One fighter took full advantage of a golden opportunity, while another fighter appeared to wilt under the pressure. Does that sound like a fight you just saw? It’s exactly what happened in the unification bout between Amir Khan and Zab Judah at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Khan (26-1), who retained his WBA 140-pound belt and took Judah’s IBF title in the process, proved why he is a top 10 fighter. Khan was quicker and stronger than most people thought he was. And we’re sure Judah felt the same way, too.
Speaking of Judah (41-7). His performance in the fifth round was classic, but not in a good way. It was a show that won’t do any help for his profile. Judah, with a lot of help from Kathy Duva and Main Events, did a masterful job of climbing back up the ladder and getting a $500,000 payday and a chance to unify the belts. The hope is that he didn't ruin a good story and halt his comeback permanently.
As for the fifth round, what happened was clear and referee Vic Drakulich was correct in his assessment. Khan’s right uppercut landed directly on Judah’s belt line, which meant the shot was legal. It may have looked borderline, but few referees, especially in a title unifcation bout on a major network, would have issued a warning or taken a point away from Khan. Drakulich allowed the blow and counted Judah out at 2:47 in the fifth.
Judah claims it was a low blow, but the replay was clear. And even if Drakulich ruled it a low blow, Judah was behind in the fight anyway. Khan appeared fresher and more aggressive and looked to be on his way to a dominating win.
What’s next for either fighter is anyone’s guess. With just 7,279 in attendance, you have to figure there’s little chance of a rematch. Khan will be able to put his name among the other elite fighters now, including the likes of Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao. The Tim Bradley book isn’t closed forever, but until he sorts through his legal issues with his promoter Gary Shaw, that bout won’t be taking place anytime soon.
With Saturday's win and two of the four major belts -Bradley is the WBO and WBC champ- Khan doesn't have to wait for anyone. He's a big draw in the UK and can command big money. Fighters and promoters will eventually begin to line up to get him in the ring.
As for Judah, last night was probably his last chance to move back into the elite class. Barring some good fortune, meaning a big-name fighter needing a tune-up, the 33-year-old Brooklyn native’s days as a headline fighter are likely over.
We’ve seen stranger things, including Shane Mosley land a big payday against Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito inexplicably get another pay-per-view bout against Miguel Cotto.
So maybe we haven’t seen the last of Judah.
If Judah does plan to stay in the game, his recovery needs to take place at break-neck speed.