Jones on Khan: "I think he's showed a lot of improvement after being with Freddie Roach, it taught him a lot of poise, gave him a lot of confidence, taught him some new things to work on the ring, so that he doesn't have to go out there and just be so stale, and lethargic, and do the same things over and over. He had to come back and start adding boxing skills in his game. I think Freddie Roach did that, and it made him a much better fighter."
Jones on Judah: "Zab is still Zab. Zab will fight -- gonna talk about it, gonna tell you about it, and he gonna be about it. He did become a Christian, which changed his life a little bit. Gave him some of the nightlife things that he should have given up long ago. I think he matured more. So he matured as a person and that actually made him a better fighter. So now I think he focuses more on himself in the ring than he does out in the clubs and getting a name the wrong way."
I have...nothing to add to this without starting a big argument. Well, OK, I do -- who is this improved, awesome Zab Judah that everyone keeps telling me about? Was it the guy who was lucky to get the cards against Lucas Matthysse last year, or the guy who struggled with mediocre Kaizer Mabuza this year? It's not that I give Zab no shot against Khan (I give him a respectable shot that decreases steadily per round after round four), it's that there's no actual evidence of Judah being any better than he used to be. He just says he is, so other people say he is. But has he actually shown improvement? I don't think so. He's the same above average, highly flawed fighter he's been for years, one whose reputation for being a great talent is probably a little overstated given that he's never quite produced on the level of that reputation. But Zab's a star, I can give him that. And he's a good fighter. But Khan isn't Kaizer Mabuza. I still think this is an uphill climb for Zab.
And if anyone can really say they think Zab is legitimately somehow a much better fighter than he was a couple of years ago, please defend the case. I'm willing to listen, I just don't see it no matter how hard I look. He appears to be the same Zab Judah he always was, except now he gives nicer interviews, which are mostly about how much nicer his interviews are these days.
I love these HBO narratives, though. Expect to hear the same stuff on Saturday -- Khan's confident (KHANfident!) with Freddie Roach guiding him like a great ship's captain in an oceanic storm, and Zab Judah is "A Changed Man." No matter what happens in the fight, you can expect these points to be hammered home.