"We’re going to move on and shoot for the stars."
Zab Judah got the 12-round split decision Saturday night, but the jury is still out on his bid to regain boxing superstardom.
In dealing Argentine junior welterweight Lucas Matthysse his first defeat, Judah avoided disaster by surviving a knockdown in the 10th round.
And yet, a one-point victory by the former undisputed welterweight champion was unpopular with fans at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., and his tactical performance did little to convince an HBO Boxing After Dark audience that Judah is ready to rumble with the best of the 140-pound division.
"Matthysse is a tough fighter like I anticipated,'' Judah said. "I expected the fight to go down like it did."
Facing a noted knockout artist in Matthysse, Judah was unwilling to go on the attack throughout most of the fight. Instead, he relied on his jab and quick counter-punches to stay out of harm's way.
It was when Judah tried to mix it up and trade punches, against the wishes of his father and trainer, that he paid the cost. A right hand to the ear in the 10th round sent Judah to canvas. He went down again in the 11th from another Matthysse right that was more of a push.
"I kind of pulled back, but things happen,'' said Judah, explaining his view of the knockdown. "I came to box and use my jab and hook and move around. But he did a good job closing the distance. I should have listened to my dad and kept boxing."
Matthysse (27-1 25 KOs) wasn't interviewed after the fight, but he grinned in apparent disbelief after all three judges scored the fight 114-113, with two favoring Judah (40-6, 27 KOs).
"Matthysse is very strong fighter and I have a lot of respect for him,'' Judah said. "He came in with a perfect record and he's heavy-handed. My condition is what kept me in the fight."
The Brooklyn, N.Y. southpaw was expecting to be a stronger fighter by moving down from 147 to 140. He plans to continue that campaign. "We're going to move on and shoot for the stars,'' he said.
But, at 33 years old, Judah looked more like a faded superstar Saturday night than a relevant factor in one of the sport's most competitive divisions.
At the top of the telecast, Robert Guerrero (28-1-1, 18 KOs) won a unanimous decision against Vicente Escobedo in a 10-round lightweight bout. Guerrero scored knockdowns in the third and sixth rounds while dominating Escobedo (22-3, 14 KOs), who sustained a cut over his left ear from an accidental head butt in the first round.