“Never Judge a Book by Its Cover” Still Rings True

NoahZuhdi.com Archive (May 23, 2015):

Perusing through the pages of Uniquely Oklahoma, the latest tome by historian Bob Burke, a new face takes its place among the lore and heroes of the state. In between iconic athletes such as Jim Thorpe and Mickey Mantle, champion boxer and Oklahoma City’s own Noah Zuhdi enters an honored fraternity as he is profiled in the book recently published by the Oklahoma Heritage Association.

One of the youngest people to receive the distinction of being featured in the book, Zuhdi was surprised that he was included with other Oklahoman innovators, celebrities, and technological trailblazers—those who are chronicled in the book that attempts to show how its people, not just its places or events, make Oklahoma the strong and inspiring state it is today. The author, however, was certain Zuhdi belonged.

“I watched Noah grow up and appreciated his dedication to his sport,” Burke explained. “He did it the right way and has always brought favorable publicity for Oklahoma. Noah represents the latest generation of Oklahomans who work their tail off and earn a national reputation. Noah's work ethic and his devotion to family and his sport helped him make the cut, in my mind.”

Zuhdi is not only devoted to his family, but he is also linked to them in the book itself. While Noah Zuhdi might be a new name for the history books, the Zuhdi family name has long been in a position of prominence in Oklahoma. His grandfather, Dr. Nazih Zuhdi, is also profiled in a section of the book covering medical successes and visionaries.

“The Zuhdi name is big time in Oklahoma,” Burke stated candidly. “Even the street leading into the Oklahoma History Center building is Nazih Zuhdi Drive. Dr. Zuhdi is one of the world pioneers in transplants. His accomplishments have filled several books.”

The unique prestige is not lost on the lawyer who went on to become boxing’s lightweight champion. “To be acknowledged in this fashion,” Noah Zuhdi admitted, “serves as a reminder of why my family and I made the decision to take this journey. Ever since I can remember, I have dreamt of sharing an accomplishment with my grandfather and hero. Being in the book is something I will always remember.”

Although thoughts of being associated with his grandfather and other Oklahoman legends could be suddenly overwhelming, the honor took thirty years to be earned. Every time he was told that he was too small or was not hungry enough, Noah Zuhdi heard the rejections as if they were direct challenges.

Too small? He embarked on a high school and college basketball career. Not diverse enough? He became a licensed attorney and still has several real estate ventures. Not hungry enough? He created his own boxing team with the help of his family, carved out his own path, and won three consecutive championship fights.

“I’ve always been the little guy,” Noah Zuhdi said. “And so many people didn’t want to take me seriously because I had a balance in life that wasn’t typical of more famous boxers. You can’t quickly judge a fighter by his background or appearance. I hope I can be a model for that and let others know they don’t have to be pigeonholed into a position in life. I also hope that the people who have stood by me can see this as an affirmation and reward for their support. We did it. I’m humbled by all of this—it’s as high of an honor as you can get.”

Noah Zuhdi was supposed to accept his lot in life and let contentment and complacency reign. Instead, he became a part of history.

For more information on Uniquely Oklahoma and other Oklahoma history volumes, visit www.BobBurkeLaw.net.

Noah Zuhdi Blasts Vajda In Two, Retains Title


August 25, 2013

In front of a packed house last night at the Lucky Star Casino in Oklahoma, WBU Lightweight Champion Noah Zuhdi did not disappoint the partisan crowd as he knocked out clever counter-puncher Gyula Vajda in the second round to defend his championship.

Zuhdi (17-1, 13 KOs) came out strong and Vajda (12-4, 8 KOs) came out stubborn in the first stanza. In a lightening quick exchange in the center of the ring, Zuhdi followed up a jab with a thudding straight right, right as Vajda was trying to counter.

