Khan started out blue chip, got shockingly knocked out by a merely decent boxer, found trainer Freddie Roach and rebuilt himself into a world-class fighter with unanswered questions, answered the questions but raised new ones and now is coming off a lackluster performance. Judah started out blue chip, got shockingly knocked out be a great boxer, took a second loss only to reverse it in a rematch for the best win of his career, lost to a bunch of people he both should have and shouldn't have, found Jesus and trainer Pernell Whitaker and now is coming off some shaky wins over good competition.
One thing is a constant: These two are fast. Real fast. Upper crust stuff. Just in terms of raw talent, Khan's right there and Judah's always been right there, although maybe Judah has slowed down a little; it's unclear. Khan's the #2 man and Judah's the #6 man in the top-notch junior welterweight division. And there's a sense that Khan-Judah is a better fight aesthetically than the one Khan tried to make with Timothy Bradley before Bradley decided to implode his career, even if Khan-Bradley was the more meaningful match-up.
The thinking in Khan's camp is that he's too young for the long-in-the-tooth Judah. The thinking in Judah's camp is that he's too experienced for the young whippersnapper. As always, there's more to it than that.
I wonder if people haven't gotten a little too excited about Judah's career revival. At 33, I do think he's become slower, although he's still faster than most everyone. I have concerns that he's developed trouble pulling the trigger, because he didn't throw enough punches against either Lucas Matthysse in a debatable decision win and against Kaizer Mabuza in a come-from-behind knockout win. It's possible he's just been adjusting to a new style. Whitaker is a defensive master and in the Mabuza fight, Judah showed clear signs of having learned much. Sometimes when a boxer is picking up a new defensive style, he doesn't throw as many punches.
Anyway, he made one of those punches count against Mabuza, that beautiful counter that effectively ended matters. Judah still has one-punch power, right, Kaizer? And he says he's in shape, something you couldn't count on in Judah's early days when he was said not to train hard enough -- a deficiency that probably helped contribute to his tendency to run out of steam late in fights. (He's got a pair of shady characters hovering around that might have something to do with his so-called revival: Victor Conte, of the BALCO scandal, and, allegedly, banned-from-boxing Panama Lewis, although that affiliation came to light with a documentary a year or two ago.) His new focus on conditioning allows him to fight at 140 rather than 147 lbs., a weight more sutable to him. That focus might also have helped him stay upright for the final bell against Matthysse, a pretty good puncher, although it didn't keep him off the mat entirely. Judah's chin has betrayed him in the past, as has his willpower, although he has said his new found religiosity has given him purpose he lacked before.
And he is more experienced. He's been in with pound-for-pound top fighters like Kostya Tzsyu (KO loss), Cory Spinks (decision loss, KO win), Floyd Mayweather (decision loss) and Miguel Cotto (KO loss). Experience is a good thing. But it's also the case that, more often than not, when Judah runs into top talent, he loses. Is that the kind of "experience" that's going to help him here?
Khan is top talent. His speed is outrageous, both his feet and his hands. He's a very big junior welterweight at 5'10". When he's on his game he's making great use of his speed, reflexes and size by pumping out his jab, firing combinations and getting his hands up to block return offense with his gloves. He's not a power-puncher, but he's got enough pop to knock a lot of people out and definitely enough to keep them honest.
And he's young and fresh. He's 24. But he's not totally green. He's seen a lot of different styles, starting in the Olympics. He's beaten speed (Paulie Malignaggi), power (Marcos Maidana) and veteran savvy (Marco Antonio Barrera, Andriy Kotelnik). Of course, he's not beaten a boxer who has speed, power AND veteran savvy the way Judah does -- except in sparring with pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao, and sparring isn't the same as mixing it up sans headgear.
Against Maidana, he answered some questions about whether he could take a punch with a "mostly, yes." The lightweight version of Khan that got wobbled by a Breidis Prescott jab took a lot of murderous shots from Maidana and although he was badly hurt late in the fight, Khan survived. On the other hand, he got a little sloppy in that fight, a trend that continued in a poor showing but ultimately a win over Paul McCloskey. Now, he's back with conditioning coach Alex Ariza, and that, he says, will improve his performance from McCloskey to Judah.
Judah is a highly dangerous and live underdog. His speed and power makes him just that against nearly anyone. But against a boxer in Khan who has only put to rest most of the questions about his ability to take a punch, Judah's power could be pivotal at any moment. If Khan gets out of position and Judah tags him with a great counter, it could be over.
I'm not the biggest believer in Judah's career revival, not because I think his renewed dedication is a lie. Rather, it's because I think it came too late. I tend to err on the side of thinking that Judah's problems pulling the trigger are due to age. It won't help him win a decision against Khan, who can lead and keep Judah at distance if he cares to play it safe. Judah has a puncher's chance, but Khan's the overall better fighter in almost every way. Judah has to win by knockout, because if you are lucky enough to escape with a win against Matthysse and needed a monster shot to come back against Mabuza, you aren't going to outbox Khan. I think Khan could deliver a beating that would force the fight to be stopped, a la his win over Malignaggi, but more likely I think it goes the distance in a bout where Judah flashes signs of his danger once or twice but Khan wins a clear decision.
" Judah has to win by knockout, because if you are lucky enough to escape with a win against Matthysse and needed a monster shot to come back against Mabuza, you aren't going to outbox Khan."
that's exactly how I see it, Tim. Judah is good and the drop to 140 did revive his chances some, but he's not as good as what's needed to beat Khan right now.
