LOS ANGELES – The way Amir Khan and Freddie Roach talk, they must believe Zab Judah is more likely to become the next great miler than the next unified 140-pound titleholder.
Khan was asked at a news conference Wednesday afternoon what his opponent on July 23 in Las Vegas does best. He didn’t hesitate a split second before he responded.
“He runs the best,” he said, perhaps trying to goad Judah into engaging him. “… I think [he should] man up in this fight and stand there and fight. I’ve watched his last few fights. He runs a lot. I don’t think he can take my power. When he feels it, I know he’s going to run.
“… I’m one of the biggest hitters in the 140-pound division.”
Roach, his trainer, said the same thing a few minutes earlier:
“Once he feels Amir’s power, the fight will change. He’ll get on his bike.”
Khan (25-1, 17 knockouts) is pleased that Judah (41-6, 28 KOs) took the fight even if he does end up backpedaling in the ring.
The Briton, who holds the WBA title, was supposed to have fought Timothy Bradley to determine the best junior welterweight in the world but they failed to come to terms in spite of what Khan believes was a generous offer.
He obviously is irked by Bradley's decision.
“Bradley is a chicken,” he said. “… He just didn’t want to fight. If he’s the champion that he is, he would’ve stepped up to the plate and done the fight. We offered him 50 percent of the UK revenue, 50 percent of the U.S. revenue, the gate and everything. It would’ve been a big, big payday for him.
“He didn’t take the chance. To me, he’s scared. I’ve turned the page and it’s Zab Judah.”
Khan and Judah, the IBF titleholder, exchanged some obviously spicy words during the obligatory stare down for the cameras at the news conference, prompting Judah’s trainer – Pernell Whitaker – to pull his man away before things got seriously heated
Still, afterward, Khan spoke respectfully about his opponent before he accused him of being a runner.
“I know Zab is a great fighter,” he said. “He has a lot of experience. He’s been in with some great names. I can’t go in thinking this will be an easy fight. It will be a tough fight. I just have to be smart, stick to the instructions of Freddie Roach, stick to the game plan he gives me.”
Is he the toughest opponent you will have faced? someone asked.
“One of them,” he said. “Skillwise, yes. Powerwise, no. Experiencewise, maybe one of them. I’ve been in with guys who are experienced. I’ve been in with guys with power. I’ve been in with guys who have speed.
“I just have to step up, really. I’ll beat Judah and go on to bigger things.”
Judah, 33, has earned at least a degree of respect.
The four-time titleholder was more or less written off as an elite fighter a few years ago only to stage an impressive comeback, including a controversial split-decision victory over Lucas Matthysse in November and a seventh-round KO of Kaizer Mabuza to win the vacant IBF title in March.
The victory over Matthysse was an important stepping stone to his title shot but he also was criticized for turning defensive after the Argentine began to hurt him late in the fight.
Roach wasn’t impressed.
“[Marcos] Maidana was a much bigger threat [to Khan than Judah] because of his power,” the trainer said. “Judah is a decent puncher. I watched two of his recent fights. I see a lot of mistakes. I see a lot of age. I see a lot of him not wanting to engage. He doesn’t want to get hit anymore. He gets hit and he doesn’t react well.
“… I’m talking about the Matthysse fight. I thought Matthysse won. [Judah] threw one punch at a time, not many combinations. He was very predictable.”
Roach expects Judah to follow his typical pattern – start quickly and then fade.
Only this time, he promised, Khan will make it difficult for Judah from the opening bell. That wasn't the case for Matthysse, who apparently showed Judah too much respect. He eased into the fight and fell behind on the cards as a result.
“I would say [Judah’s] a frontrunner,” Roach said. “He usually starts off well and fades after about four rounds. He has a new coach now; he has Pernell Whitaker. He’ll probably bring out the best in him. He better be in shape for this one because Amir is going to get started from Round 1. That’s his style.
“If Judah fades in this one, he’s in big trouble. He’s not going to win the first four rounds and then we come on. That’s not my style.”
All this talk led to an obvious question for Roach: This isn’t a tough fight? He had a one-word answer:
Photo / Carlos Delgado-Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions