By Nick Tylwalk
Yep, congratulations are definitely going out from this corner of the internet to Zab Judah. You've just sealed the deal to face Amir Khan in Las Vegas on July 23. Nice work.
Oh, it's true that a couple of things had to go just right for this to happen, chief among them Timothy Bradley's inexplicable decision not to take on Khan himself. He may be kicking himself for that in the not too distant future.
There's also the distinct possibility that fighting Khan isn't that much of a prize after all, because, well, he's really good. He's also younger, taller and possibly stronger too.
Still, anyone who thought Zab would ever be in the position to fight for a pair of 140-pound titles in 2011 after stumbling around at welterweight between 2006 and 2008 is probably a member of the Judah family (or Kathy Duva). After going 3-4-1 during that period and generally looking nothing like the lightning quick, hard-punching fighter we saw early in the 2000s, he could easily have packed it in, or even worse, become just an opponent for guys on their way up.
So he gets all the props in the world for dropping down to junior welterweight - probably not an easy move once he hit age 30 - and recapturing some of his old magic. He's certainly shown flashes of his prime form while doing it, especially in trouncing Jose Armando Santa Cruz last summer. He's also shown plenty of heart: Judah was knocked down by both Lucas Matthysse and Kaizer Mabuza in his last two fights but rallied to win them both.
It's too bad the fight didn't land in Atlantic City, as I would have made the journey to the Jersey Shore to see it in person. Dan Rafael's ESPN piece said Duva held out as long as possible hoping that Zab could get the bout made close to his East Coast fans, but ultimately they had to settle for Vegas to get the deal done.
Khan will rightfully be the favorite, perhaps a large one in terms of the gambling line. He deserves it, as he's been on quite the run while winning seven consecutive fights. At 24 he's still got room for more improvement, and he's got ace trainer Freddie Roach in his corner.
But if we assume that Khan's Achilles heel is his sometimes shaky chin - and he's shown several times why that assumption is valid - then Zab is certainly a live dog in this match-up. You could definitely make an argument that Judah is the hardest single-shot puncher Khan has faced thus far, with Marcos Maidana probably the only other entry in that competition.
Good stuff all around. Now hit the gym hard Super Judah, and give all of us fight fans something worth watching come late July.
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