Alan Dawson – London
With every championship fight Amir Khan looks to have taken another step toward improvement and against Zab Judah, on Saturday, July 23 at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, he was too lively, too accurate, too relentless for a respected and experienced champion who was bloodied at the nose when he succumbed to an inevitable stoppage in the fifth round.
Considering Amir Khan’s 2010 classic war with super lightweight rival Marcos Maidana, a battle he just edged on points, it would have been easy to assume that the Bolton-born boxer-mover would enjoy an even greater breakout year in 2011. The exposure has been grand. A big homecoming at the MEN Arena in Manchester, England earlier in the year and now, a Las Vegas appearance (his second) and a broadcast on HBO.
However, at the MEN Arena, against Paul McCloskey, Khan’s team turned their back on British broadcast giant Sky after Sky Sports decided to downgrade Khan’s homecoming from pay-per-view to one of their regular channels. Team Khan turned to Primetime and lost out on being seen by a multitude of fight fans.
Fast forward a few months, to July, against Zab Judah and Khan and his entourage may be getting a sense of dejavu as, even though the 3,000 fans that were expected to travel from the UK had risen to an estimated 7,000, there were still a large minority of empty seats at the Mandalay Bay which rendered questions over whether Khan was as big a draw as promoters Golden Boy suggest.
The representative of the IBF, Zab Judah, was the first to make his entrance to the ring and he did so to calm, soulful beats – a reflection of his latest rebirth. Khan, repping the WBA, entered second, pumping his fists out as he made his way to the red corner. By the time both combatants were in the ring, there were a few more bums in seats but it is unclear whether they were from genuine sales.
The two fighters touched gloves and Khan made a silent prayer when he returned to his corner prior to the commencement of the opening round. Khan, wearing the green of Pakistan on his trunks, utilised the chin-bound straight right – a clear and potent weapon against a southpaw fighter like Judah. With every landed punch the Briton landed, he attracted a chorus of cheers from the crowd. When Khan jabbed, he needed to be aware of the countering hook shot from Judah. Toward the end of the round, Judah began to feel discomfort in his right eye as he was blinking repeatedly, which was either from a smear of Khan’s glove or an accidental coming together of heads, skin and sweat.
Khan poked away at Judah with his left-hand jab at the start of the second round and continued to edge forward with his feet as Judah was pushed back. Khan was the clear aggressor and the obvious volume-punching pressure fighter while Judah seemed to seek the counter; something that would not gain him ten scores due to the activity of Khan.
There was a swelling above the eye of Judah, kitted out in black and gold, and Khan’s left hooking was causing further damage. Judah’s portside jab was largely redundant in the third stanza as Khan was able to evade the shot. There was a great exchange at the round’s death with Khan coming out on top due to his ability to put together accurate and clean punches in an aesthetically-pleasing combination.
In between rounds, Judah’s corner worked the enswell over Judah’s right eye while Freddie Roach instructed Khan to work his 33-year-old opponent’s body. In the fourth, Khan commanded the centre of the ring and forced Judah to back up with a well-landed three punch combo. Judah was also caught flush with a straight right and again it was all Khan. Whenever Judah rooted his boots in order to unleash one of his power punches like his famed left hook, Khan had already struck him with a flurry. Judah was beaten to the punch all too often.
Khan’s lead shots, followed up with the left hook, proved to be an accurate two-punch combination. By the second minute of the fifth round, Judah, of Brooklyn, was bleeding from the nose. The claret continued to pour from his nostrils throughout the remainder of the round and Khan managed to put an early Las Vegas finish as he landed a right uppercut direct on the belt-line, awarding himself a pure knockout victory as Judah was unable to get back on his feet after ten seconds.
The five round performance from Khan was dominant, majestic… he wove his way around Zab with ease and was incredibly accurate against a fighter famed for his awkwardness and was receiving training from a defensive wizard in Pernell Whitaker. If Khan continues to produce against high-calibre opposition then his following will only snowball and snowball.
With victory, Khan unified his WBA super lightweight title with Judah’s IBF belt and thus ensured he now owns 50 percent of the major championships at ten stones [140lbs]. Amir rose to 26-1-0, 18ko while Judah dropped to 41-7-0, 28ko.
“The gameplan was… he’s powerful, he’s knocked guys out, we just needed to make no mistakes,” Khan said to HBO. “I could see in the last rounds I was beginning to frustrate him. All those people who say I’ve got no chin but I’m here, taking these big shots and beating everyone.”
When it was Judah’s turn to spit into the mic following the fight, he complained of the shot that canvassed him being an illegal one, however, the replays showed it was right on the belt-line, not below and not on the sack – which would have been protected in a steel cup. He said: “It’s clearly a lowblow. I thought the referee was giving me time. Look at it he got me in the balls.”