Zab Judah gambled with his future last night and hit an ace on the river by scoring a seventh-round TKO over Kaizer Mabuza at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The official time of the stoppage was 0:59.
Looking to crash the junior welterweight party, Judah, 33, took short money for a potentially long night with Mabuza, and it paid off when he survived a rocky moment or two in a fight that was fairly even until the sudden—and violent—conclusion.
For the first three rounds, Judah, moving almost exclusively to his right, fought from the perimeter, flicking out his jab and occasionally crossing with his left. Mabuza, 31, stalked ineffectively for the most part, although he landed a few clean rights in the second and ramped up the pressure in the third.
In the fourth round, Judah, 138, was floored while on the move by a clubbing right. He was off-balance for the most part, but his glove did hit the canvas and Sammy Viruet rightly called it a knockdown. With Judah protesting, the referee began the mandatory eight count, and when the fight resumed, Judah kept Mabuza, 139, at bay with a few slick moves until the round ended. Mabuza, not amused, shoved him at the sound of the bell.
Mabuza came out in the fifth round landing a 1-2 and doubling up his jab. Twice, he switched to southpaw for no apparent reason, and, twice, he accomplished nothing with this curious tic. But he continued to press forward–initiating what little action there was–for most of the round, until Judah stalled him with a hard right to the body and a straight left to the jaw. It was a fairly even round, but Mabuza appeared to be getting closer to his elusive target. Minutes later, he would finally hit a bullseye.
With about a minute to go in the sixth round, Mabuza landed a right that wobbled Judah near the ropes. Another right soon followed and it looked like Judah might be in trouble, but the bell rang to prevent Mabuza from any further attempts at GBH. Between rounds, Judah, Las Vegas, Nevada, appeared agitated, but he recovered his poise by the time he rose from his stool to start the seventh.
Less than a minute into the round, Mabuza, Johannesburg, South Africa, committed one of the most dunderheaded moves you will ever see a boxer make. It was astonishing to see a professional prizefighter switch stances—practically in slow motion—right in front of a world-class puncher—in a corner, no less! But this is exactly what Mabuza did, and Judah was nearly agog at the opportunity that presented itself. Mabuza, after throwing an uncoordinated right that fell short, wound up in front of his opponent with both hands down, his feet completely parallel, and his chin in the air. In fact, he looked like a man waiting for a bus on Ferry Street to take him to downtown Jersey City. With his back against the turnbuckle, Judah shot an arrow-straight left to the chin, and in the blink of an eye Mabuza was draped over the middle strands of the ropes. He extricated himself with some effort but was in no condition to continue. You could almost see chirping birds circling his head while Sammy Viruet tolled the eight count.
For some reason, Viruet unwisely allowed the South African to continue, and Judah raced across the ring to put the finishing touches on a fighter who was probably dreaming about a beach in Durban by the time one final crushing blow forced Viruet to intervene. It was a dynamic KO by a fighter who has not looked especially sharp recently against live competition. Mabuza, now 23-7-3 (14), figured to be a tougher assignment, but when you make a howler of a mistake like he did, chances are the black lights are just around the corner.
With the win, Judah, who improves to 41-6-0-2(28), picks up a WKRP junior welterweight title and, more importantly, finds himself with a bargaining chip for the first time in many years. Although he showed a few new shifty moves and basically starched his opponent with one punch, Judah was not particularly overwhelming. The ripping combinations he used to throw have been subordinated to his new defensive mindset, but he still has fast hands and TNT to accompany them. That might be enough to justify one more bet and another turn of the cards.