Khan vs. Judah: Something to Prove

By Julie Cockerham on July 21, 2011
Khan vs. Judah: Something to Prove
Adjustments become thorns when the fighter is used to performing in a certain way

When they meet in the ring, Khan will be viewing Judah as another obstacle in his climb up the ladder, another obstruction on the road to Mayweather…

The welterweight divisions are rife with talent. While the heavyweights churn in an endless tumult to recover their glory, the welterweights have consistently produced fighters of significance. They are of a distinct caliber, boasting contrasting measures of skill and durability. Solid matches are easily constructed from the fold, and the promise of profitability and the allure of the sport are increased with each pairing.

Ascension to the throne of the division is a challenge made greater by the multitude vying for the crown. While the presentation of flaws can count against any fighter attempting to conquer such ranks, it is amongst the welterweight group in particular that the penalty is more severe. One falls out of contention and another rises to replace him.

Each time WBA titlist, Amir Khan enters the ring, he is burdened with the memory of a single, faulty performance. In September 2008, Breidis Prescott ended Khan’s pristine run, and did so decisively with a destructive first round knockout. The performance marked Khan and raised endless questions about his chin. He has spent subsequent bouts working to diminish that memory, to denounce the validity of those claims.

Khan’s last fight was a successful venture over fellow Brit, Paul McCloskey. But it was the outing prior to the McCloskey bout which earned him commendations for his choice of opponent. The hard-hitting Marcos Maidana was a deliberate test. Khan was vigilant in minding his boxing skills, using them to good effect for most of the fight to keep the pressure of Maidana tempered. In round 10, Khan was rocked by a virulent right hand, and there was a momentary recollection of the untimely disaster against Prescott. Maidana was unable to capitalize on his advantage, becoming drawn by the lengthy engagement. Khan unleashed his survival instincts, and spent the remainder of the fight avoiding the heat. 

There, Khan won the battle. But the war for him still loomed. His showing in the fight didn’t completely satisfy curiosity over the solidity of his chin. Khan knows this. If he has convinced himself otherwise, it is to his advantage. No one will know his internal fortitude better than he does.  But Khan’s likely confidence is not the only benefit in his upcoming bout. When he enters the ring on Saturday at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, Khan will not be alone in seeking to prove his formidability. 

His opponent seeks it, too.

Khan has been vocal in determining IBF titlist, Zab Judah’s shortcomings. His record in big fights doesn’t exactly endorse his capabilities in the realm of champions. Notable names on his record bear losses in the result column. In technical terms, Judah is a solid contender. He is a southpaw with ample speed. He can execute a game plan of clean, precise punching when he maintains his composure. But his composure becomes a threat to him when the tense ambiance of a major fight materializes. With Judah in the opposing corner, Khan will not be alone in tussling with suspicions of his resilience.

In 2001, Judah was knocked out by Kostya Tszyu in the second round of their bout. He didn’t spend much more time in the company of Tszyu than Khan did with Prescott. In 2004, he lost to Cory Spinks via unanimous decision, though it was later avenged. In 2006, he lost to Carlos Baldomir. Later that year, Judah fought pound-for-pound fixture, Floyd Mayweather Jr., and lost a unanimous decision. In 2007, he was handed a TKO loss courtesy of Miguel Cotto. In 2008, he dropped a decision to Joshua Clottey. 

These losses notwithstanding, Judah remains a palpable foe. If trainer Pernell Whitaker can instruct his student to follow in his mold, Judah may be met this time with a different outcome. In his own career, Whitaker was renowned for his defensive mastery. Utilizing the natural attribute of speed and combining it with the confounding aspects of the left-hander, Judah would benefit from adopting those defensive components as well.

Judah is most susceptible to damage when he allows himself to be lured into open battle. He has lost to fighters with lesser athleticism because of that propensity, not biding his time inside and outside of his opponent relative to the requirements of the action.

Against Khan, Judah won’t likely have the edge in dictating the tempo. He will also be angling upward at his taller target. Khan is difficult to maneuver because he is fast and rangy. Freddie Roach has honed Khan’s craft, maximizing his ability to deliver effective, bursting combinations. He attacks and then flees. 

While training at the Wild Card gym, Khan has had the opportunity to spar with the incomparable leader of the welters, Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao’s arsenal is already legendary, and Roach, the shared mastermind of Khan and the Filipino phenomenon, has commented on the sessions they spend toe-to-toe. Though sparring doesn’t allow for a full display of the boxer’s intent, Khan’s ability to stand with Pacquiao bodes well for him. 

Any advantages Judah normally possesses will likely be neutralized by the athletic gifts of Khan. Judah is the veteran of the two, but the veteran’s level of experience can serve as both an asset and a liability. He would have greater familiarity with the climate of the large market bouts, but it is also more of a trial for him to amend the elements of his game. Adjustments become thorns when the fighter is used to performing in a certain way. Though Whitaker has undoubtedly devised a formula to beat the less experienced Khan, it remains to be seen whether Judah can implement new strategies to undermine his opponent.

Perceived as a promising up-and-comer in the division, Khan has already achieved a modestly prominent status and has earned his position. He outboxed a boxer in Paulie Malignaggi, and both he and his chin were able to survive against the hard-hitting Marcos Maidana. 

When they meet in the ring, Khan will be viewing Judah as another obstacle in his climb up the ladder, another obstruction on the road to Mayweather. Judah will be viewing Khan as an opportunity to reinstate his authority as a viable contender in the division, a chance to mark a victory for himself in a notable fight. Both will be eager to cast off the yoke of popular doubt. 

But it will be the victor alone who comes closer to attaining the identity of superior practitioner of the sport.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Amir Khan vs Briedis Prescott (HQ)

HBO Boxing: Amir Khan vs. Marcos Rene Maidana Highlights (HBO)

Kostya Tszyu KOs Zab Judah :

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Zab Judah Pt.1

Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Zab Judah Pt.2

Miguel Cotto vs. Zab Judah (Highlights)

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