Saturday night at the Prudential Center in Newark, NJ sees a clash between Zab Judah and Kaiser Mabuza for the vacant IBF light welter crown.
For Judah, 40-6 (27), this bout is the culmination of his return to the 140 pound division, where he held the IBF belt from 2000-2001 and the WBO strap in 2003 before going on to greater glory as a welter, winning the WBC, WBA and IBF titles in 2005.
The New York southpaw hit upon hard times at the starting in 2006, losing the WBC bauble at the hands of Carlos Baldomir before dropping world title contests to Floyd Mayweather, Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey over the next two years.
Starting in 2010, Judah returned to light welter, halting former WBC interim lightweight ruler Jose Armando Santa Cruz in three before climbing off the canvas to post a very close split decision over the previously unbeaten Lucas Matthysse to capture the NABO trophy and also the number two spot in the IBF and WBO rankings.
Facing Judah in Newark tomorrow night is South Africa's Mabuza, 23-6-3 (14), who brings an eight contest winning streak to the table.
Mabuza had a tough start in the fight game in 2000, losing his maiden voyage to fellow debutante and future IBF welter titlist Issac Hlatshwayo, who also turned back Mabuza in 2003 for the South African lightweight trophy.
The Johannesburg native went 6-2-2 over the next four years before dropping an IBF Australasian welter title contest to Robert Medley and an African Boxing Union light welter title clash to Emmanuel Lartey.
Finally hitting his stride in 2008, Mabuza began his current win streak, annexing the WBA Pan African light welter strap before adding the South African and IBF Intercontinental 140 pound belts.
Mabuza's big break came in February, 2010 when facing former WBO light welter champ Kendall Holt, surprisingly beating up the American, who declined to come out for the eighth round, and winning an IBF title eliminator, allowing Mabuza to face Judah on Saturday for the vacant IBF title.
The 31 year old Mabuza will have to pull off an even bigger upset in his first world title bout if he is to walk away from the Prudential Center wearing the IBF belt as Judah has a massive experience advantage in this fight, having participated in 16 previous world title bouts.
But at age 33 and after 46 fights, does Judah still have enough left in the tank to successfully deal with what could be a hungrier opponent?
Mabuza isn't the best boxer but holds a height and reach advantage over Judah and is very aggressive and durable. These same qualities proved to be too much for Judah in the Baldomir bout and it's a sure bet that Mabuza will look to wear down his rival, particularly with the withering body attack that won him the Holt fight.
Judah should have no problem early on landing stinging counter shots through Mabuza's leaky defense but if he can't discourage the South African from continuing to march forward, he'll have to absorb a lot of punishment along the way as Mabuza just never stops throwing.
If Judah can land big shots early, he could keep Mabuza from taking over but if not, it could the kind of grueling fight that Judah doesn't want to be in.