Can he tag Khan cleanly on the chin early in the fight? It's possible, but doesn't seem likely. A lot has been made of how Khan will deal with Judah's speed, but I don't think that's the issue. Paulie Malignaggi is just as quick as today's version of Zab, and Khan had little problem with handling Paulie's speed. On the other hand, we don't know how well he'll be able to handle a southpaw. He can talk all he wants about sparring Manny Pacquiao, but I'm sure they haven't actually done it all that often (since Manny spends most of his time in the Philippines and Khan spends most of his time in the UK), and Khan has always been wide open for the overhand right. Turn that into a right hook, and he might have some real problems. To me, this still seems like an outside shot. Freddie Roach might be the best strategian in the sport, and knows all of this. I'm sure that he and Khan have a plan to avoid the right hook for four or five rounds, and after that, it will probably be cruise control as Judah's stamina fades. Khan UD-12.
As I've tried to say numerous times, Zab Judah is more myth than fact, more alleged "potential" than concrete results, and he's never beaten an elite fighter. When the best win on a resume is Cory Spinks, it's hard to figure how a fighter has become so enduring a notable figure. But Judah always comes back to fight again, which helps, and he's a popular if somewhat polarizing figure. People pay attention to him. That's why he got this fight when Timothy Bradley ducked out. All of that is also why he'll lose.
Judah has a new trainer (Pernell Whitaker) and the help of a controversial semi-celebrity (Victor Conte) in his corner, but when it comes down to getting down in the ring, Zab is going to have to rely on Zab, and his instincts have never allowed him to win a really tough fight. When he is by far the more talented fighter, Judah has natural skills that make him look better than he really is as a complete package. Khan has natural skills that match Judah's, and his only potential downfalls here are a bad chin and a tendency to fight recklessly. I'm not saying Judah can't knock out Amir Khan. He can. I just don't think he will. If he does, I'm chalking it up more to Khan's chin being a world class liability than I am Zab Judah being the fighter that some think he is. He'd still be light on results and heavy on hype. Khan UD-12.
Amir Khan has some solid attributes on the offensive end. He's quick. He puts his punches together nicely. He's got some pop too. But his defense leaves a little to be desired, and his chin isn't made of granite - so there's a feeling among many, that his vulnerabilities will play right into Zab Judah's powerful left hand. That's a possibility, though one that will become more and more unlikely with each passing round - as the last time Judah looked sharp for more than about 9 minutes, was in a win over Cory Spinks... way back in February of 2005. That's a long time ago. Probably too long ago to give the faded Brooklyn speedster a serious chance in this one. Khan will likely work the jab while playing it safe early, and unless he does something crazy, like wander forward with his hands down like the absent minded Kaizer Mabuza, he should cruise to a comfortable points decision.
My pick: Amir Khan by 118-110 type scores.
It's beyond the reach of rational men to explain how the spectre of otherworldly talent has managed to follow Zab Judah to this point in his career. In an era where a single loss is often enough to send a fighter's reputation to the trash heap, Judah's air of unlimited potential has somehow weathered ten years of repeated disappointment and a record in significant fights that would make Fernando Vargas blush. In fact, how Judah, now in his 33rd year, has managed to corral this sense of untapped potential into a date with one of the sport's best is a mystery better suited for the pages of Why People Believe Weird Things than it is a boxing blog.
At his peak, Judah's reputation was predicated on a rare combination of hand speed and power. Whether such reserves of stored energy are still to be found within the Super one's fists is up for debate. The question of whether Judah can still reliably call upon such reserves, assuming they do still exist, is less of a mystery. In his current form, Judah more closely resembles a more menacing version of Devon Alexander than he does the offensive dynamo who carried such high expectations into the ring against Kostya Tszyu 10 years ago. The left hand, once the conduit for Judah's trademark uppercut, has seen its role in Zab's attack relegated to sporadic appearances. In its place the jab has taken centre stage. And while still an effective weapon, on its own it is not enough to to deal with someone the calibre of Khan. Unless Judah can teach himself to pull the trigger on his power with more regularity, there is little in the cards that portends much hope for Brooklyn's fighting son.
Khan UD12, without much trouble.
it seems like the best most commentators can say about Judah's chances is that he is a "live dog." Here where I live in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, where Judah is a local star, there's a different vibe: "who's this Khan guy that Judah's going to take to skool?" Khan vs Judah posters are plastered up and down my local subway stop; he has his own billboard up the street in Bed Stuy, and the local liquor store owner, who saw the odds, just asked me if I think he should put some real money down on Judah. At five to one? Maybe. Those odds sound about right--maybe even slightly skewed toward Khan, but really I just don't see it (I told him I wouldn't recommend more than a casual bet). You would think Judah would have more pop down at 140, but I haven't seen evidence of it. His speed, while still good, has eroded somewhat, and while it might be enough to keep up with Khan, Khan is faster when he is fighting in his fourth gear, where he can look almost Pacquiao-like in spurts and flashes of "next level" brilliance. I also give Khan the edge in chutzpah, which will be important in this fight. I see Khan landing first, pushing the fight and bullying Judah a bit. Zab will have a moment or two that keeps this exciting--where he lands and pushes Khan into that low gear state he too often slouches off into. But in the end, Khan is too skilled, too hungry, too confident, too well trained, and just too much for Zab Judah. This will be a pretty good fight with some exciting competitive moments, but it will be clear that Khan has won when a battered Zab Judah barely survives 12 to lose a wide UD.
I've got a theory that Khan struggles against southpaws, he was made to look poor by McCloskey and seems open for the straight left. Whether Judah is capable of taking advantage of that weakness is another matter.
I've never been sold on Judah being an elite boxer, he was good but was never the superstar the American press seemed so keen to build him up as. He's got solid fundamentals but doesn't do anything spectacularly well.
Judah's best chance on Saturday night will be to go for the early knockout, which he has the power to do so, especially with the straight left and the uppercut. The longer the fight goes on the less chance Judah will have, Khan's younger, fresher and has the heart to overcome any tricky periods he may find himself in.
Judah's style may cause Khan one or two problems but I can see Khan taking control from the fourth onwards, either winning widely on points or via a late stoppage.