This weekend sees two World title fights. The first one, probably the most interesting one in fact, is Saul Alvarez v Matthew Hatton, “Canelo” is seen as a 1/7 favourite and is seen as the future of Mexican boxing. The other fight is for the vacant IBF Light Welterweight title and sees the one time p4p contender Zab Judah facing off against the somewhat unknown Kaizer Mabuza. Judah is the betting favourite and has Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whittaker claiming he’s a fighter back at his best, though the fight promises to show us more than we may suspect.
Judah was once one of the best boxers in the world, cocky, confident, power, lightning fast, great movement and a skilled southpaw. Though though those times are a distant memory to many. Judah, currently 40-6-0-2 (27) won this same title over a decade ago, beating Jan Piet Bergman and defended it 5 times before facing Kostya Tsyzu. When Judah entered that fight he was 27-0-0-1 and was a heavy favourite to add Kostya’s WBC and WBA title to his own IBF belt, though he got caught in the 2nd round and when recovered he fell down again. The loss to Tsyzu dented the confidence of Judah who has never really been the same fighter since then. Judah would occasionally show flashes of his skill after that. The skills took him to winning the WBC/WBA and IBF Welterweight titles beating Cory Spinks in the 9th round though that was the last great fight for Judah. Losses to Carlos Baldomir, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey saw Judah written off and tossed to the scrap heap. He’s fallen from 27-0-0-1 to 36-6-0-2 and had it not been for some lower level wins he’d have been left on the scrap heap. Judah though got this fight on the back of his only notable win in the last 5 years, a controversial split decision win over Argentinian banger Lucas Martin Matthysse, a fight many fight Judah had been very lucky to win. Judah, for all his natural athletic ability and skill, has appeared to be very mentally weak and has become a 4 round fighter, starting quickly through really struggling in the latter half of fights, against Mabuza this could be a mistake.
Kaizaer Mabuza has a relatively average looking record 23-6-2 (13) though has really started to make an impact in the past couple of fights where he has twice upset the odds. A majority win over the then unbeaten Serhiy Fedchenko (23-0) in the Ukraine was followed by a 6th round retirement win over Kendall Holt in the US. These two wins have elevated Mabuza up the rankings to the point where he is the IBF’s #1 guy. Prior to those two wins though the South African was basically an unknown with no noteworthy wins. The few recognisable names on his record had beaten him (Robert Medley, Isaac Hlatshwayo-twice and Martin Kristjansen) though he has improved substantially since then. No matter how far he’s improved the question is more about how faded Judah is, if Judah slips then Mabuza has a pretty decent chance late on.
Expect Mabuza to last the distance and make it competitive on the cards, though it’s hard to think of Judah losing
this one in front of the crowd at the Prudential Centre (where Judah has fought his last couple of fights). Expect Judah to be Judah and breeze the early rounds, being too quick and too skilled to be caught early though struggle immensely late on to take a sort of 115-113 or 116-112 type scoreline.