Tonight at Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas, NV, WBA Super champion Amir Khan and IBF champion Zab Judah tangle in a hotly anticipated light welterweight unification clash.
Judah is currently on a five-fight win streak with recent victories over Ernest Johnson, Ubaldo Hernandez, Jose Armando Santa Cruz, Lucas Matthysse and Kaizer Mabuza.
Khan’s last five wins have been against opponents Paul McCloskey, Marcos Maidana, Paul Malignaggi, Dimitry Salita and Andrey Kotelnik.
If you were to switch the opponents around, the results would be the same except, I could see Judah struggling with Maidana. Then I thought, Khan would probably have his work cut out for him with Matthysse.
The problem here is that Judah, 41-6-0 with 28 KO’s, has always been frustrating to watch. In the respect that sometimes when you saw him, he could be masterfully good, with a skill set beyond belief, implemented by near light speed counters and footwork, with a good punch and a decent enough chin to boot.
The other times you saw him, he would lose interest in his opponent (Carlos Baldomir) or become annoyed in his own inability to act upon a gameplan and resort to fighting dirty (Floyd Mayweather), or become cocky and get caught (Kostya Tszyu).
Generally, he has been an exciting fighter to watch, a fighter who could turn a contest his way with one counter punch and follow it up with blistering speed and ferocity.
Alas, that Zab Judah, I fear, has gone.
He is not the same fighter he once was, simply because of age and how many tough fights he has had.
In no way is Judah a shot fighter, he just is not the same as he once was. He has seemed to be lacking in stamina when he is forced the distance against a top-level fighter. Offset that against his top-level experience, and he is still a threat to any fighter in the division.
We know what the tools of Khan, 25-1-0 17 KO’s, are: his speed, his athleticism, his ability to follow a gameplan perfectly, his footwork and he can bang.
Khan’s last outing though was quite honestly a poor show. Yes, Paul McCloskey made life hard for Khan, but a fighter of Khan's abilities should have been able to figure McCloskey's game out and break him down.
Khan did change conditioning guru Alex Ariza for someone else and did not look the same fighter at all, so it is good to see Amir is back with Ariza again, and should be firing on all cylinders.
Likewise with Judah, who has recently employed the services of Pernell ‘Sweet-Pea’ Whittaker, as head trainer, and has been using some stylistic references of the defensive, counter punching master in his recent line of wins. Judah thinks he is as good as he once was…maybe better.
Another point of note here is that Khan genuinely struggled to do any serious damage to McCloskey. He had difficulty in catching the Irishman and clearly, he struggled with a southpaw. Strange, as we are all aware a certain Mr.Pacquiao apparently regularly spars with Khan.
McCloskey was not quick enough to catch Khan when opening up on him, which will be Judah ’s bread and butter.
Judah is most definitely quick enough to catch Khan, and where Maidana hurt Khan in their encounter but could not finish him, Judah has always been an excellent finisher, and if he hurts Khan, he will go in for the kill.
Khan trainer Freddie Roach will have set out a gameplan, as he always does and Khan will stick to it, but at some point probably will get caught, just as he did against Maidana.
This is a tough fight for both competitors. In Khan, Judah has a young, hungry and fit opponent who is in his prime technically, a sound boxer.
In Judah, Khan faces a wily old dog who knows every trick and is still amongst the fastest fighters out there.
This bout could be tentative in the early rounds, but on paper, it should make for fireworks.
If Judah displays the form he has shown recently, but doesn’t fade after six rounds, it's very probable that he will beat Khan.
This is a huge step up for Khan in reality, if Judah brings his A game and as said, doesn’t fade, Zab takes it.
Khan has had a habit of finding a way to win though; he will stick to the game plan and is no slow fighter himself. Will he outwork Judah, knowing Zab won’t be able to match his work rate and pace? And take him round by round?
Hard to call…Khan should do what’s necessary to win, and should come off the victor, but it is a fool who writes Judah out of this.