LAS VEGAS — The final press conference for the Amir Khan-Zab Judah fight lasted around two hours but it could have been much shorter had the comments been limited to the two talented 140-pound titleholders who will battle it out at the Mandalay Bay’s Event Center on Saturday.
Without introductions for the many undercard fighters or the seemingly endless exchange of “thank yous” between the promoters, Khan and Judah team members, network and casino executives who took turns behind the podium, the final presser probably would have lasted around 10 minutes.
Khan and Judah did not have much to say beyond statements of their absolute readiness for Saturday’s fight, which will be televised live on HBO (in the U.S).
Khan (25-1, 17 knockouts), who said he just finished the longest and most intense training camp of his six-year pro career, is not only sure of his victory, he’s confident that the fight will be a thriller.
“If you hit me once, I’ll hit you back two and three times because that‘s who I am,” said the 24-year-old British star. “I’m a warrior.”
Khan, who often splits training time between the UK and the U.S., said his entire camp for Judah was spent at trainer Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif.
Roach and conditioning coach Alex Ariza have had more time than usual to physically and strategically prepare Khan for Judah and what they believe could be a dominant victory if their young thoroughbred does what he’s worked on in the gym.
“If I follow the game plan we can make it an easy night,” Khan said after Thursday’s press conference, which took place at the Mandalay Bay.
“If Judah tries to take the fight to Amir he’s going to get knocked out early,” Roach told a throng of British and American boxing writers after the presser.
However, Khan acknowledged that Judah mixes a degree of sneakiness into his offense, which suggests that the two might display their boxing skills during the early rounds of the bout.
“Judah sets up his attacks,” Khan said. “He likes to lure you in.”
It won’t happen, said the 2004 Olympic silver medalist. And if Judah, who is known for his power, does catch Khan with a big shot, the Brit is confident that he can take it.
“Everyone says ‘Amir can’t take a punch,’ but since I’ve moved up to junior welterweight nobody has put me down,” said Khan, who suffered a first-round KO to Breidis Prescott in a 2008 lightweight bout. “I want them to keep thinking that I can‘t take a shot, especially my opponents. I want them to think they can beat me just by landing one punch because when they hit me with their best shot I’m still going to be there punching away.”
Khan says the chin of Judah, who was stopped in two rounds by Kostya Tszyu in 2001 and was wore down to an 11th-round TKO by Miguel Cotto in ‘07, should also be in question.
“We both might go down during the fight,” Khan said, “but I’m going to win by a late knockout.”
Judah (41-6, 28 KOs) wouldn’t make any predictions, other than he’s ready for the 4-to-1 betting favorite.
“They (Khan’s team) say they’re prepared for war, for battle,” Judah said. “I’m prepared for anything having been in this position. I’ve been in the big fights, under these lights before. It’s all still new for Khan. He kind of reminds me of how I was before I fought Tszyu.”
The Tszyu fight, which took place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas 10 years ago, was the only time Judah lost fighting at 140 pounds. The Brooklyn native has experienced many highs and lows since.
Judah regained a 140-pound belt, split fights with Cory Spinks, winning three welterweight titles in their 2005 rematch, but then went 4-4 in his next eight bouts, losing to Carlos Baldomir, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Cotto and Joshua Clottey.
The losses, all four at welterweight, led many to wonder if Judah has seen his best days, despite his current five-bout win streak.
However, the 33-year-old veteran said it’s a mistake to consider him an old or “faded” fighter.
“I turned pro at 18, won my first title at 20 and I’ve been on the scene ever since,” said Judah, who regained the IBF junior welterweight title with a seventh-round TKO of Kaizer Mabuza in March. “So it seems like I’ve been around for ever, but believe me, I’m not old. I’m younger than guys on the pound-for-pound list like (Juan Manuel) Marquez, (Sergio) Martinez and the grand daddy of boxing Bernard Hopkins.”
Judah also says he’s a different person from the brash young southpaw who was suspended by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for going ballistic in the ring immediately following the Tszyu fight and during his bout with Mayweather.
“I’ve lived my years living like a tough guy or a bully or whatever and I’m done with it,” he said. “I started becoming a product of my environment, Brownsville, Brooklyn, but that wasn’t what I was meant to be and that’s not who I am now.”
Mr. Excitement: Khan was asked if the disappointingly boring manner in which fellow Brit David Haye lost to heavyweight champ Wladimir Kitschko a few weeks ago put pressure on him to beat Judah in exciting fashion.
The WBA 140-pound belt holder’s reply was “yes,” and he’s happy to oblige his British fans.
“Pressure drives me,” Khan said. “I always want to give my best for the fans.
“From day one I always said that I’m the most exciting fighter from Britain.”
Mr. Perfect: Judah’s trainer Pernell Whitaker, the former four-division titleholder who was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2007, will only be working his second fight with his fellow southpaw on Saturday.
To say that Roach has the edge in training experience is the understatement of the century. However, Whitaker appears as confident in his role as trainer as he was during his fighting days when he was a nigh-untouchable defensive wizard.
“My champion is in perfect hands,” Whitaker said. “I’ve got him ready for Khan. There’s no strategy to talk about with you, we’re just going to suit up and have fun. All you have to do is sit back, get your popcorn and a drink and enjoy the show.”
Photos / Naoki Fukuda