This Friday night on FITE from Verona, New York, former two-division titleholder Zab Judah returns to action against Cletus Seldin in a Star Boxing main event.
What’s at stake?
Nothing’s on the line other than pride and future opportunity, but that’s plenty. Judah (44-9, 30 KO) has held world titles at 140 and 147 in his career, and is looking to get back into the mix at 140. Seldin (23-1, 19 KO) is an entertaining brawler who will have a chance to not only throw himself into a title shot conversation, but also possibly retire Zab Judah, and considering Judah has a real good shot at going to the Hall of Fame down the line, that’s a feather in anyone’s cap, something to tell the grandkids.
How did Zab Judah get here?
Well, this could take forever if we really went piece-by-piece over Zab’s career, because Judah turned pro in 1996, when I was but a chubby pubescent and many of you weren’t even born, as ludicrous as this may seem to me.
Now 41, Judah’s career has been long, decorated, and at times downright weird. He was a good amateur, winning the 1996 PAL National Championship, but he lost to David Diaz in the Olympic trials and didn’t go to Atlanta 1996, instead turning pro at 18 that September.
Judah ran his record up to 15-0 before facing Micky Ward in June 1998. To give you some perspective as to how long Judah’s been in the pro game, Ward was still four years away from his career-ending, career-defining trilogy with Arturo Gatti. In 1998, Micky was just a tough veteran fighter. The first part of his career, which began in 1985, had ended in 1991 after four straight losses. But Ward came back in 1994, went on a run, and got an IBF title shot in 1997 against Vince Phillips, who stopped him in three on a cut.
Judah won a wide decision over Ward, a really impressive showing for where he was in his career. He beat former title challenger Darryl Tyson four months later, racked up a few more wins, and then in Feb. 2000, got his first crack at a world title, where he beat Jan Piet Bergman for the vacant IBF belt at 140 pounds.
So that’s how Judah started. Let’s speed through the rest of his career, because frankly most if not all of it was so long ago that we’re hardly talking about the same fighter anymore.
- Judah made five successful defenses of his IBF junior welterweight title from 2000-2001, beating Junior Witter, Terron Millett, Hector Quiroz, Reggie Green, and Allan Vester, before he was matched in a unification fight with WBC/WBA titleholder Kostya Tszyu, who quite infamously stopped Judah in the Chicken Dance Fight, which Cedric the Entertainer later turned into a classic bit.
- Judah picked up the WBO 140-pound belt via split decision over DeMarcus Corley in July 2003, defended once against Jaime Rangel (72-second knockout), and then moved up to 147 pounds.
- In his first fight at welterweight, Judah lost a decision against IBF/WBA/WBC titleholder Cory Spinks.
- After the loss to Spinks, Judah won a WBO eliminator at 147 against Rafael Pineda, then beat Wayne Martell for a minor WBO belt before remacthing Spinks in Feb. 2005. That time, he stopped Spinks in nine and took the three belts.
- Judah made a defense of his belts against Cosme Rivera in May 2005, then later signed for a mega-fight against Floyd Mayweather in April 2006. There was a problem: he had a mandatory challenger in Carlos Baldomir.
- Judah faced Baldomir in Jan. 2006, with just the WBC title on the line. Baldomir stunned the boxing world with a 12-round decision win over the heavily-favored Judah, seriously damaging the appeal of the Mayweather-Judah fight to come three months later.
- Judah did still have the IBF title for his fight with Mayweather, but he’d lost the WBC and been stripped of the WBA. Zab, who in his day did have terrific skills, speed, and good power, gave Mayweather a few problems but lost a clear decision. The fight is more famous for the mid-fight riot that erupted.
- Judah returned a year later for a tune-up fight with Ruben Galvan on ESPN2, which ended in a no-contest in the first round, and then he was back to serious business two months later for a shot at WBA welterweight titleholder Miguel Cotto. In a good, rough, and at times downright dirty fight, Cotto stopped Judah in the 11th round.
- Judah won a couple of fights against lower-level foes in 2007, then lost a technical decision to Joshua Clottey in 2008. At this point, it looked like Zab Judah: Serious Contender was a thing of the past. He was 0-4 in his last four serious fights.
- After three more tune-up type wins — one a decent victory over Jose Armando Santa Cruz in July 2010 — Judah faced Lucas Matthysse, an unbeaten Argentine slugger, in Nov. 2010 on HBO in an IBF eliminator. Judah got dropped in the 10th round, but won a controversial split decision.
- The win over Matthysse led to a shot at the vacant IBF 140-pound title against Kaizer Mabuza in March 2011. Judah won a seventh round TKO, having gotten off the deck in the fourth round to storm back and win.
- In his first defense — and an attempt at unification with WBA titleholder Amir Khan — Judah lost the belt via fifth round knockout, complaining the final shot was a low blow. After that, he faced unbeaten Vernon Paris and looked better than he had in years, wiping Paris out in nine rounds in another IBF eliminator.
