Zab Judah will be back in Brooklyn on March 24, as his IBF eliminator bout at 140 pounds against Vernon Paris has been finalized. Jake Donovan reports that Paris has signed the contract, and the fight will take place on NBC Sports, from the Aviator Sports and Events Center in Judah's hometown.
Judah, who moved to Las Vegas some years back, still has a healthy New York following, so once again we're seeing promoter Main Events put a fight where it actually belongs instead of just selling a TV package and disregarding the location.
Paris, as always, is starting this thing in an outspoken manner:
"I want to be a world champion this year," Paris insists. "Not five years from now, but this year. I respect Zab and all he's accomplished, but he's had his time. I have my goals and he's in the way of that. If going to his hometown gets me to where I need to go, then so be it. I ain’t got a fear in the world of going to Brooklyn and knocking Zab’s ass out."
Paris (26-0, 15 KO) is a terrific talent whose career has been stalled out largely due to issues outside of the ring. Last year he signed with Don King, which isn't always the smartest strategy in the world these days, but when you're not exactly an in-demand fighter getting favors in the first place, King can make things happen a little bit, and he's done that. He got Paris into a fight with Tim Coleman last year, which Paris won in exciting fashion on Friday Night Fights, and now we're here, with Paris getting a chance to take one final step toward a world title fight.
Judah (41-7, 28 KO) is at the Last Chance Saloon for real with this one. A loss will be hard to come back from at Judah's age (34) and with his general, overall inconsistency. Time is running out on the idea of Zab Judah ever doing anything special again, and this is the exact right sort of fight to find out exactly what's left. Vernon Paris is not going to be easy, but he's not unbeatable. We'll learn a lot about both men with this fight.
The only bad news with this fight is that the NBC Sports broadcast will likely be going head-to-head, at least in part, with the HBO double-header on the same night, featuring a 140-pound title bout between Erik Morales and Danny Garcia, plus a good 154-pound fight between James Kirkland and Carlos Molina. I know the general idea now, for whatever reason, is that boxing is televised on Saturday nights (or Friday nights for lesser bouts) in the States, but I really wish the NBC Sports series had been put on Tuesday or Wednesday. It has worked before.