Time's chewing, Zabdiel. It's nearer dawn than midnight. No one should be awake now, let alone a guy 20 hours from stepping inside a roped-off square and fighting for the championship of the world.
But no wonder you can't sleep. You're going into the ring with everything. You're going in with nothing. You've got rattlesnake hands, radar in your head and neck—you land and leave while they're still loading up. You've got 27 wins, no losses, the IBF junior welterweight title and the perfect name for a boxer, strong and short as a one-two combo: Zab Judah. Yet who outside of boxing junkies has ever heard of you? Your goal is for people 30 years from now to utter your name in the same breath with those of the greatest boxers in history. The biggest name you've beaten so far is Terronn Millett.
Now comes your first real test. It all begins tomorrow, Saturday night, in Las Vegas. Or it ends.
You've come into the ring with smoke billowing and rap musicians barking and light flashing off the platinum and diamonds on your front teeth, off your glittering silver jacket and trunks. Kostya Tszyu, the Russian-born WBA and WBC champ, just comes, straight on, like a Tartar on horseback.
Your hotel room's finally quiet. All your siblings and aunts and uncles and cousins and nephews and boxing pals have been swept out. Everything's turned off, all the electronic devices you use to push stillness away. All turned off except you, still bursting out of the chair and throwing flurries at the night, shouting, "Total destruction! Undefeated! Undisputed! Knock him out!"
Lie down, Zab. I'll tell you a bedtime story. It's hard to believe, sort of like a Bible story, but it's all true. It's your story.
In the beginning there was confusion. Everywhere. Picture it: Your father, Prince Yo'el Judah, was wearing a robe and a turban and clutching a wooden staff. It was 1977 Not before Christ. After. The year you'd be born.
Your mother was fighting mad. So were the two women beside her. They'd just stumbled upon an astonishing coincidence, something they all held in common: your father's seed.
They closed in on the prince, demanding an explanation. How could he possibly lie? They were Israelites, God's Chosen Ones. They were standing in a temple. Not in Canaan or Samaria or the Golan Heights. In Brooklyn.