Talented Detroit junior welterweight Vernon Paris is looking to make his mark on the boxing world when he faces Zab Judah in Brooklyn on March 24, live on NBC Sports in an IBF eliminator bout. Via a press release, Paris sized up Judah, and noted his opponent's experience (and his age), and made clear that he's focused on the fight:
"I have to go through Zab to get where I have to go. I'm coming in the best shape of my life because I know what the reward is going to be. This is an eliminator. I'm fighting for the number one spot in the IBF."
"I'm not taking anything away from him. He's a five-time world champion. I know he's got the experience. I know he's been there. But if he thinks I'm going to lose to a 34-year old Zab Judah, he doesn't have a clue about what he's getting in the ring with. He doesn't know what's coming."
Paris (26-0, 15 KO) has been a favorite of diehard boxing fans who had seen him in action for a while now, but his career has been riddled with out of the ring setbacks and the believe from some that he'd never get it together long enough to become a serious factor. Right now, though, Paris has it going the right way: He's preparing for his biggest fight ever after impressing fans last summer with a TKO-7 win over Tim Coleman on Friday Night Fights.
After that, Paris stayed busy with a low-key fight against journeyman Ruben Galvan in October, winning an eight-round shutout decision. Judah also once fought Galvan, but it wasn't much of a fight, as it ended in a no contest in the first round in one of Zab's many "This time I'm serious" comebacks of the last few years.
Judah, for his part, is not getting any younger and has, you can argue (and I have), always been a bit overvalued in the ring. Hindsight being valuable, Judah's career record is not aging well. At 41-7 (28 KO), he's still got apparent talent in the ring, but there are big questions about whether or not he's capable of winning tough fights or beating good fighters anymore. His last really notable win came in 2010 against Lucas Matthysse, and that one was considered by many to be a bit of a gift for Zab, or at least a bit lucky. Past that, it's been since his 2005 win over Cory Spinks that Zab beat someone considered a truly quality foe.
Paris wants to be that type of quality fighter, and with a win over Judah, he leaps into the realm of serious contender. So he's training hard for this one. Harder than ever before, he says:
"I'm not waiting until March 24th to win this fight. I'm gonna win this fight right now, while I'm in training. It's not when you get there on that day of the fight, working hard NOW is what's going to get me where I gotta go."
"I'm putting it in two or three times a day. I'm up in the morning running. I'm running at night. Every chance I get. I lay down for a couple hours, but then I'm back up and we go back to the gym. I'm eating good, sleeping good, and I have a clear mind. That's not good for Zab Judah."
What's worse for Judah is that Paris has perhaps shown only glimpses of his true upside. Few fighters are as natural as Paris, and pick up things as easily as he seems to. He's a good puncher, targets the body well, and showed a serious drive in the Coleman fight, as if it had all finally clicked for him.
On March 24, he says, he'll be in that mindset again:
"Under the lights and cameras, I transform into an animal. This fight ain't gonna be decided by the judges, it's gonna be decided in the middle of the ring. From start to finish, we are going to be banging. So if Zab can't handle the pressure, then he's going out. I got too many plans. I need this fight to get where I got to go. I need it bad."
The March 24 NBC Sports show will be a triple-header, featuring a pair of heavyweight bouts on the undercard.
Tomasz Adamek (44-2, 28 KO) will make his return to the ring against Nagy Aguilera (17-6, 12 KO) in a get-well bout following Adamek's loss to Vitali Klitschko last September. Adamek vs Aguilera is scheduled for 10 rounds.
Former titlist Siarhei Liakhovich will also be in faction, facing Philly prospect Bryant Jennings in a 10-round bout. Liakhovich (25-4, 16 KO) was supposed to face Eddie Chambers in the NBC Sports boxing premiere in January, but that fight fell through when Chambers pulled out due to injury (which pissed Liakhovich off something awful). That bout was replaced by Jennings (12-0, 5 KO) taking on Maurice Byarm, and Jennings won a solid, 10-round decision, helping get the Main Events-promoted TV series off to a good start, even with the odds piling up against everyone in the final few weeks before the date. This is sort of a crossroads bout, and a good step up for Jennings. If he's for real, it's a fight he should win.