Confidence is not a trait that will be missing from either Amir Khan or Zab Judah when they step into the ring for their HBO bout this Saturday night. Both men have been clear in expressing that they feel this is their fight to lose. Judah has even gone as far as to say that Khan is being sacrificed by his promoter in this bout:
"I'm definitely going to take him to school. After Saturday night he'll figure out that Golden Boy set him up by putting him in a position he shouldn't have been in. He's a great fighter but this fight is a little premature for him."
Khan has had plenty to say about how he will win the fight, but perhaps his most interesting quote regarding his self confidence was given to BBC Sport earlier this week:
"Pound-for pound, I'm way ahead of all the other British fighters, and I think people know that," Khan told BBC Sport. "[US broadcaster] HBO think I'm the best British fighter, the most skilful and the most exciting to watch."
There is nothing wrong with confidence heading into a fight, I'd expect nothing less. But for as successful as both men have been to this point in their respective careers they are both dogged by a single moment. For Khan it is the KO loss to Breidis Prescott:
That loss coupled with a few other dicey moments left Khan dogged by a label of "chinny." In going twelve rounds with the hard hitting Marcos Maidana in December he did his best to overcome that reputation but we know he can be knocked out.
For Judah it is the infamous KO at the hands of Kostya Tszyu:
It was the first time that Judah came up short when stepping up to an elite level, a recurring theme in his career. Not that Judah hasn't proven to be very good over his career, but he has come up short against names like Tszyu, Baldomir, Mayweather, Cotto and Clottey. More importantly, Judah's behavior after the fight showed the problems with immaturity that have been a huge part of his career.
There is a lot of talk about the new and improved Zab but it sounds like Scott Christ of Bad Left Hook isn't buying it:
who is this improved, awesome Zab Judah that everyone keeps telling me about? Was it the guy who was lucky to get the cards against Lucas Matthysse last year, or the guy who struggled with mediocre Kaizer Mabuza this year? It's not that I give Zab no shot against Khan (I give him a respectable shot that decreases steadily per round after round four), it's that there's no actual evidence of Judah being any better than he used to be. He just says he is, so other people say he is. But has he actually shown improvement? I don't think so. He's the same above average, highly flawed fighter he's been for years, one whose reputation for being a great talent is probably a little overstated given that he's never quite produced on the level of that reputation. But Zab's a star, I can give him that. And he's a good fighter. But Khan isn't Kaizer Mabuza. I still think this is an uphill climb for Zab.
And as for his maturity level, Judah gave out the dial in number to a recent media conference call for the fight to all his fans. While that may sound like a "neat" gesture, it's highly unprofessional and disrupts the ability to promote the fight properly to have a call swamped by fans. He also refused to answer questions from any media member with a British accent.
The story of the fight is one of two men displaying confidence on the outside while still trying to overcome the issues that have dogged their careers to this point. It has the ability to be a tremendous fight but the possibility of huge setbacks and revival of old demons for the loser might be just as big as the rewards for the winner.