Already a three-weight world champion, Floyd Mayweather secured a suitably high-profile opponent for his 36th professional fight in the brash, trash-talking Brooklyner Zab Judah.
Despite a build-up that did not go entirely to plan, the bout attained enormous billing, and was destined to live up to its ‘Sworn Enemies’ hype tag – but perhaps not in the way that had initially been envisaged.
Moving up to challenge Judah for a world title at a fourth different weight was a match made in heaven for Mayweather. But there was one problem: no sooner had his challenge to undisputed welterweight champion Judah been agreed, his opponent failed to keep his side of the bargain, and promptly suffered a stunning loss to unfancied Carlos Baldomir. Politicking and contract re-negotiations ensued, and the bout was rescued with only the IBF title on the line. Judah’s defeat, however, severely tarnished the contest’s pre-fight billing.
Due to his defeat to Baldomir, Judah went into the fight as a huge underdog, with many bemoaning the fact that Mayweather might have settled for the easy option. But Judah set about proving his critics wrong, more than matching Mayweather for pace in the opening two rounds, and the favourite briefly touched down on the canvas, although referee Richard Steele ruled it a slip. Mayweather began turning the tide in the fifth round, bloodying Judah’s nose, and had built up a healthy points advantage as the fight drifted into its concluding rounds.
By now a one-sided contest, it exploded into life with 10 seconds left in the 10th round, when Judah lamped Mayweather low, and Steele intervened to give Mayweather respite. Immediately, Mayweather’s uncle Roger Mayweather jumped into the ring to confront Judah, where he was met by Judah’s father Yoel, and a melee ensured which involved the majority of both teams’ cornermen. Steele and security intervened, and eventually the fight resumed, with Mayweather clinching his landslide verdict.
Typically seeking to make the most of the incident, Judah’s promoter Don King unsuccessfully appealed for the verdict to be reversed in Judah’s favour. Both fighters had their purses temporarily withheld, while Judah, his father and Roger Mayweather all had their Nevada State Athletic Commission licences revoked for one year. Subsequently, Mayweather beat Baldomir and went on to achieve all-time greatness. Bar a brief career resurrection in 2011, when he won the IBF light-welterweight crown, Judah was not really the same again.