Five things we learned from Amir Khan's fifth-round knockout of Zab Judah to unify the IBF and WBA junior welterweight titles Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas:
1. Amir Khan moved to the head of the class in boxing's deepest division. The 24-year-old British-Pakistani fighter now holds a pair of alphabet titles in a talent-rich division that includes WBC and WBO beltholder Timothy Bradley and dangerous floaters Devon Alexander, Marcos Maidana, Andreas Kotelnik and Lucas Matthysse (not to mention a resurgent Erik Morales). Khan's quick hands were the difference in the first four rounds as he opened a 40-36 shutout lead on all three scorecards, picking apart Judah with hard, accurate shots and well-schooled combinations. He took lots of chances early, but Judah either couldn't or wouldn't counter when Khan came inside. The Brooklynite was visibly flustered by the fifth round and didn't seem overly desperate to get up when Khan followed up a straight right with a vicious body shot to close the show at 2:47 of the fifth. (Obligatory note about the "controversial" body shot to end it: The punch was close, right on the beltline, but Judah's trunks seemed to ride a little high; regardless, the better fighter won and that's what's important.) "I knew he was getting frustrated because he couldn't get his back hand going," said Khan, who improved to 26-1 with 18 knockouts. "That was our plan, to stay away from that back hand."
2. Freddie Roach showed why he's a four-time Trainer of the Year. Roach predicted Khan would "win every round" during the build-up to Saturday's fight -- saying they'd developed a perfect game plan for Judah (41-7, 28 KOs) -- and that's exactly what the Bolton native did. "The fight was all about distance," Roach said afterward. "We had the longer reach and the faster jab." Judah, a 5-to-1 underdog, could never find a way to negotiate inside Khan's authoritative jab and the result was a glaring disparity in the punch stats: Khan landed 61 of 284 punches to 20 of 115 for Judah. "I really think Zab was looking for a way out to be honest with you," Roach said. "When he started looking outside the ring, he was looking for help out there."
3. The questions about Khan's chin are becoming less and less glaring. Khan was tipped as Britain's next fistic hope at 17 when he won a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics, but a 54-second knockout loss to Breidis Prescott at lightweight in 2008 brought the hype train to a screeching halt. The humbling defeat led Khan to seek out Roach, who reconstructed the Brit as a 140-pounder and guided him to a title. Saturday marked Khan's fifth defense of the WBA super lightweight strap -- a run during which he absorbed a hellacious beating from Marcos Maidana (arguably the division's hardest puncher) and came away with a unanimous decision in 2010's Fight of the Year. What few punches Judah landed Saturday didn't seem to faze Khan in the slightest. "I know he caught me a few times with his big right hooks but I felt OK," Khan said. "All these people out there who said Amir Khan doesn't have a chin: I've been hit by the biggest punchers in the 140-pound division -- and I'm beating everyone."
4. Zab Judah didn't look like a sly old veteran; he just looked old. Judah's loss Saturday was just the latest trough for a guy whose career has seen more ups and downs than a cardiogram. Less than a year after winning the undisputed welterweight championship with a 2005 victory over Cory Spinks -- when he was equally renowned for throwing stools in the ring and popping up in Jay-Z videos -- Judah cemented his rep as a patron saint of inconsistency with a mystifying loss to unheralded mandatory challenger Carlos Baldomir. After finding Jesus and new trainer Pernell Whitaker, he reunited with Main Events' Kathy Duva to make another run at the top, winning the vacant IBF title with a come-from-behind TKO victory over Kaizer Mabuza in March. He fell one victory short of a true return to the big time, but give Judah and his entire team credit for an entertaining ride.
5. Khan's plan for world domination is in motion. The long-term objective for Khan -- currently No. 14 in SI.com's pound-for-pound ratings -- is a 2012 showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. The Brit said he'd fight once more at junior welterweight in December after returning from a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia before a likely jump to 147, the division where Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao (Khan's stablemate and sparring partner) keep shop. The logical next step is a showdown with WBO and WBC titleholder Timothy Bradley for the undisputed junior welterweight championship. (Bradley had turned down a 50-50 split of all U.S. and U.K. revenue to fight Khan on Saturday; the next offer likely won't be as generous.) But Khan doesn't think Bradley, currently bogged down in a litigious contract squabble, even wants the bout. Look instead for Khan to target the winner of the Aug. 27 fight between Maidana and Robert Guerrero -- or perhaps even Erik Morales, the 34-year-old Mexican legend who acquitted himself nicely in a majority-decision loss to Maidana in April. "If Timothy Bradley was the champion he says he is," Khan said, "he would have faced me a long time ago."
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