AMIR KHAN vs. ZAB JUDAH
July 23, 2011, Las Vegas, Nev.
THE MAIN EVENT
Comment: Khan was a 4-to-1 favorite to beat Judah but their considerable athletic attributes and styles figured to mesh in a way that would make for an explosive contest while it lasted. However, what looked like a B or B+ matchup on paper turned out to be one-sided beat down because only Khan came to fight. At least the 24-year-old British star took the fight to Judah in an entertaining manner and took care of business in a manner that has fans eagerly awaiting his next fight, which is tentatively scheduled for December.
Comment: Khan executed trainer Freddie Roach’s gameplan perfectly and without fear. He broke Judah down physically with his combination punching, power and underrated body attack, while dashing the dangerous veteran’s confidence with his speed and reflexes. Khan’s ability to hit and not get hit in return took Judah’s will to win by the start of the fifth round. That’s impressive.
Comment: Judah brought a well-conditioned body and higher-degree of defense than we‘re used to seeing from him against Khan, but the 33-year-old veteran quickly abandoned his commitment to his offense once he found out that the younger man was difficult to hit and would not wilt a single power punch. I don’t want to question the courage of a prize fighter (or any combat sports participant, pro or amateur, for that matter) but Judah did not appear to fight with much fire or fury. Brooklyn was definitely not in the house. Judah did not represent the mean streets of Brownsville by boxing in the safety first manner he did on Saturday. He needed to take chances — early in the fight — and he did not. Once it was clear that he could not time Khan with counter punches in center of the ring, Judah needed to man up (yeah, I said it), let his hands go and at least attempt to back Khan up. He didn’t do that. Instead, he started looking for a way out at the start of the fifth round and he found his escape hatch when Khan landed a right hand to his beltline.
Comment: The premiere trainer in the sport put together a perfect strategy that his fighter flawlessly carried out. Khan was able to nail an experienced southpaw with comparable hand speed at will without getting hit in return. What more can be said? Here’s what Roach said at the post-fight press conference: “We fought Zab at an angle and took away his power. Amir fought a perfect fight. We won every round.”
PERNELL WHITAKER, JUDAH’S TRAINER
Comment: Whitaker gave Judah the right advice between rounds but no trainer, not even a hall-of-fame enshrined boxing master, can instill the will to overcome adversity into his fighter. Whitaker saw the writing on the wall and began cracking the whip after the second round. “Do it my way, get down and turn that left hand over,” the former four-division titleholder told Judah between the second and third rounds. “Stop jumping up in the air and keep that chin tucked. Go down and start hitting him to the body… but first I got to get you to hit him with that jab and bring the left hand across.” Whitaker wanted his fighter to stand his ground and exchange punches with Khan. He knew it was the only Judah could win. Whitaker was clearly frustrated when Judah would not comply with his instructions. The long-retired fighter began speaking in first person between third and fourth rounds. “I got to put some punches on him,” Whitaker told Judah. “I got to put some punches on him. I got to have them with threes and fours (combinations). Alright? Going off the jab. GIVE ME MY SHOT! That left hand. Bring it up. Throw it somewhere. Hit it to the body.” The fight was essentially over after the fourth round. A great former fighter tried his best to rally a good active veteran and fell short.
Comment: The judges — Michael Pernick, Burt Clements and Robert Hoyle — had it right at the time of the stoppage. All three had scored a shut out, 40-36, for Khan after four rounds. The fight was so one-sided I don’t even think those three blind mice who judged Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara could have messed this one up.
Comment: I’m not saying that Vic Drakulich, one of the best and most experienced referees in the sport, made a bad call by not ruling Khan’s beltline body shot a “low blow,” but the veteran official did contradict himself by not doing so. During the fighter face-off right before the start of the bout, Drakulich put his hand right above Judah’s (and Khan’s) belt and said “Again, I want to caution you, any punch below this point will be called low.” Well, Khan’s punch landed directly to Judah’s belt, under the “point” Drakulich said would be called low, but it wasn’t. I’m not saying he made the wrong call, because it was a borderline shot and it was obvious that Judah wanted out, but his contradiction does open the door for Judah’s team to protest if they want to take that pointless action.
Comment: The announced crowd of 7,279 was a bit of a disappointment to the event’s promoters (Golden Boy and Main Events), who had hoped for 10,000. However, the 2,500-3,000 British fans in attendance made the noise of about 15,000. And it was a festive ruckus given their lad’s performance.
Comment: My guess is that only 279 of the announced crowd of 7,279 bothered to show up for the seven-bout undercard. And who could blame the other 7,000 for skipping it? It was mostly a series of mismatches that produced blowout after blowout. The only competitive bouts were a sloppy six-round super middleweight snoozer won by Judah’s younger brother Josiah Judah and an OK heavyweight scrap between Philly prospect Bryant Jennings and journeyman Theron Johnson. James Kirkland’s two-round TKO of gutsy but outgunned Alexis Hloros was fun while it lasted, but the other bouts that featured undefeated Golden Boy Promotions prospects (Peter Quillin, Gary Russell Jr., Ronny Rios, and Jamie Kavanagh) delivered predictable one-sided outcomes. I can’t come down too hard on the promoters because they did try to put together a decent undercard but circumstances beyond their control caused the loss of quality fighters Joel Julio and Tarvis Simms (who was supposed to face Quillin). Still, can’t they find tougher journeymen to fight these up-and-comers? If these kids are so damn good, prove it by putting them in with better opposition!