Zab Judah wasn’t sure what to think when he heard the news that WBA junior welterweight champion Amir Khan was willing to fight him.
If anything, Judah, the IBF junior welterweight champ, was shocked.
“I didn’t think it was real,” Judah told Newsday shortly after a training session. “I didn’t think that they would sacrifice one of their guys like that.”
The best fights are not always made in boxing. With several of the top promoters in the sport –Golden Boy, Top Rank, Lou DiBella– at odds with each other, it’s easy to see why some fights don’t happen when they should.
That won’t be the case when Judah (41-6) and Khan (25-1) step into the ring against each other at the Mandalay Bay on July 23 on HBO’s Championship Boxing.
There will be a lot at stake. In addition to unifying the belts, the winner could get a shot at Tim Bradley in a bout that could crown an undisputed 140-pound king later this year.
Bradley, the WBO and WBC 140-pound champion, turned down the opportunity to fight Khan. Now it’s Judah who’ll get a chance to recapture some of the glory he had earlier in his career. Judah is extremely grateful for the opportunity.
“I really thank God for this opportunity,” said Judah. “I put God first so I knew something special was going to happen.”
Armed with a new attitude and a new trainer, Pernell “Sweet Pea” Whitaker, Judah is intent on putting his name back among the rest of the sport’s elite fighters.
If it seems like Judah has been around forever, it’s perfectly understandable. The 33-year-old went pro at 18 years old and has been fighting ever since.
“It’s great. The last time the 140-pound division was unified was in 2000 when I fought Kostya Tszyu," said the Brooklyn native, who suffered a second-round TKO in the bout. “It’s 11 years later and it can be unified again. That’s amazing. I look forward to it.”
As for his tilt with Khan, Judah was beaming with confidence. “Khan doesn’t possess anything I haven’t seen,” said Judah. “The speed I have is great and the power I have is great.”
What about the age difference? Khan, 24, is nine years younger than Judah.
Said Judah: “At 33, I feel great. To be technical, a lot of great fighters today –Floyd Mayweather, Bernard Hopkins, Joe Calzaghe– are older than me. There’s nothing old about me. I started so young…People have seen a lot of Zab Judah.”
And we’re sure to see more of him over the next couple of years.