The flash knockdown seem to only wake the Hungarian up, however. Vajda began fighting at a heightened sense and temporarily stunned Zuhdi with a counter left that the champion described as “the second hardest I’ve ever been hit with.” Dickie Wood, Zuhdi’s trainer, explained afterward, “He just got away from the gameplan. That’s all it was. He wasn’t moving around enough. I did my best to set him straight and get him back on the right page, the gameplan. And he did.”

To his credit, Zuhdi stayed composed and did little to show any effects at the tailend of the first round. Sensing his opponent’s confidence growing, the champion stepped up the pace and became more aggressive early in the second round.

The fireworks continued when Zuhdi threw an overhand, tomahawk-like right hand that severely rocked Vajda, leaving him nearly helpless on the ropes. With the end near, Noah threw a vicious combination to send his opponent sprawling to the floor. Vajda tried to rise and failed once before finally standing up before the count of ten. But with Vajda out on his feet, the referee could not let it continue and correctly called it off, sealing Zuhdi’s first successful defense.

“You train for twelve,” Wood said, “But you hope for quick fights like this. Noah’s a disciplined fighter, a clean liver, takes care of himself, and he’s great to train. This is two exciting fights in a row and he’s still learning and improving.”

Zuhdi followed up, “I knew I had to do something quick in the second because I could see his demeanor change after the first knockdown. It was a great win. I give my opponent a lot of credit–he hit hard, he stayed in there, and he fought to get up (after getting knocked down). I’m happy with the result, but I’m looking forward to what’s next.”

What’s next for Zuhdi was the talk of insiders after the fight. Anyone between Oisin Fagan and a possibly returning Graham Earl was being mentioned for his next fight. Ricky Burns is always looming for lightweights, too, even if his dance card is full at the moment. Whoever is next, they will be facing a boxer-puncher who is coming into his own and has reinvigorated Oklahoma boxing.


-Catbox Entertainment’s other regular, super middleweight prospect Bo Gibbs soundly defeated Warren Walker when Walker did not answer the bell for Round Six. Gibbs moves his record up to 9-0.

-Sources now report that the UK will recognize upcoming WBU bouts.

Noah Zuhdi: In A Fight For Respect


August 23, 2013

When WBU Lightweight Champion Noah Zuhdi (16-1, 12 KOs) steps in the ring against Hungarian challenger Gyula Vajda (12-3, 8 KOs) on August 24 at the Lucky Star Casino, he is not just fighting a sharp counterpuncher in his first title defense. He is fighting the litany of naysayers and people who subscribe to an archaic notion that a boxer has to be born and act a certain way in order to thrive in the sport.

We know what real fighters are. Fighters are not practicing lawyers or attorneys. Fighters do not start training in their twenties. Fighters do not grow up geographically and socioeconomically in middle America. And certainly real fighters do not video chat with a wife and infant son every night while in training camp. Yet, Zuhdi is and does all of these things, and he has fought his way to the fringes of boxing stardom.

“Nobody has to fight,” Zuhdi told Eastside before his bout with the tall and crafty Vajda. “No matter what your background is, no one has to get beat up like a boxer does or train as diligently as a boxer does. Boxing is not forced upon people. You choose it because of a love and passion for the sport. Anyone who says otherwise is shortchanging the fighter. I have that competitive desire and passion for boxing.”


Zuhdi’s passion for the sport fueled a victory for the World Boxing Union (WBU) Lightweight Championship last year in what WBU executive Joe Louis Barrow II—yes, son of that Joe Louis—hailed as “the best fight I’ve seen in ten years.” Despite playing college basketball and starting boxing while in law school, the 30-year old always had a love for boxing.

“Even though I grew up the son of an amateur boxer (my dad),” Zuhdi explained, “it was actually my mom who first introduced me to boxing. She knew me and my interests and told me one night, ‘Come over here and watch this. I think you’ll like it.’ It happened to be a Mike Tyson fight. From then on, I knew this was a sport I wanted to follow. It was both beautiful and brutal inside the ring.”

