The problem for Judah was that he couldn't take it.
With Clottey taking control of the fight and Judah slowing down after dominating the earlier rounds, the fight for the vacant IBF welterweight title ended abruptly at 1:22 of the ninth round.
It was expected that the winner of this fight would likely be matched up with Antonio Margarito in a unification bout. But Margarito apparently has bigger fish in mind. He's cast his pole into the money pond that is Oscar De La Hoya. Margarito has called out De La Hoya to face him in the superstar's final fight of his career on Dec. 6.
Clottey (35-2, 21 KOs) gained a unanimous technical decision after an accidental clash of heads opened a deep cut over Judah's right eye and put the fight's outcome in the hands of the judges.
All three judges, Duane Ford 87-84, George Hill 86-85 and Glenn Trowbridge 86-85, scored the fight for Clottey.
A replay of the final moments of the fight appeared to support Clottey's belief that a punch rather than a head butt opened the gash that forced Judah (36-6, 25 KOs) to quit.
"I was throwing the right hand and that's when he got cut,'' said the Ghana native. "The fight was very tough. I thought I was winning because of my right." Judah, a southpaw and the more skillful boxer, used his right jab effectively to dictate the early rounds. Clottey kept his gloves high and relied mostly on defense as Judah piled up points. But Clottey started getting more aggressive with body shots and began connecting with the hander punches as the fight went on. The fight at the Palms in Las Vegas was televised live on HBO. In replaying the tape to determine how the cut happened, Judah was shown reacting to a hard left uppercut by Clottey by grabbing his right eye as the blood started flowing.
"We talked about this over and over before this fight because he's had a problem with head butts in previous fights, and it happened again'' said Judah, insisting that a head butt was the cause of the cut despite evidence to the contrary. "It could have been a small cut and that punch opened it more, but it started with a butt."
Referee Robert Byrd stopped the action and summoned ringside physician Dr. James Game to take a look at Judah's eye. Game said he was ready to let the fight continue but made the decision to stop it because Judah said he couldn't see.
"I gave him the visual check three different times and he could not identify whether it was three fingers or two fingers,'' Game said. "The reason he couldn't see had nothing to do with the blood. I had removed the blood. But he insisted he could not see."
Judah, the former undisputed welterweight champion and a four-time world title holder from Brooklyn, hasn't won a significant fight in more than three years. And he's likely to fall back in the line again after moving his training camp to Las Vegas, trying to get more serious, and yet still suffering a defeat.
"I sacrificed for this training camp,'' he said. "I worked hard and went ahead and did my best. It just hurts."
Clottey, 31, is hopeful of getting a fight against Antonio Margarito, the recently crowned WBA welterweight champion who sat at ringside a week after dethroning previously-unbeaten Miguel Cotto's in the year's biggest fight thus far.
Margarito made it clear that he wants a big fight against boxing's cash cow Oscar De La Hoya. "I'm not going to make plans,'' Margarito said. "I heard Oscar say he wants the winner (of Margarito's fight against Cotto). Guess who won?"
Clottey fought well in losing a 12-round unanimous decision against Margarito in 2006. If he can't get a rematch, he said "I want Andre Berto,'' naming the WBC welterweight beltholder as his preferred next opponent.
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