By Terence Dooley
Amir Khan’s April 16th sixth-round technical decision win over Ireland’s Paul McCloskey seemed a complete disaster at the time. The contest was dull, the ending deemed unsatisfactory, we were treated to a post-fight melee involving Barry and Eddie Hearn, Team Khan and lots of finger jabbing, and it was topped off by a spiteful presser in the bowels of the MEN. Throw in the fact that the meeting had been set for Sky Sports PPV, was switched to normal Sky a week beforehand and then ended up being bumped over to Primetime, as revealed exclusively on Boxingscene and confirmed within the hour by the broadcaster, and you had an unhappy happening.
Roll on a few months and the decision to take on the southpaw slickster strikes as a stroke of serendipity on the part of Khan as he meets Zab Judah, a mercurial portsider, in Las Vegas on Saturday night. The move towards Judah, however, was not in play when Amir beat McCloskey. 140lb rival Tim Bradley was to be the man in the other corner only for the fight to fall through, leaving Judah free to step into a WBA and IBF unification bout and turning Amir’s non-fight with McCloskey into the perfect preparation for taking on a left-hander.
When Khan meets Judah in the centre of the Mandalay Bay ring he will be well aware of the fact that he could have a tough night ahead, his speed, agility and flowing, albeit often inaccurate, punching failed to set the world alight in the McCloskey fight. Unlike Marcos Maidana, Amir’s opponent in December’s BWAA FOTY decision win, McCloskey knows a thing or two about the dark arts of defence, negation and survival, using head movement and his own speed to avoid the incoming fire.
Paul, though, helped architect his own downfall in the MEN Arena, his style lending itself to head clashes and helping to cause the gash that brought about the decision to go to the scorecards. Resulting in frustration for the fighters, their teams and the paying punters, who were robbed of a decent undercard by withdrawals and the allegedly sparse amount of money handed over by Khan Promotions to Hatton Promotions in order to populate the undercard. In short, another black eye for the multi-eyed beast that is boxing.
Khan, 25-1 (17), now hopes to put this messy night behind him, his fight with Judah, 41-6 (28), a move in the right direction after the McCloskey stutter step. Zab may be 33-years-old but he is still fast, still powerful and still a few sandwiches short of a picnic at times – a dangerous fighter who has operated at a higher level over the years and is relishing the chance to stamp his mark on the light-welterweight division once again.
‘Super’ is now trained by Pernell Whitaker, crediting the HOF trainer with reinvigorating the Judah style, guided by Kathy Duva, who argued passionately in defence of her man when he refused to speak to the UK media due to the fact that he is not earning a cut of British TV money, and Zab is adamant that he, not Khan, is an integral fixture in the P4P rankings.
Judah can also whack, not Maidana ‘all the way from back here’ swings, either – he can crack accurately and sharply when he lets them fly. Indeed, the Brooklyn-based boxer is the sharpest one punch hitter the 24-year-old WBA titleholder has faced since that September 2008 single stanza stomping at the fists of Breidis Prescott.
Powerful, hungry and a noted top-level performer, Judah has the skills to do a job yet in the past he has lacked the focus to complete the task. Khan has focus in abundance, the Bolton speedster believes that “Pound-for pound, I'm way ahead of all the other British fighters, and I think people know that. HBO think I'm the best British fighter, the most skilful and the most exciting to watch,” and must now back up this bold, and unrealistic as long as Carl Froch is around, claim in Las Vegas. Khan is unlikely to slip up given the fact that there is the tantalising possibility of a Floyd Mayweather money spinner should both men keep racking up the Ws.
Ironically, Judah took on ‘Money’ in May 2006. Despite coming off a welterweight world title loss to Carlos Baldomir the erratic New Yorker performed well in the early going. Scoring a legitimate second round knockdown that was not picked up by referee Richard Steele and giving Floyd fits early doors only for Floyd, as he always does, to figure his man out en route to a relatively comfortable unanimous decision.
Movement, grit, determination, brute strength and power, all the qualities that have done for Zab in his major fights, and at least three of them skill, grit and determination are central to Khan’s style, suggesting that the ‘King’ will obtain another crown on Saturday night if he can avoid Judah’s early assaults.
As for McCloskey, there is nothing like a bit of controversy and outrage to kick start a career. The former EBU titlist looked like a man who had choked in the early rounds of the Khan encounter. Sure, ‘Dudey’ argued that he was waiting for his chance to strike but if you do little early then pick up a cut you cannot argue too strongly if the doctor or ref fail to see the master plan and pulls the plug.
The Dungiven resident stressed that he wanted to stay in the contest, his actions did not back up this argument and the officials were not privy to his long-term fight plan, which seemed to amount to waiting for Khan to tire in the hope that the Alex Ariza-less champion had shirked on conditioning.
It was not to be. However the cut may have been the best thing that happened to the 31-year-old. The Hearns sniffed the whiff of controversy, turned it into a full on stink and generally did what promoters should do in this situation, shouting long and hard for an immediate rematch that was never going to happen in order to keep their man in the headlines.
Even the presser went their way. Amir told Paul, who slipped to 22-1 (12), to rebuild by taking on some of his former victims. Matchroom went one better. “Amir shouted at me to beat the men he’s beaten. Well I will fight the man who beat him,” smiled McCloskey when confirming to Sky Sports that Breidis Prescott, the fabled ‘Khanqueror’, will be his opponent at the Belfast’s Odyssey Arena on September 10th.
Put aside the fact that the two styles – a crafty southpaw and a big hitter who loses steam after a few rounds and has the boxing IQ of a rotten banana – are unlikely to gel and that Breidis, 24-2 (19), is no longer the bogey man used to scare British contenders and you have an interesting encounter.
Amir told Paul to beat the men who have been beaten by The Man. McCloskey’s team have gone a step further. Job done outside the ring. Now it is down to three-time Irish amateur champion to deliver inside it on fight night. He is expected to do so. Although there is every chance that the fight could stink to high heaven unless Prescott connects early or Paul shows some killer instinct when the Colombian’s march starts to fade.
All said and done, Khan and McCloskey did pretty well out of a night to forget back in April. Their advisors have taken the perfect next step and who knows, Paul may find himself in a prime position for revenge should Amir journey back across the sea for a homecoming early next year.
This is usually the point where we hand out TV details for the featured contest. A brief message, ‘Catch it on Primetime here in the UK from daft o’clock’ followed by ordering details. Primetime, however, seem to be taking a stand against PPV as they have made it increasingly difficult to order their own product.
Many fans are used to heading straight to the allotted time slot on their TV guides, selecting ‘buy’ and storing the program in their planner to watch either on the night or at their convenience. A method Primetime used for the last Khan fight. Not this time, many have tried this only to be told to contact the broadcaster in order to book the show. Some have also been told that they cannot record the transmission.
One or two, this writer included, simply cannot get through to Primetime themselves. So no click and buy for this one. No record option. What we do get is a bit of old school PPV action, harkening back to those nights when you would have to nip to the amenities during the break to avoid missing the action. So break out the VHS recorder. Get on the blower early an’ all because they are not making it easy for us with their circa-2002 automated helpline and the contest is merely a day away.
To order phone 0871 200 4444, pray that they still have your registration details from the last event you ordered and then howl in frustration if it all goes wrong on the night. Then head into church or the Mosque on Sunday morning and pray that come the next one Amir Khan is back on Sky TV. Better the devil you know than this latest PPV charade.
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