuri Foreman last week at Yankee Stadium, promoter Top Rank still wanted to have a Puerto Rican-themed fight card Saturday night, the eve of the annual National Puerto Rican Day parade in New York.

That's where junior flyweight champion Ivan "Iron Boy" Calderon (33-0-1, 6 KOs), the island's second-most popular active fighter, comes in. He'll defend his 108-pound title for the sixth time against Mexico's Jesus Iribe (17-6-4, 10 KOs) at the Madison Square Garden Theater on Saturday night on "Top Rank Live" (FSN/FS en Espanol, 10 ET).

Calderon, 17-0-1 in world title fights, is known for superb boxing skills but a severe lack of power. Nonetheless, the 35-year-old surprisingly predicted a knockout.

"You are going down and getting knocked out on Saturday night," Calderon told Iribe, who lost previous title fights to Brian Viloria and Edgar Sosa, during a media appearance.

Calderon, who hasn't had a knockout since stopping Miguel Tellez in the ninth round of a 2006 strawweight defense, later said, "I looked into his eyes and saw a troubled fighter. I'm always in tough title defenses. Nothing easy comes my way. When I looked at Iribe I saw something -- a twitch, a tremble, a weakness. So I told him straight up what will happen on Saturday night."

Iribe laughed off Calderon's prediction.

"I am fighting for the world title and I am expecting him to run from me," he said. "I'll catch up and beat him. I will be such a big hero in Mexico."

Funeka suspended

ICON/SMIAli Funeka, right, will serve a nine-month suspension for testing positive for a diuretic.

South Africa's Ali Funeka (30-3-3, 25 KOs) was suspended this week by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for nine months, fined $35,000 of his $105,000 purse and ordered to pay back $15,625 to Joan Guzman for testing positive for a banned substance, according to executive director Keith Kizer.

Funeka tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide following his split decision loss to Guzman on March 27 in Las Vegas. Guzman had paid the $15,625 to Funeka out of his purse as a punishment for showing up nine pounds over the 135-pound lightweight limit.

They were slated to fight for a vacant belt in a rematch of their 2009 draw, but only Funeka could win it because of Guzman's weight.

"It's unfortunate for Ali Funeka, as he was an innocent victim of circumstance. He's poor and can ill afford to give up this much out of his purse," Gary Shaw, Funeka's co-promoter, said. "However, he did break the rules of the Nevada commission and for that he must take his punishment, but he will be back to win a world title."

Before being reinstated, Kizer said Funeka has to supply a clean urine test.

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