His background and story may have more in common with fans than fighters, but the Oklahoma native chose to throw his hat into the ring and himself into the sport all while balancing family life and a burgeoning career in law. Boxing is not about where one is or what one is born into. Boxing is about who one is.

Zuhdi elaborated, “To be a successful boxer, and I am not saying I’m this great success yet, you have to have it inside you. It’s inside what counts. If I get knocked down and can’t see straight, I’m doing everything I can to get back up. I don’t care: I have that competitive desire within me.

“I was 22 years of age and my basketball career was over, but I was too young to hang it up athletically. I still felt I had a purpose to do something while in my physical prime. I needed to compete. Having consumed all that there is about boxing in terms of fight tapes and books throughout the years, I thought to myself, ‘Why not give this a try?’ So, I did and haven’t looked back.”

A Step Back

While Zuhdi never looked back, he was forced to take a giant step back when he faced off with the unheralded Reymundo Hernandez and suffered the first loss of his career. Stunned by the loss but benefitted by the gift of hindsight, he knew that he could train as well as he wanted, but training for the specific opponent takes on a heavier importance. Zuhdi was unprepared for the local backlash as much as he was for Hernandez’s style.

“That surprised me,” Zuhdi commented. “That surprised me a lot. People, even some friends, were asking me if I was going to retire. It was like they were saying, ‘Okay, you’ve done enough. Now it’s time to go back to law.’ They didn’t understand that this wasn’t just some gimmick or hobby. I was of the mindset, ‘Hey, it’s just one loss. I’ve learned from it and am ready to go again.’ That’s one thing about me that might be different from other fighters: losing will not affect my pride. If I go into a fight knowing that I’ve done everything I could, done my best, then I am okay with the outcome.”

Still, in order to move on, the future WBU champion would have to endure many of the same hardships local or “club” fighters have to go through. The list is plentiful:

Last minute opponents? Check.

Having to face some goons and loons who tested positive for drugs? Check.

Having local fighters call him out despite having never drawn a dime in sales in the past? Check.

Getting offered fights on national television on a few days notice? Check.

Dealing with shady trainers and promoters even though there’s not millions of dollars at stake? Check, check, check.

The career path of an unheralded fighter is a jungle—there is no easy or clear way to go, with danger lurking in every shaded area before each pass. The dangers had to be navigated through wisely and tactfully. If it meant turning down television fights that put him at a disadvantage or going months without a fight, Zuhdi was going to go about things his way. Perhaps, it was the right way.

Patience Rewarded

When Zuhdi accepted the fight against the relentless German Jurado for the WBU Lightweight Championship last year, he knew it was the opportunity he had been waiting for. He packed his bags and set up camp in Colorado Springs with trainer Dickie Wood. Zuhdi’s competitive fire spurred him forward to the point, as he said before, that he had done everything he could do. He had done his best. The preparation paid off.

Zuhdi talked about the fight: “I’m always confident. But, at times, I’m too cerebral. I think too much about the variables involved, so I don’t really know how it’s going to go until I get in there. With Jurado and his aggressive style, he didn’t make things any easier. In the last rounds, though, I kind of surprised myself. I still had energy and the fight was slowing down—I could see more. I found out how well I could box. It was a great fight, and its validation is something I needed.”

Witnesses to the action packed fight or the still unreleased documentary of it saw a fighter come into his own that night, a fighter that is still improving at the age of 30. The crowd saw that a middle class warrior does exist and gave him respect with a standing ovation after the unanimous decision victory.

Now, Zuhdi fights for international respect. On the brink of notoriety, he knows fighting a dangerous Vajda in a title defense could lead to bigger and better opportunities. It can provide enough cache to fight evenly matched contenders on national and international television, which is all any boxer wants. It is an exit out of the metaphorical jungle and into a world of respect. “It’s a bit of new feeling: knowing someone else considers a bout with me to be their most important one of his career. I’m still hungry, too. I want it more than him, no matter how many things are on my plate. I’ll be ready.”