Khan furthers expectations with latest punch-out

LAS VEGAS – Zab Judah has had his ups and downs in a long and mostly successful boxing career. He’s won titles at both super lightweight and welterweight, and fought most of the best boxers of his era.

There is little he hasn’t seen or done in a boxing ring.

He’s lost most of his biggest fights, but other than a quick second-round knockout by Kostya Tszyu in 2001, Judah was never dominated. Then on Saturday, in front of a crowd of 7,279 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Amir Khan delivered a one-sided beatdown in a fifth-round knockout that made Judah look like a C-class fighter.

Amir Khan (L) drops Zab Judah.
(Associated Press)

Khan’s jab peppered Judah and kept him from ever effectively mounting an attack. Khan’s right hands raked Judah consistently, bloodying his nose and mouth, and making him wary of taking any more. Most significantly, his body shots took the life out of Judah. By the middle of the fourth round, Judah was looking toward his corner, a plaintive look crossing his face.

It was a brilliant performance by a guy on the brink of boxing stardom. Khan, 24, won every round handily, much to the delight of the loud British contingent in the crowd. He dictated the pace of the fight, landed nearly all of the telling blows and essentially made Judah quit when the going got rough.

“Amir is a great rising star with blazing fast hands,” Judah promoter Kathy Duva of Main Events said.

There was a but – it wouldn’t be a Judah loss without an excuse for it – but it was a half-hearted attempt that was primarily a face-saving effort.

Khan landed a right hand to the head with about 30 seconds left in the fifth round that bent Judah over at the waist. After a bit of a grappling match on the inside, Khan fired a right hand to the body that landed on the belt where Judah’s name was displayed.

Judah immediately went down on all fours as referee Vic Drakulich stood over him tolling the count. When Drakulich got to 10, Judah bounced up. He tried to insist at the post-fight news conference he thought that Drakulich was counting to give him time to recover, but it was clearly a weak excuse few others than those on his team were buying.

“In my eyes, it was a clean shot that landed right on the belt,” Khan said. “Zab took the shot, and it was a very hard shot. We worked on that shot all week in the camp. We didn’t want to give too much away when we were doing the media workouts and things, but that shot was what we were working on. It just naturally happened. When he [bent over], I shot that uppercut to the body. It worked really well.”

No matter what kind of excuse Judah tries to cook up, there was no disputing what had occurred in the first four rounds and the 2½ minutes of the fifth that preceded the fight-ending punch.

Khan delivered a frightful beating and staked a claim as one of the best young fighters in the world. Things got out of hand, as they usually do at the post-fight news conference, and predictions were flying that Khan would become the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world.

He’s got a lot of ability, and it’s not out of the question that he could ascend to the perch atop the rankings some day, but he has a lot more yet to prove.

“He is getting better every time,” trainer Freddie Roach said. “He did a lot of good things, but he can improve. He’s a good young fighter, and he’s got a lot of good things going for him.”

Khan will fight next in December, against either Robert Guerrero – if he gets past Marcos Maidana next month &nhdash; or veteran Erik Morales. He’d like to fight World Boxing Council/World Boxing Organization Timothy Bradley and unify the belts, but Bradley has been extremely hard to make a deal with and Golden Boy, Khan’s promoter, isn’t likely to waste a lot of times in talks with him if Guerrero wins and is available.

Khan is going to be a difficult out no matter who he meets. He’s rangy for 140 pounds, he probably has the fastest hands of all the contenders and he’s a surprisingly hard hitter.

He’s still dogged by questions about his chin that come because of his only loss, a 2008 first-round knockout defeat to Breidis Prescott when he was still a lightweight.

But he has faced numerous hard-hitters since then – he beat Maidana in December and Maidana is arguably the hardest puncher at 140 – and come through with no issues.

It’s about time for the myth that Khan has a glass chin to end.

His legend as a fighter, though, will soar. He’s talented, filled with confidence and bravado and in a division where there are a series of quality opponents.

Judah knows as well as anyone how formidable Khan has become. Schaefer, with a burgeoning star on his hands, couldn’t contain his glee.

“I call Amir the undisputed 140-pound champion, because the other champion [Bradley] didn’t want to fight him before and won’t want to fight him now,” Schaefer said.

Time will tell about that. But what is not in dispute is that Amir Khan is one of the world’s finest fighters and is going to be in a lot of big fights for a long time.

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Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter. Send Kevin a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Sunday, Jul 24, 2011