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Khan: Youth should prevail but old dog Zab still has tricks up his sleeve

By Chris Gray: This Saturday night 23rd July at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada Amir Khan the reigning WBA light welterweight champion (25-I, 17 KO’s) enters the biggest fight of his life in a unification match against his counterpart Zab Judah the reigning IBF light welterweight champion (41-6, 28 KO‘s). It also represents his biggest fight to date and the most dangerous test of his championship reign thus far.

Since his loss to Breidis Prescott Khan has faced a tidal wave of criticism for his punch resistance, or perceived lack of it. Despite the fact that he has since come through a life and death war against Marcos Maidana, a man who at the time was considered to be the hardest puncher in the welterweight division, a man who punches even harder than Breidis Prescott, a man who most felt would knock Khan unconscious with the first decent punch he landed, Khan has still not quite been able to shake off the ‘chinny’ tag that hangs around his neck.

For me, Amir proved himself emphatically that night by absorbing some truly monstrous punches throughout the fight, and in particular during the tenth round, yet never being taken off his feet. The truth is no one expected that of Khan, least of all me and I am a big supporter of the man from Bolton, whom I have followed avidly since he won a silver medal for Great Britain at the Athens Olympics as a seventeen year old kid. Khan proved a lot of people wrong that night, against Maidana, he showed me that he has a better than average chin and the heart of a true champion.

You don’t need to be ‘chinny’ to get knocked out in this business. Just ask Roberto Duran who was, throughout his distinguished career, renowned for having a granite jaw and yet suffered one of the most devastating and chilling knockouts in living memory at the lethal hands of Thomas ‘The Hitman’ Hearn’s. If the mere fact that Khan was knocked out by Prescott meant that he was chinny, then the same reasoning would have to apply to the 80% of opponents who where court clean by the Colombian, which would in turn suggest that Prescott is not a devastating puncher at all. The same would have to apply to anyone who has ever been knocked out in the history of the fight game. No matter how good a chin you have you can get knocked out cold if you get hit hard enough.

Zab Judah has the power to knock guys out weather they have a good chin or not and that’s the danger for Khan on Saturday night. Judah is a crafty old pro with the patience of a stalking predator, he’ll be looking for the opening to launch a ko punch. If he rock’s Khan the way Maidana did Khan will be in big trouble because Zab has the skills to finish an opponent when they are hurt, where as Maidana proved to be a tad too crude, in his efforts to finish the job against Khan when he had the chance.

That said, I give Khan a big edge in this fight on account of his youth, hunger, fighting spirit, skill, speed, stamina, and advantages in height and reach. Khan will likely have too much energy for the older Judah who isn’t as fresh as he once was, he’ll out pace the veteran and build a lead on the score cards. Khan is no fool, he has respect for his adversary who he realises is a very experienced operator at elite level and is no stranger to the big occasion. Roach will have drilled a sound game plan into his man, and won’t wont his protege to take unnecessary risks. Khan could well take Judah out of there in the later stages of the fight because his power is underrated. Case in point – who expected Khan to put Maidana on the floor in the first round of their fight? If I remember correctly wasn’t it supposed to be the other way round?

However, Zab isn’t going to make this an easy nights work for Khan by any means, he’ll use every bit of his experience to mess Khan up, take the younger champion out of his rhythm, frustrate him, and try to force him to make that vital mistake from which he can capitalize with his deadly weapon – the counter punch. And this is the danger for Khan as he endeavour’s to unify the two versions of the light welterweight division that are at stake in this fight, (WBA) and (IBF), and what makes it such an intriguing match up to analyze. Khan is a man bent on making waves in a sport where one punch can make a fighter and by the same token where one punch can ruin a fighters dreams, in his eagerness to make a statement, in a desire to pave the way for a clash with the ultimate prize guy, Floyd Mayweather Jr, Khan mite get reckless as he has done in the passed. There is a distinct possibility that by being too eager to get a knockout, or by showing an over abundance of bravado, Khan could come unstuck at the Mandalay Bay on Saturday night.

In my final analysis though, I predict a Khan victory by knockout in the later stages of the fight. But don’t take your eyes of Zab, there’s going to be some drama along the way, of that there can be no doubt.

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