Khan wins via UD.
Well, it should be good, 2 talented but flawed (to different degrees) fighters usually make for good fights. Maybe the Judah comeback has been overstated, but I had my doubts he could get back to this point after getting butchered by Clottey (his face looked like a Walking Dead extra in that fight) et al. And Pernell is one of my favorite fighters ever (if I were Booker T I'd put him in my Fave Five) so having him in Zab's corner gives me some measure of rooting interest in Zab. Plus it's the year of the upset.
Still, I'm struggling to actually pick Zab. I think your conclusion is spot on - maybe Zab scores a knockdown or hurts Khan once or twice, but I think a Khan decision is the most likely outcome.
Stephen Glass reference FTW.
This is a very tough fight for me to call.
I don't think Khan is as good as advertised. He still has a glass jaw. Roach and Ariza can devise training and strength strategies to protect Khan's jaw.
But no fitness regime is going to make me forget his detonation by Breidis Prescott. Plus Khan was hurt badly by Maidana, which proved only that his legs were strong enough to stay away from Maidana long enough to recover. The Maidana fight proved NOTHING about the so-called improved strength of Khan's jaw.
I also discount the return of Ariza more than most. Did Khan get sloppy against McCloskey because he was out of shape or because he's just not as good as we think? Wasn't Freddie Roach in Khan's corner against McCloskey? Was the true main reason for Khan's performance the absence of Ariza? I have big doubts.
I'm getting a little sick of the credit for boxing nous that Fitness Coach to the Network Stars Alex Ariza is gaining. No doubt Ariza is a superb fitness coach, but he's not a boxing trainer.
I also get the feeling that Khan is looking past this fight to bigger names and paydays later in the year.
Speed always has been Khan's greatest asset. In this fight, he's matched against someone who has similar hand speed. Khan is faster, but Zab is in the same neighborhood.
Judah also looks RIPPED and big for this fight. Khan's usual advantage as a very large junior welterweight won't be as great this time.
Zab knows this is the proverbial Last Chance Saloon. I think he's fighting with more of a purpose. I also think he'll benefit greatly from Sweet Pea's tutelage, using real tactics and smarts instead of relying on his natural skill for one of the first times in the ring.
Judah in the upset. TKO 11.
An intresting fight Judah has always had talent to spare but as you pointed out not always the dedication, as you get older the first thing to go is speed, Judah can still pop, but can't hope to match the speed of Khan (not at 33yrs),
Khan Point or late stoppage
I think Sweet Pea is a master tactition and really knows what he is doing with Judah. Im sure he has a good game plan for this fight, good enough to win i hope.
I'll be most interested to see the difference in Khan after he looked decidedly less than all that against Dudey - I'm pretty sure that with Ariza's special powers Khan will once again look like a monster. And with Conte knocking about in the other guy's vicinity, who knows what superhuman feats will unfold?
Definitely not a Judah comeback worth getting excited over, but all respect due to Main Events for the excellent packaging. Still, he lost to Matthyysse (funny how one of that fight's judges reappeared for Lara-Williams), and if Khan looks more like he did against Maidana, less than he did against McCloskey, that could be enough to end this surprisingly early. I'm going Khan TKO 11.
@Scott_Kraus I also thought Judah was basically done post-Clottey. Losing to Cotto and Mayweather, no shame in that. Losing to Clottey suggested to me that he was a borderline top-10 welter at that point in his career. He's revived himself... to an extent.
I was trying to think up liars and Stephen was the first to pop into my head. That movie kicks ass.
WRONG BABY!!!! as most boxing fans generally are, you all want the great comeback star to beat the young pretender but the man was outclassed from the first bell onwards. If Khan is to fight Mayweather (As reported in the UK) i feel he has a good chance, he is one of very few fighters who can match Mayweathers hand speed, and against mayweather he doesn't have to worry about his chin
@PaulKelly I don't know that it proved "nothing." Prescott has since been shown to be not a super-big puncher, and the punch that started that knockout of Khan was when Prescott wobbled him with a jab. Maidana is a bigger puncher at a higher weight, and Khan survived. I'd say his jaw is still a concern, but "nothing" I can't agree with.
I have no idea how much actual difference Ariza makes. I do know that his boxers tend to give him a ton of credit.
I very much agree with you that Khan has been daydreaming too far into the future.
Judah can come close to matching Khan's speed, but he's not there.
@Miggs88 Sweat Pea is good at that. And he definitely improved Judah's defense last time out. We'll see.
@safesideOTR Yes, this could be the battle of accused (one successfully, one without any evidence whatsoever) conditioning coaches.
@HitDog Yeah, Main Events has done a great job of getting Judah back on the map.
One round early! You get surprised easily. :)
@mememememe Yep, I was wrong. Will be the first to admit it. Khan looked very good last night, but Judah wouldn't have challenged a top-25 junior welter last night. He was horrible.
Sure, Khan controlled range by using his superior reach and throwing his jab all night. But it only took two rounds for Sweet Pea to become completely exasperated with Zab's lack of output.
It seemed Zab's entire strategy was to catch Khan with a big counterpunch, and I doubt that was the game plan Sweet Pea drew up.
Once Zab realized that wouldn't work against the bigger, faster Khan, I think he started to look for a way out. There's no way that shot at the belt should have crippled Judah like that. I saw Brandon Rios walk through shots like that with a smile two weeks ago against Urbano Antilon.