Former four-division champ Pernell Whitaker will be working the corner of IBF junior welterweight titleholder Zab Judah for the second straight fight when the 33-year-old veteran meets WBA counter part Amir Khan in Saturday night's HBO-televised bout at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Nicknamed, "Sweet Pea," Whitaker (41-4-1, 17 KOs) fought his last bout in 2001, ending a hall-of-fame-bound career that saw him hold the WBC, WBA and IBF lightweight belts, the IBF junior welterweight strap, the WBC welterweight title, and the WBA junior middleweight crown.
The 47-year-old southpaw's credentials includes defeating world titleholders such as fellow hall-of-famer Azumah Nelson, James "Buddy" McGirt, Julio Cesar Vazquez, Roger Mayweather, Jorge Paez, Greg Haugen and Freddie Pendleton. He also split victories with Jose Luis Ramirez, and battled to a disputed draw with recent hall-of-fame inductee Julio Cesar Chavez.
In March, Whitaker paired for the first time with Judah (41-6, 28 knockouts), guiding the fighter to his fifth straight victory and the IBF's vacant belt against South Africa's Kaizer Mabuza (23-7-3, 14 KOs), whom he vanquished by seventh-round knockout at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.
Mabuza had won eight straight times, with six of them being by knockout, including February's sixth-round stoppage of Kendall Holt (26-4, 14 KOs), the man against whom WBO and WBC king Tim Bradley (27-0, 11 KOs) had to rise from the canvas (twice) to dethrone as WBO titleholder in April of 2009.
Prior to the Mabuza fight, Judah, a former unified/RING welterweight champ and two-time junior welterweight beltholder, scored split decision over then-unbeaten puncher Lucas Matthysse last November.
As a result of his work with controversial strength and conditioning guru and former BALCO founder Victor Conte, fans will see a more chiseled and muscular Judah against Khan (25-1, 17 KOs), who is coming off of May's sixth-round, technical unanimous decision defense over previously unbeaten southpaw Paul McCloskey (22-1, 12 KOs) of Northern Ireland.
Whitaker will also get his chance to match wits with Khan's coach, five-time Trainer of The Year Freddie Roach, who said recently that "Zab Judah's bitten off more than he can chew in this one." Whitaker spoke about all of the above in the Q&A with RingTV.com.
RingTV.com: How is Zab looking?
Pernell Whitaker: He's looking very good. This is a huge fight. Our first one together was a big one, but this is a bigger fight in my mind.
RingTV.com: What has been the transition for the zab Judah who fought Lucas Matthysse, the one who fought Kaizer Mabuza, and the one who is about to face Amir Khan?
PW: I didn't see the fighter who fought Lucas Matthysse. The only guy I saw him fight was Kaizer Mabuza, who he won the title from. But even from that point, Zab is much more mature now.
He knows what he has to do in that ring. He is not going to be a gorilla, he's going to be a boxer. I am not going backward. I did not see him get knocked down by Lucas Matthysse.
There's been a big improvement. For the first fight with Kaizer Mabuza, things with me were sort of new to him. But now, he knows what I expect, and I know what to expect from him. That's the difference in him now. I've been able to take him back to doing the things and the skills that he knew he already had and that he knew that he had the ability to use.
He had fallen in love with trying to end the fight with one big shot, but now, he's looking to set up his opponent, and if the knockout comes, then it comes. He's used to training to go 12 rounds now, where, maybe before, I am not sure that he was. But that's what it's all about now. He's ready to go 12 rounds.
But if anything happens in between then, that's just icing on the cake. But you can best believe that he's ready to go a hard 12 rounds, that's for sure.
RingTV.com: With Zab Judah being 33 years old and essentially the elder statesman in a youthful and talented weight class, do you see age as being a factor?
PW: No I don't. I think that Zab is one of the best fighters in the world. And whatever he feels comfortable at, I'm going to let him keep fighting there. I'm not trying to limit him to a certain weight class. If he feels like he can continue to be at 140 pounds, then I'll let him continue to fight at 140 pounds. If he feels like he can make 140, then he can make it.
RingTV.com: How do you assess Amir Khan's overall skills as an opponent?
PW: He's a world champion, that's how I feel about him right there. I'm going to give him a boxer's chance. He didn't become a world champion by accident. Zab's not going to underestimate him. Amir Khan is a serious competitor, so I'm going to make sure that Zab understands that. He's not just going to walk in there and knock somebody out.
RingTV.com: Are you looking forward to matching your training and cornerman skills opposite Amir Khan's trainer Freddie Roach?
PW: I'm not fighting Freddie Roach. I'm not fighting that man. I'm not fighting at all. I'm not competing against nobody. It's my man being prepared for a huge fight that's coming up. It's not about Freddie Roach, it's about the two fighters. If you're talking about who has got the better plan, then I feel that I do. If you want to put it that way, then I feel that I have the better plan.
RingTV.com: Has the chiseled, physical muscularity of Zab Judah from having worked with Victor Conte meshed well or is there any concern that it may affect his fluidity?
PW: Zab might have more muscularity, but he won't weigh but 140 pounds. He ain't no damn heavyweight. All of his speed and all of that, it don't bother his quickness or his ability to move.
Everything that I've Zab to do, he's been able to do and he's doing it. I don't play around with Zab. I don't let him do whatever he wants to do.
Not in the gym. We're telling you what he looks like and all of that, but he's fine. Those are my words. You've got to see it for yourself. I'm going to continue to have that similar success with Zab in this next fight. All that I'm wanting you guys to do is to simply tune in.
Photos by Chris Cozzone-Fightwireimages.com