Zab Judah went home to Brooklyn last night and kept his career going with a one-way beatdown of Vernon Paris, turning the Detroit prospect into a pretender instead of a contender, stopping Paris early in the ninth round.
After the fight, Judah was happy with his performance, and happy to be home. From Mike Coppinger at RingTV.com:
"I felt like I was fighting on home turf again. My thing was to not go in there and get wild. I wanted to dictate the pace. He was throwing wild shots, that wasn’t going to work. I’ve been in with [Floyd] Mayweather, one of the best fighters out there. I’ve been in with Mickey Ward, one of the toughest fighters. He was tailor-made for me."
Judah (42-7, 29 KO) absolutely smoked the 24-year-old Paris (26-1, 15 KO), making the younger man look completely outclassed and unable to perform under the bright lights on a big stage. While this win isn't really cause for momentous celebration unless you're Judah or involved in promoting Judah, there's no question that Zab was dialed in and took apart what was thought to be a dangerous foe.
Judah isn't suddenly elite with this win, but he sure as hell proved he's a lot better than Vernon Paris, and that there's life left in his 34-year-old body. He's back in the thick of things at 140, and with some of the top guys leaving the division, he's going to get his chances to make waves. He's still a name fighter, isn't shot, and looked full of energy last night. I know I've always been a Judah critic, but that doesn't mean I don't think he's a good fighter. He was, he always has been, and he still is. And last night, he tore Vernon Paris up in the ring.
With the win, Judah is now the IBF mandatory challenger, with that belt next on the line on May 19, when Lamont Peterson faces Amir Khan in a Las Vegas rematch. If Peterson wins, I do think we'll see Peterson vs Judah. If Khan does, I doubt we see a Khan vs Judah rematch. The first fight wasn't competitive and I don't think there's any grand desire to see it again, but it could be marketed if you play up the controversial ending.
That would mean, possibly, a vacant title fight this summer or fall. Currently, the No. 2 spot in the rankings is open. Victor Cayo was previously ranked sixth (Judah was 3, Paris 4, Khan 5, 1-2 vacant), but he got upset last night by Nate Campbell, so he's out.
Recent Friday Night Fights winners Kendall Holt and Joan Guzman are up there in the rankings, and Judah vs Guzman would pull a crowd in New York. I wouldn't mind seeing a Holt-Guzman eliminator for the No. 2 spot, I guess, even given my distaste for Guzman, with the winner facing Judah if the IBF belt were to go vacant. We've seen much worse handling of eliminator fights and vacant top spots.