Sunday, July 24, 2011

Reality Trumps Hype as Amir Khan Waxes Zab Judah

Photo: AP/Julie Jacobson

Zab went out, and it was with more whimper than bang.

Thankfully the drama was kept to a relative minimum, though still a main facet of post-fight discussion at this point. 

During a promotion and build up that was more interesting than the fight itself, Zab claimed to be a changed man. 

Amir Khan became the latest fighter to demonstrate that Zab Judah, once again, was the exact same fighter he's always been. 

Khan, now 26-1 (18 KO), marched forward behind a stiff jab, using a height and reach advantage to keep Judah on his heels and wary of moving his hands. A bloodied, bruised and swollen Zab Judah hit the deck from a body shot in round 5 that was, at worst, a slightly low punch, tried to play it off as a legit low blow, and laid in a motionless heap as referee Vic Drakulich slowly and clearly counted to ten. 

In fairness to Judah, who falls to 41-7 (28 KO) with 2 No Contests, the orthodox vs. southpaw matchup produced a handful of headbutts and collisions between the two, and much of Zab's swelling seemed to be a result of head clashes. 

Throwing more than twenty-something punches per round, however, might have helped stave off the controlled rushes of Amir Khan and prevented the Brit from nabbing Zab's IBF belt. 


A few characters called "Victor Conte" and "Alex Ariza" appeared to be relevant to pre-fight discussion, as the two are nutritionists, or personal trainers, or consultants (it's not entirely clear), to Zab Judah and Amir Khan, respectively. 

Zab may not have been verbally promoting the fight in the same brash way he had in years past, but physically, he looked the part; Judah was absolutely shredded in training videos and at the official weigh-in, prompting speculation that the fight would be about which nutritionist had the better "stuff."

It turned out the anti-climactic tilt was about which fighter had the better stuff. And Amir Khan left no doubts as to which guy that was last night at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.

The brief window of opportunity for Zab to seize the fight early on slammed shut in the first round as Khan moved forward with clear purpose, extending a deliberate jab and the occasional quick right hand. Many of Khan's shots missed the mark, but his activity effectively took Judah out of the fight much sooner than most expected. 

4:1 odds in favor of Amir Khan made more and more sense with each passing minute, Zab's attempts at surging remaining few and far between. A raking left from Zab found its target, but produced no effect.  By the end of the second stanza, Judah's nose and mouth were drizzling blood.

Khan's confidence clearly had not wavered by the start of the round 3. Zab's new-ish trainer (and old-ish friend) Pernell Whitaker implored Zab to continue moving his head, but add counters to his activity - he was still making Khan miss the majority of his punches, but not offering many counters. HBO's Max Kellerman insisted Judah was in the midst of a rally, but Zab simply was not busy enough and couldn't manage to hurt Amir. 

As Judah became less mobile and less able to avoid Khan's quick salvos, the two began colliding on the inside and tussling a bit in the fourth. Zab threatened to steal a small measure of the round with decent jabs, but was met with better jabs both upstairs and down from Khan. 

A "four rounds to nothing" fight stuck to the ongoing script early in round 5, until Zab complained of a headbutt and subsequently found himself on the wrong end of thudding 1-2's, appearing stunned against the ropes. A last-ditch effort to make something - anything - happen in the fight for him saw Zab shooting quick left uppercuts that caught nothing but air. 

Nearing the end of the fifth, Khan looked to be closing on a semi-surprising stoppage win in the next few rounds. As the two locked up inside, Khan pushed Zab's head away with his left arm and tossed a left uppercut to Zab's midsection, and Zab fittingly attempted to either buy time or finagle a DQ win by falling to his knees and playing dead as a loud, distinct ten-count was administered approximately a foot from his head. 

Needless to say, Zab Judah popped up at "ten" and attempted to argue the call, which couldn't be altered at that point. 

The lame production resulted in a KO win at 2:47 of the 5th round for Khan. 

In the post-fight interview, Zab actually demonstrated some measure of change, as he complained and dismissed Drakulich's decision to call the knockdown, but refrained from trying to choke, slam or dropkick anyone. Judah held steady in his claim of getting screwed though, even in the face of a slow-motion replay that showed the punch wasn't anywhere near the "family jewels" he refused to summon during the other 4 and 3/4 rounds of the fight. 

The obligatory comic relief came when Judah said he thought the referee was administering a "standing eight count," conveniently forgetting that aside from standing eights not being in effect in Nevada, you actually have to be standing to receive one. 

Conversely, Amir Khan sounded rightly unapologetic in his interview, lamenting the inability to finalize a showdown with Timothy Bradley and correctly pointing out that the finishing punch wasn't low. He did sing the praises of one Zabdiel Judah, though, calling him "a great fighter" and a tough outing - opinions no longer shared by many. 


Zab shouldn't be criticized for bowing out. Far greater fighters have done it in far less-dignified ways. But he should indeed be scorned for doing it in a way that seemed to lend an air of controversy to the bout and take away credit from Amir Khan, who implemented an intelligent gameplan and essentially smacked around a guy who many felt would give him trouble. 

Par for the course is this recent Judah debacle. Zab has never managed to rise above his own in-ring immaturity and beat an elite opponent in spite of himself. He once again took the easy way out. He simply did it in a more respectful way than he would have even 3 years ago. 

Amir Khan, the guy who deserved the story of the weekend, continued to show improvement and poise in trouncing the Brooklynite. 

The "shaky chin" of Khan's never made an appearance, perhaps more evidence of the suggestion that making 135 lbs. affected Khan's ability to take a punch. Additionally, Amir's supposed issues with lefties were non-existent - Khan consistently used footwork to set his combinations up, even managing to land a handful of left hooks on the southpaw Zab. 

To the sound of those annoying soccer horns, Amir Khan thoroughly outclassed the former undisputed welterweight champ and diffused whatever dynamite Zab may have had left. 

In doing so, Amir Khan took one more step towards a rumored match with the annoyingly-skilled Floyd Mayweather Jr. 


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