by Gary Purfield
Main Events Promotions will hold a Fight Night card on NBC Sports Network this Saturday with three televised fights from the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, NY. The second card in the series features two crossroads bouts and the return of popular Polish heavyweight, Tomasz Adamek.
In the headliner, former Jr. Welterweight and Welterweight champion, Zab Judah 41-7 (28 KO), takes on contender Vernon Paris 26-0 (15 KO) in a 140 lb IBF title eliminator. Judah is again looking to rebound in a career filled with ups and downs. Once the hottest prospect in the sport with blinding speed and scary one-punch power, Judah was considered a can’t miss superstar early on.
Judah won the IBF Jr. Welterweight title early in his career, but then, after several defenses, had his first setback when he was stopped by Kostya Tszyu in two rounds in 2001. Judah, feeling the fight was stopped prematurely, went into a tirade that included hurling a stool into the center of the ring and sticking his glove into the face of referee Jay Nady.
In 2005, Judah captured the undisputed Welterweight title with a ninth round TKO of Cory Spinks only to lose the title two fights later against the much less skilled Carlos Baldomir. In his next fight, he took on rising star Floyd Mayweather. Judah had some early success, but as the fight went along Mayweather showed that he was the young speedy fighter that everyone should be targeting for superstardom, not Judah, as he took a wide unanimous decision victory. The fight also involved Judah hitting Mayweather with a low blow in round ten, resulting in a full melee inside the ring involving both corners that took several minutes to clear before the fight could resume.
After punishing losses to Miguel Cotto and Josh Clottey in 2007 and 2008, respectively, it appeared Judah’s days of being a title contender had come to a close. But in 2010, Judah revived his career yet again. Returning to his original promoter, Main Events, after being with Don King, Judah returned to the 140 lb division where he had his early success. He scored a quick knockout of Jose Armando Santa Cruz on a Friday Night Fights and then beat rugged Lucas Matthysse on HBO in a tight split decision. Judah was ahead early, but Matthysse came on late, knocking Judah down in round ten. The defining point for Judah was not melting down in the face of adversity and staying alive to finish the fight.
Judah completed his comeback on March 5, 2011 regaining the IBF jr. welterweight belt with a seventh round stoppage of Kaizer Mabuza. But, as what seems to be par for the course for “Super Judah,” he quickly lost his throne. Following the Mabuza fight, Judah was dominated and stopped in five rounds by the young British star, Amir Khan. The end came in round five when Judah was hit on the belt line and dropped for the ten count. Judah jumped up after ten, claiming a low blow, but his pleading would not change the result.
This Friday, Judah once again looks for a comeback. Standing in his way is the outspoken contender Vernon Paris, who believes this is his time to shine. The undefeated Paris is looking to use the Judah fight to set up his first title opportunity. The tough Paris, from Detroit, MI, has used boxing as a means to get away from a troubled past often spent with the wrong crowd. Paris has two bullets lodged in him from an attempted murder against him in 2006, and he fights like you would expect someone with his background.
The well-regarded contender announced himself onto the scene in August of last year with a seventh round TKO over Tim Coleman in a matchup of young prospects on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. He followed this up with a decision over Ruben Galvan two months later and now awaits his biggest test yet against the veteran and former champion, Judah.
Judah will bring his considerable experience advantage against top competition into the bout along with speed and power that is still well above average. The question will be, if Paris can weather Judah’s skills early, will Judah be able to mentally weather the confident Paris as he takes what Judah has to offer and keeps coming forward.
In the co-feature, another crossroads bout takes place in the heavyweight division. Former WBO champ, Sergei Liakhovich 25-4 (16 KO), takes on the up-and-coming prospect Bryant Jennings 12-0 (5 KO) in a ten-round bout. Liakhovich looks to make a final title run as Jennings will look to show he belongs in the conversation of top, young heavyweight talent.