- Judah then faced WBC/WBA 140-pound titleholder Danny Garcia in April 2013 and was competitive, losing a 12-round decision. But he ended 2013 with a Showtime fight against Paulie Malignaggi, dubbed the “Battle of Brooklyn” at Barclays Center. Malignaggi won a wide decision.
- After the loss to Malignaggi, Judah didn’t fight again until Jan. 2017, beating Jorge Luis Munguia via TKO-2 in Trenton, New Jersey, and he didn’t fight again after that until Jan. 2018, when he went to Calgary of all the places to beat Noel Mejia Rincon via 10-round decision. He hasn’t fought since.
It’s been a wild, eventful, and colorful ride for Zab Judah. He’s won six world titles in two divisions, had a ton of high-level fights, got shouted out in the Wu-Tang song “Uzi (Pinky Ring),” and win or lose, you can say honestly that he’s never been boring.
How did Cletus Seldin get here?
Seldin, 32, is a hard-working, hard-punching, lunch pail kind of a fighter. He turned pro back in July 2011 in Florida, but has fought most of his career in New York — of his 25 pro fights, 20 have been in New York, and 16 of those have been at the Paramount Theater in Huntington, which is also where Chris Algieri built his career.
While Algieri is something of a technician and a boxer first, Seldin is pure brawler. He built his name locally on being reliably exciting, and after running his record up to 20-0, he got a shot on HBO against Roberto Ortiz in Nov. 2017.
Seldin made quite an impression that night at the Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, thrashing Ortiz and stopping him in the third round.
Looking to strike while the iron was hot, Seldin accepted another HBO slot just a month later, matched with Yves Ulysse Jr in Laval, Quebec. Ulysse embarrassed Seldin, frankly, frustrating him by not standing still and letting Seldin brawl away, as Seldin prefers.
Seldin was dropped in the first, second, and third rounds, and from there Ulysse just boxed his ears off en route to a wide 10-round decision.
After that, Seldin took 11 months off before returning in Oklahoma City, knocking out Nelson Lara in 26 seconds, and he last fought on Jan. 26 in Connecticut, knocking out Adam Mate in 48 seconds.
How do the fighters match up?
Judah has always been better at 140 than 147, and as long as he can still make the weight, that’s something in his favor on Saturday, but it’s worth noting he hasn’t actually hit 140 on the scales for a fight since April 2013, so six years ago.
Judah is a 5’7½” southpaw with a 72-inch reach, Seldin a 5’7” righty with a 67-inch reach, got them T-rex arms, but if you get close, he’ll put them to work.
Comparing résumés between the two is probably pointless. Judah has obviously fought the better competition — he’s been in with Mayweather, Tszyu, Cotto, Spinks, Clottey, Danny Garcia, Khan, Malignaggi, Matthysse, and other good fighters over the years. Seldin, meanwhile, has fought Yves Ulysse Jr, a fringe contender at 140, and it didn’t go well.
But Judah also hasn’t fought anyone with a pulse in five-and-a-half years, and he hasn’t beaten anyone with one in over seven years. He’s 41 years old. Stylistically, the Zab Judah of prime years would wipe the floor with Seldin. The Zab Judah of 2011-13 might, too. But it’s 2019. This is, for all intents and purposes, the first time Zab Judah’s had a fight with a real opponent in over half a decade. At this stage of his career, combining his age and his time off and the amount of time since his last legit fight, it’s all guesswork with him.
Who’s the favorite?
No odds listed right now, and I’d be hard pressed to say there really should be a serious favorite here, for the reasons just discussed. While we know exactly what Seldin is for better or worse, we have no idea what Judah is in 2019.
Who will win?
No staff picks for this one, and while usually I’d throw in a pick here to make up for that, I really don’t know what to call for this fight. Seldin’s extremely limited, but Judah has been out of the spotlight for a long time. This is a total shot in the dark, but I’ll say Zab does beat him. That said, if Judah is rusty (a real risk), significantly slower than he used to be (a real risk), or just plain gets too close and gets caught, Seldin is dangerous.
- Since this card is running adjacent to Hall of Fame weekend, we’ll also see James “Buddy” McGirt Jr (27-3-1, 14 KO) will be in action, as his father is going into the Hall of Fame this weekend. McGirt Jr didn’t reach the heights of his dad, but the 36-year-old southpaw has always been a decent fighter, never a real contender. He’s won five straight against lesser opposition over the last five years, following a long absence from the ring after a 2010 TKO loss to Edwin Rodriguez. McGirt will face a fellow southpaw, France’s David Papot (22-0, 3 KO) on Friday. Papot, 28, isn’t any serious prospect or anything, but has done well domestically in France.
- There will be a handful of other fights on the Star Boxing card, mostly featuring prospects.