In the wake of major fights I usually write follow-up pieces about where both men go next. After last night's bout between Amir Khan and Zab Judah, it's clear that Khan is moving closer and closer to a mega-fight against men with names like Mayweather and Pacquiao. But where does Zab go from here?
In the days leading up to the bout a clear narrative had emerged. Judah was still a reasonably big "name" in the boxing world, but he was never a guy who had succeeded against top level opposition. The biggest win on his resume is Corey Spinks and Spinks was certainly nothing "special."
On Thursday I wrote about how this questionable resume was haunting Judah heading into the bout. Khan, while young and somewhat flawed, had still proven to at least be at the level of the fighters against which Zab had come up short in the past.
For the duration of the bout, Khan was able to dominate Judah. Amir didn't have a high connection percentage, but he did land the hardest blows of the fight and his aggression kept Zab for ever getting comfortable. There were multiple points where it looked like Judah began looking for a way out, from his reaction to accidental headbutts to the final punch of the fight.
Rattled from a right hand from Khan, Judah bent over and ate a punch directly to his beltline before collapsing to the floor. The punch may or may not have been low but Judah's trunks were pulled so high that it was impossible to clearly define where the actual "waist" started. Judah chose to lay on the floor while the referee loudly counted to ten and declared the fight over.
Judah would immediately spring to his feet and argue with the referee that the punch was low. If Judah really thought that, where was the argument while the count was taking place? Why wait until he was counted out to argue his point?
Zab claims that he thought he was receiving some sort of modified standing eight count to allow him to recover, something that has never been a part of the sport Judah has participated in for the majority of his life. It looked like a beaten fighter seeing an easy way out that still provided him with an excuse.
Tonight against Amir Khan, Judah looked overwhelmed and rattled early by a fighter who was faster, bigger, and stronger than him. Presented by true challenges in the past, Khan has always come up short, largely mentally. There's almost always been some "turn of events" blocking Judah from achieving glory that night. The referee screwed him against Kostya Tszyu, despite the chicken dance. The judges screwed him against Joshua Clottey and Cory Spinks. Miguel Cotto fouled him too much. There was a riot with Floyd Mayweather Jr after Judah mentally cracked. Carlos Baldomir? Well, he had the audacity to show up for the fight and not roll over to make way for the Judah vs Mayweather mega-fight. And tonight, it was a supposed low blow.
Zab was a talent. Nobody denies that he had natural skills. But they have always been overstated, and were never backed by mental fortitude. He has never liked challenges. He has always been most impressive when he was on the good side of a mismatch. His best performance came in the rematch with Cory Spinks, which was also by far his best win.
He's just never backed it up. Not really. And he's never going to, unless there is some miracle that can change the mental makeup of a 33-year-old fighter.
There's nothing wrong with a long career as a pretty good fighter, but Zab has never been a guy who was portrayed as merely "decent" or "pretty good." Khan reminded us all of Judah's shortcomings and he did it without giving Zab a single moment to lean on as proof of his "great talent" that never seems to show up when it matters most.
I'm sure Zab will still make a few decent paydays in his career, he'll probably even win another belt or two from some promotion looking to put a strap around the waist of a "name." But the book should now officially be closed on any sort of rumblings of Judah as an elite fighter.