Zab Judah boxing’s bad boy has grown up

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“The Boxing Gym” lacks that flamboyant name identification anything previously connected with Zab Judah had. That shows how much boxing’s bad boy has grown up.

“My major goal is to love kids and give them a place to come and develop their skills,” said Judah, the current IBF light welterweight champion with a 41-6-2 record and a hands-on reputation at the Paradise and Sahara locale.

“I grew up in poverty,” said Judah, who grew up on the streets of New York City in a family of 13. “I watched Mike Tyson and Pernell Whitaker, my idols. They were cool and I wanted to be like them. I wanted the cars, girls, jewelry, parties. That was part of my career.”

That career for all its success carried just as much baggage – fights outside the ring, riots inside the ring and the tag as a hot head that nearly ruined a superstar start to a career that began with a championship belt at just age 21.

“It wasn’t that it happened too fast, but that I didn’t understand how to handle it,” he said. “I started out 7-0 with seven straight knockouts. I get to 15-0 and fighting Micky Ward before all the Gatti fights when he was in his prime. I beat him and by 21 am champion of the world.”

Judah was Mayweather Jr., before there was a Floyd. And like Floyd, trouble seemed to follow him. Famed promoter Don King paved the way for Judah to become a champion quickly, but at a price.

“I blame myself for my troubles,” he said. “When I was put with Don King I learned a lot of things about boxing, not all good. Learned money can control whatever you want to control.”

Judah went from 30-1 to 36-6 and suddenly that big Star of David he wore on his trunks was turning into a freak show on You Tube.

“You want to see something incredible,” Judah said. “Look at this You Tube piece from Miami where this girl and her friends hustled us out of $4,600 shooting craps. That still gets a lot of hits. That and a few losses in the ring told me I had to do something with my life.”

What Judah did was find religion –”Jesus juice” as he calls it. And then the wins and titles started coming back. Now at 33, Judah has won five straight fights and believes he is in line to fight Manny Pacquiao down the road.

At least, that’s the goal.

“My dream now is to be the undisputed junior welterweight champ,” he said. ‘I wouldn’t fight Miguel Cotto again. I never could get to that weight (154). I’ll never go that high again. I’m just glad to be fighting and relevant again.”

Judah is a part owner in The Boxing Gym, showing up almost daily with a group that includes former champions Tyson, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad and Hasim Rahman.

“The gym has been open almost a year now,” said Krystal, who prefers to go by just the first name. “I picked this job because it’s the home of world champions. It’s inspiring and motivational to be around them. We are a big family here.”

Krystal is the owner’s assistant and does the “dirty work” to make the gym a pleasant place to hang.

“It’s like a reality show here,” she said. “We’re open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday through Friday. We want people to know where we are because we have the gym for the kids that can keep them off the streets.”

At the B-Hop

When George Foreman knocked out Michael Moorer in 1995 in Las Vegas to become the oldest boxing champion, he looked 45 and was way behind on the judges cards.

Not so with Bernard Hopkins.

At age 46, “The Executioner” put on the greatest performance of his long and distinguished career in winning a unanimous decision over Jean Pascal to capture the WBC light heavyweight title in Montreal, Pascal’s adopted hometown.

Hopkins outpointed Pascal by scores of 116-112, 115-113 and 115-114 to defeat a champion 18 years his junior, in front of a building-record boxing crowd of 17,560 at the Bell Centre.

Hopkins, a native of Philadelphia, told HBO after the fight he plans on boxing at least four more years when he would reach 50. His likely opponent next is Chad Dawson, who defeated Adrian Diaconu by unanimous decision on the undercard.

Dawson, 30-1, suffered his only loss at the hands of Pascal this past August.

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