The Zhudi Family

 

Written by Heide Brandes in the October 2011 Issue

Oklahoma’s Zuhdi family knows how to make things happen, and with years of promotions experience under their belt, they are now bringing the sport of boxing to a new level in the state.


Darla and Bill Zuhdi, creators of catBOX Entertainment, Inc., are promoting and producing standing-room-only boxing events in Oklahoma. With years of working with national and international entertainers, the move to offering fight cards that offer a new level of entertainment in the Midwest was an easy transition. “Our fights are so much more elaborate than what was being offered in Oklahoma,” said Darla. “We put on fights with a Vegas-style atmosphere. It’s charged up, and people are having a blast.”


The Zuhdis are no strangers to putting on top-level events. Bill, a University of Central Oklahoma graduate, has promoted world-class entertainers with his wife for years, bringing in such talent as Frank Sinatra, Julio Iglesias, Billy Idol, The Beastie Boys, Bill Cosby and more. Also a lawyer with federal litigation experience, Bill has been featured on ABC World News Tonight, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.


But through it all, boxing was always a passion for Bill. So when his son, Noah, decided he wanted to begin boxing, the Zuhdis decided they would create an opportunity for Noah and other boxers to excel. “I was an amateur boxer on the East Coast, and I had been around boxing all my life,” Bill said. “Then my son said he wanted to be a fighter after college, so Darla and I figured that we had produced so many concerts, we could start producing top-quality fights. We started catBOX Entertainment.”


With a reputation for being a tough sport, Darla said the fights catBOX Entertainment produce would be as professional and as ethical as possible. That meant no smoky, sleazy bouts or women dressed in skimpy outfits working as ring girls. For her, the boxing matches would be only about the fights. “We had our first fights in November 2007 at Remington Park Casino. We were there for quite a while, but we outgrew the venue,” she said. “We started holding fights at the Cox (Convention) Center, and on September 2, (we did) an event at Riverwind Casino. With the success of catBOX Entertainment in Oklahoma, Las Vegas is now sniffing around, said Bill. “We’ve been approached to do events at Planet Hollywood and Cosmopolitan Casino.”


Yet, through all the promotions and fights and successes, Noah was the driving force behind the business. His late start into boxing hasn’t slowed him down, and his current professional boxing record is 13-1 with 11 knockouts. Noah also was named Oklahoma’s boxing prospect of the year by The Oklahoman in 2009 and has been featured in both national and statewide media. Growing up with a father who was a successful amateur boxer, Noah was no stranger to the sport of boxing and grew to love it. “I have been interested in boxing my entire life. My childhood hero was Muhammad Ali,” said Noah. “Watching fights on television with my father was one of my favorite things to do when I was growing up.”


However, basketball took center stage. After playing throughout college, Noah’s eligibility ended in 2006, and he graduated from St. Gregory’s University with a degree in business management. He entered law school that fall, but still had the desire to become a professional athlete. “I have always thought that boxing is the ultimate test in emotional, mental, physical and spiritual toughness and decided to pursue a professional boxing career while in law school,” he said. “I had my first professional bout with no amateur experience during my second year of law school in November 2007. It has been an incredible journey to this point in my career, and I’ve really grown as a person through my experiences in boxing.”


Balancing the demands of law school while pursuing a professional boxing career was a challenge. After passing the Oklahoma Bar in 2009, Noah decided to focus primarily on his boxing career, which meant serious training. “A typical day for me in training is to wake up around
5:30 a.m. for a conditioning workout. My training camps are now held in Colorado Springs, so morning workouts vary from traditional distance runs to climbing mountains,” Noah said. “I then prepare for my boxing workout, which is typically held
around noon.”


Skill development through drills and sparring tops Noah’s training sessions, which he said is vital to his success. “Sparring top-quality fighters is critical for the stage I’m at right now in my career for it enables me to test myself against the best in the sport,” he said. “After my boxing workout, I then prepare for my strength and conditioning workout which takes place around 6 p.m. I keep this schedule six days a week and take Sundays off.”


With boxing as the family business, Noah said both he and the sport of boxing owe much to his parents. When catBOX held its first fight in November 2007, it started a renaissance of the sport in the state. “catBOX has provided a stage for countless boxers to pursue their dreams. Boxing in Oklahoma has grown tremendously due to catBOX and has received both state and national media coverage,” he said.
Like all serious boxers, Noah’s ultimate goal in boxing is to be a world champion. Although he competes against people who boxed for the majority of their lives, he says he likes the challenges he faces. “After my career is over, I will use my boxing career and my law degree to address several of the injustices that occur both in professional boxing and in society,” Noah said.


Darla Zuhdi has her own magic outside the boxing world. Besides partnering with her husband to bring world-class fights into Oklahoma, she is also rather famous in her own right. Known as
Darla Z, Darla sells out venues throughout Oklahoma and at casinos in Las Vegas with a voice like buttered honey. In 2005, she opened a show for country music legend Willie Nelson. “It was my first performance, and it was with Willie Nelson in front of 10,000 people,” Darla said. She also has performed in Las Vegas as Wayne Newton’s only opening act, and sold out three shows this year in Oklahoma. But, benefit concerts are her passion. She’s been the entertainment for the Oklahoma City University School of Nursing Benefit, the top draw in February at the Cox Convention Center for the Jasmine Moran Children’s Museum benefit and a sold-out show in May for the Oklahoma History Center.


Featuring the hits of the 1930s through 1960s, Darla Z has several CDs out and a November 4 show for Oklahoma Prevent Blindness. In addition, the “Darla Z Live from Las Vegas” TV special is set to air multiple times on a nationally syndicated network and satellite network beginning in November, just in time for the holidays. In between her singing career and her boxing promotions, Darla is also a published children’s author with the “Cat Detectives” series. “The books follow two cats who travel the world and solve mysteries using good values, like research and exploration,” Darla said. “We’re cat lovers. We have five rescue cats, and my first book was endorsed by the Humane Society of the United States.” In fact, catBOX Entertainment was born from a character in one of her books. The company’s logo features the little black kitty, armed with red boxing gloves.“We just want to provide entertainment and the best quality shows,” Darla said.


For more information, go to www.catboxentertainment.com

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