by Cliff Rold
The time for skepticism ended last year against Marcos Maidana. The time for believing may have begun on Saturday. As WBA Jr. Welterweight titlist Amir Khan controlled, dominated, and stopped IBF titlist Zab Judah on Saturday night, there were clear signs that the superstar talent may be moving into the next phase of his career.
That phase could be scary for the rest of the game.
Let’s go to the report card.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Khan A; Judah A-/Post: A+; A-
Pre-Fight: Power – Khan B+; Judah A/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Khan B; Judah B/Post: B+; B+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Khan B+; Judah B-/Post: A; B-
In errantly tabbing Judah to pull the upset going into the weekend, the belief was that Khan would be forced to press and create openings for Judah to counter and catch him blind. Here’s the thing: Khan did press.
The rest didn’t happen. Khan did not let it. His use of the left hand, as a jab and looping over the top, and Khan’s general hand speed (which, as some readers pointed out after the pre-fight report card, was underrated here going in), kept Judah frozen. So did the right hand uppercut.
Judah was good defensively and Khan made that work for naught. Judah made Khan miss a lot and the Brooklyn native’s head movement was solid. Khan did the smartest thing one can against a guy looking for big counters who is slipping your stuff: he threw more.
Khan on Saturday was an example of how someone with incredible speed and a lot of straight punches can just overwhelm when active. The finishing shot might have been a hair low, but Judah was bending over, had a high waist, and he didn’t indicate a low blow the way most fighters usually do.
That was a knockout.
It was also an indication the body shot Khan almost stopped Maidana with last year was no fluke. He is showing excellent pop downstairs. Khan will never have a concrete chin but the rest of his game is more than making up for it.
It was impressive stuff. There is yet room for a cynic to say otherwise. Let’s answer the obvious. It’s not that Khan was the first to beat Judah. It’s not that it was the best Judah there has ever been. However, when one measures what Khan has accomplished at Jr. Welterweight, Judah could be looked back upon as the graduation night, the beginning of when Khan put it all together.
There might not be anyone left in arguably the deepest division in boxing that can beat him. The leading candidate is the other unified titlist, Timothy Bradley (WBC/WBO). Those two could have shared the ring last weekend but Bradley is in a contract mess. Let’s hope the window is not past. The dark horse in class, unlikely to see a fight like Khan at 140 or until he gets some better name identification, is rugged Mike Alvarado. Alvarado is the best Jr. Welterweight no one is paying attention to yet.
Khan and Bradley are the best in the world and everyone is paying full attention.
Report Card Picks 2011: 25-9
Cruiserweight: Antonio Tarver comes in at fifth after dominating steamrolling of Danny Green down under. Tarver looked good for a man in his forties, even against a fellow fighter who is past his prime. Good enough to be a viable foe for the division’s best, Steve Cunningham and Marco Huck? In a word, yes. Those are good fights and Tarver’s name could mean attention for some fun fighters at 200 lbs.
Jr. Welterweight: Khan doesn’t move past Timothy Bradley…yet. The temptation is there for sure but a little waiting to see if the Bradley contract mess can be straightened out is in order. The belts are all locked up. Undisputed is a fight away. Judah drops a couple slots.
Featherweight: Orlando Salido got that first title defense out of the way. It doesn’t advance him but in his third shot at being a champ, he is now on his way towards a likely Juan Manuel Lopez rematch.
These results and more are reflected a page away.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]