Whether he likes it or not, any critic worth their salt (and many who aren't) is going to have trouble declaring Zab Judah to be "back" after he laid waste to Jose Armando Santa Cruz tonight on Friday Night Fights. But Judah was fast, looked to be in great shape, and scored a third round stoppage over the former lightweight contender in Newark tonight, easily racking up his 39th win.
Judah (39-6, 27 KO) was very sharp, though it's not right to ignore that his opponent Santa Cruz (28-5, 17 KO) was not. In the fourth stoppage loss of his career, Santa Cruz looked out of shape, extremely slow, and just plain awkward in the ring. The fight may be compared to Roy Jones Jr.-Omar Sheika from 2009, but with that I'll say I think Zab looked genuinely better than Jones did, and that Santa Cruz probably looked even worse than Sheika.
There are some fights at 140 for Judah if he wants them. He's talked about fighting Devon Alexander earlier this year, and Alexander defends his belt against Andriy Kotelnik on August 7. Timothy Bradley fights tomorrow night. Amir Khan also holds a belt, but I have my doubts that Freddie Roach would see a focused, energized Judah as a good opponent for Khan. Marcos Maidana is out there, and that could be a very interesting fight.
For as much as I might criticize Zab, it's never been his skill that I've questioned, and he looked as sharp as could be expected tonight, even handicapping for how bad Santa Cruz looked and the fact that this was a pure tune-up and nothing more. I want to see Judah take a big fight at 140, or a big fight at 147 if that's where the right big fight is. I have never passed up the opportunity to watch a Zab Judah fight, because when he's on his game, it's special. Hopefully Judah has one more really strong run in the tank.