BROOKLYN, N.Y. — Three thoughts from three strong fights Saturday night …
Zab Judah is back. In the aftermath of Judah’s uncompetitive fifth-round knockout loss to Amir Khan last summer, many believed his days as a big-fight headliner were over. But the resilient Judah bounced back, stopping undefeated prospect Vernon Paris with a blurring flurry in the ninth round. It was a dominant win by Judah, who was first with the jab, first with combinations and confused Paris with angles all night. Before the fight Paris claimed he was going to put pressure on Judah, but it was Judah who was coming forward throughout the fight.
With the win, Judah becomes the mandatory challenger for the winner of the May fight between Khan and Lamont Peterson. A rematch with Khan is unlikely — even if Khan wins, he’s eyeing a move up to 147-pounds — but there are plenty of options for Judah (42-7) to choose from. The junior welterweight division is flush with talent, including Peterson, Marcos Maidana and Danny Garcia as well as Juan Manuel Marquez and Brandon Rios. Judah’s performance and his popularity — the overnight numbers on NBC Sports Network were up 12 percent from the first show in January despite competing with an HBO show on the same night — will make him a marketable opponent.
Paris (26-1) is at something of a crossroads. At 24, Paris is young enough to bounce back. But he doesn’t seem to take his training seriously. He admitted he didn’t train a day for his 2010 fight with Ramon Guevara and was four pounds overweight on the day before the weigh-in. Paris is talented, but he needs to sharpen his focus if he hopes to advance his career.
Tomasz Adamek is back, too. Adamek, last seen on the receiving end of Vitali Klitschko’s right hand, rebounded with a solid win over Nagy Aguilera. Adamek showcased a piston-rod jab and good power, buckling the 25-year old Aguilera with a right hand early in the fourth round. A surprisingly game Aguilera — who told me Friday after a rough couple of years he was much more committed to training and came into the fight at a trim 226-pounds — would not back down, turning what some expected to be a mismatch into a very competitive fight.
Adamek (45-2) says he wants another shot at the title — against Wladimir Klitschko this time — but will need a few more fights to get there. He is penciled in to headline an NBC Sports Network show in Newark in June, and potential candidates could include Odlanier Solis, Eddie Chambers and Kevin Johnson. The Klitschkos are always looking for a viable opponent to fight in the U.S., and Adamek, who is enormously popular in New Jersey, could re-emerge as one by the end of 2012.
Get to know Bryant Jennings. Admit it: You didn’t think the untested Jennings had much of a chance against the experienced Sergei Liakhovich, either. Jennings picked up a nice win against fellow fringe prospect Maurice Byarm in January but didn’t appear to have enough polish to deal with Liakhovich, a former heavyweight titleholder. But Jennings dominated from the opening bell, peppering Liakhovich with the jab and landing thudding combinations. Liakhovich’s left eye was swollen after the first round, and by the eighth his face was a bloody mess. Jennings — a mechanic at the Federal Reserve Bank in Philadelphia who took the Byarm fight on a week’s notice — says having a full five-week training camp molded a more complete fighter, and it showed. Jennings put relentless pressure on Liakhovich until the former champion’s corner mercifully stopped the fight after the ninth round.
Jennings (13-0) has started to make a decent name for himself, so let’s keep the momentum going: How about Jennings and Adamek on June 16? I got a lukewarm response from Main Events promoter Kathy Duva when I asked her about an Adamek-Jennings show — I think Duva has other ideas for Adamek, and after back-to-back tough fights prefers to give Jennings a softer touch — but there is no question (at least not to me) that Jennings, 27, has earned the right to be in with a top-10 contender sometime this year.
– Chris Mannix