Liakhovich won the WBO heavyweight title with a unanimous decision over Lamon Brewster in 2006 but lost the title in his next fight. Liakhovich was ahead on the cards when he was knocked out by Shannon Briggs with only one second left in the final round. Since that fight in 2006, Liakhovich has fought only four times, going 2-2 while he has battled various issues, including management problems. Liakhovich has wins over two journeymen in that time. He lost to Nicolay Valuev in 2006 and suffered a bloody ninth round knockout in his last fight against Robert Helenius in August of last year.
Liakhovich was scheduled to headline the first Fight Night card against Eddie Chambers in January but was left on the sidelines when Chambers pulled out the week of the fight with a rib injury. Unable to find a suitable replacement in six days to make a competitive fight with Liakhovich, Main Events went a different route, putting together a battle of young prospects in Bryant Jennings and Maurice Byarm. Jennings came out on top and now has the opportunity to keep the train rolling when he battles the veteran Liakhovich this Saturday.
Liakhovich will bring his vast experience advantage to the ring. He had a long amateur career and has seen it all as a professional. But a long career and the rough knockout in his last fight may have taken a strong toll on the former champ. He will need to prove he is still truly a force with an impressive win against Jennings if he wants to remain relevant in the title picture.
Jennings will be facing a serious deficit in experience Saturday. He got a late start in boxing after being a football and basketball player growing up. He had a short amateur career, only has twelve pro fights, and has not seen anywhere near the level of competition Liakhovich has fought. But what Jennings lacks in experience, he will look to overcome with youth and a tenacious fighting style. Jennings trains like an animal and will certainly be in shape to go hard for all ten rounds to press his older opponent. Jennings sports a confidence beyond his experience that has him campaigning for big fights, such as his last outing with Byarm and his match this Saturday against Liakhovich.
In the opening televised bout, Tomasz Adamek 44-2 (28 KO) makes his return after his failed heavyweight title challenge last year where he was stopped in ten one-sided rounds against heavyweight giant Vitali Klitschko. The former undisputed Cruiserweight champ turned heavyweight looks to rebound against journeyman Nagy Aguilera 17-6 (12 KO) in a ten-round feature.
Adamek won the cruiserweight title and showed his remarkable resilience when he defeated Steve Cunningham in 2008. Despite being out-boxed early, Adamek, as he has done many times in his career, used his strength and toughness to overcome his opponent. He dropped Cunningham multiple times on the way to the unanimous decision. After one more fight at cruiser, he made the jump to the land of the giants north of 200 lb.
Adamek won six fights at heavyweight including wins over Jason Estrada, Michael Grant and Chris Arreola to set up the title shot against Klitschko. Despite the backing of a soccer stadium full of supporters in Poland and a gutsy effort, the much smaller Adamek was badly outclassed and took a one-sided beating that was stopped in the tenth round against Klitschko.
Other than shaking off some rust, Adamek does not figure to get much of a test against Aguilera who has lost all his fights against top competition. Aguilera was stopped by Chris Arreola in three rounds last year. Prior to that, he suffered decision losses to Antonio Tarver and Maurice Harris in 2010 and was stopped by Samuel Peter in the second round, also in 2010. Aguilera’s biggest win is a first round KO of faded Oleg Maskaev in 2009, but he has lost four of his last six with the two wins coming against much lesser competition.
Assuming Adamek has something left in the tank after a career of vicious wars and making the most of underrated boxing skills, he is still one of the best talents in the heavyweight division not named Klitschko. His willingness to engage in exciting fights and his massive Polish following will continue to make him an attraction to other heavyweight contenders, assuming he gets by Aguilera impressively this weekend.
The Fight Night card will be broadcast live on NBC Sports at 10pm ET to avoid conflict with the NCAA tournament. The crowd should be a lively sort considering Judah hails from Brooklyn and Adamek’s rowdy Polish faithful that pack the Prudential Center in North Jersey will likely make their way to the event to support their favorite fighter. The non-televised undercard kicks off at 7:30pm.
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