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Fight Week Blog

Freddie Roach: I'm Telling Amir to Go for the Kill

As told to Peter Owen Nelson

After Thursday’s press conference at the Mandalay Bay Casino, Freddie Roach and his peripatetic caravan of fighters headed to the IBA gym off the strip, in a residential area of Las Vegas. There, the five-time Boxing Writers’ Association of America Trainer of the Year discussed privately some of the core strategic planning for Amir Khan to defend his WBA title from IBF champ Zab Judah:

To take away Zab’s power, Amir is going to land combinations and move to Zab’s right. Zab crouches down a lot, and Amir will be able to the uppercut nicely as he times Zab dipping down. My aim for Amir is to land two to three punch combinations and move out. In sparring he would throw three or even four hooks to the body at a time. He even knocked down a sparring partner with those shots, but in the fight we want him to throw one and then pivot to get an angle on Zab and further take advantage of openings from there. You can’t stay in one place for too long in front of Zab. His best punch is rolling the right hand and countering with the left — either an uppercut or straight. As long as Amir isn’t falling into the pocket after his own right hand and keeps his footwork clean, he should be able to take that shot away from Zab. When Zab walks away from Amir, as soon as his back foot is up in the air, Amir is going to pounce on him because it’s a habit Zab has that leaves him off balance and defenseless. If Zab walks to the ropes, Amir also can’t just follow him in. He has to use his feints well to open Zab up and then attack. We are going to be the aggressor in this fight. When I see Zab begin to fade, I’m going to tell Amir to go in for the kill — with caution, but we’re going to go for the knockout if it’s there for us.

Photo: Will Hart

Freddie Roach

Khan-Judah: Bert Sugar's "Keys to the Fight"

As told to Peter Owen Nelson

KEYS FOR ZAB JUDAH:

1) Pace: Zab is often a fast starter, quick out of the gate. Zab had great success in the early going against Miguel Cotto (stunning him twice), Floyd Mayweather (scoring an unacknowledged knockdown when Floyd’s glove touched the canvas), and even Kosta Tzsyu (before being knocked out). Against Khan, he will need to keep up the work rate he has in the early rounds through the later rounds. Zab’s timing combined with his hand speed can contend with Khan’s overall speed, but only if he maintains his stamina.

2) Pressure: Zab is the harder puncher of the two, but to use it to his advantage he has to stay with Khan if Khan won’t follow him. If Zab cannot set traps that the younger fighter will fall for, then he cannot allow Khan to throw flurries and flutter away. Zab can counterpunch, but must do so every exchange and not let up.

3) Footwork: While Zab may have the faster hand speed, there is no doubt that the 9-year younger Khan has the faster foot speed. Zab will need to counteract this with timing. He’ll have to cut the ring off on Khan to disrupt his rhythm and find openings by taking Khan off guard.

KEYS FOR AMIR KHAN

1) Jab: Amir out-jabbed Malignaggi and the jab is a terrific one. It is one of the best jabs in boxing today. He will have to double up and triple up on the jab to prevent Zab from ever developing a rhythm of his own or finding openings to counterpunch.

2) Range: You cannot will what nature did not provide, and an indomitable chin is not an asset Khan has. He was knocked out in a single round by a journeyman and Marcos Maidana had him looking like a drunk in search of a lampost in the tenth round of their fight in 2010 (though Khan never went down). In the early rounds against Judah especially, Khan will need to show a good defense through a good offense, and a good offense means using his longer reach to stay out of Judah’s range.

3) Exploit the later rounds: as Zab slows down, Khan will have to take greater risks to achieve greater ends. To stop Zab, he will need to take chances on throwing three or four punch combinations. This may expose him to danger, but if he fights intelligently, Amir should be able to open up with his right hand and use his youth and conditioning to outwork the elder Judah and possibly stop him through volume-punching. Zab’s will has been questioned in the past. Amir’s job will be to convince Zab of a definitive answer: that if Zab knows what’s best for him, he’ll quit.

Photo: Will Hart

 

Burt Sugar

Rival Boxers Offer Their Predictions for Khan-Judah

As told to Peter Owen Nelson

HBO caught up with WBC welterweight champion Victor Ortiz and former Amir Khan foe Marcos Rene Maidana to hear their takes on Saturday’s junior welterweight championship unification bout between Khan and Zab Judah.

VICTOR ORTIZ

Amir is the younger guy. He’s got youth. But out of mutual respect for both fighters, I’d rather not say what I think the result will be. To be honest, I haven’t been studying tape of either guy. That’s not my focus right now. My focus is on knocking out Floyd Mayweather on September 17.

MARCOS RENE MAIDANA

Both Judah and Khan are fast and skillful, so I guess it'll be a tactical fight. If Khan is able to get through the first five or six rounds when Zab is usually more effective I have Khan winning on points.

 

Amir Khan vs. Zab Judah: Sparring Partner Perspectives

As told to Peter Owen Nelson

Besides sparring with Amir Khan, Cleotis “Mookie” Pendarvis (10-3-2) has worked with world champions Oscar De La Hoya, Diego Corrales, Rickey Hatton, Shane Mosley, and Antonio Margarito. He fights this Friday on a show at the Hollywood Park Casino in Inglewood, CA.

Amir was some of the fastest sparring I’ve done. In the early going, it took some time to cope with his speed. I had to up my level of competition to help him prepare.

He throws a lot of punches at different angles. He’s in and out. He’ll step the right and attack. He’ll end up on the side of you out of nowhere. I haven’t sparred anyone who fights like Amir.

Because he jumps in, he can be vulnerable to a southpaw’s right hook. It took me about two days to understand and pick up on all his mistakes — but he picked up on my mistakes, too.

If Amir can box, but remain aggressive — if he can dictate the pace, but also keep on the move — he will win a unanimous decision.

David Rodela (15-4-3) has served as a longtime sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao. In addition to campaigning as a lightweight, he manages a boxing gym in Oxnard, CA.

I worked with Zab for a week toward the end of his sparring. A lot of guys now spar three times a week, but he spars everyday. I went six to eight rounds on five consecutive days with him.

I’m not going to lie: he can crack. He has power on his punches. But he’s going to have to land them.

One day after sparring, Zab asked me, “Who’s faster, me or Amir?” I know the expectation is that I’ll tell him he is because he’s paying me to spar, but I’m an honest guy, so I tell him, “Amir is.”

“What? What do you mean?”

“Amir is faster than you, bro. I’m not going to lie to you.”

I know Zab is now trying to do more Pernell Whitaker-style moves. At one point, I threw a body shot and he leapt back with both feet. I was like, “What the hell was that?” But Pernell began shouting that he couldn’t have done it better himself. I was like, “What the hell is this?”

I think Amir is simply too quick for Zab and the fight will be stopped in round seven or eight.

Photo: Hoganphotos.com

Amir Khan

Amir Khan vs. Zab Judah: The Last Workout

By Peter Owen Nelson

LAS VEGAS — On Wednesday afternoon, in a raised boxing ring inside a flood-lit bar of the Mandalay Bay Casino, Zab Judah arrived an hour late for his final workout in preparation for his Saturday showdown with Amir Khan (25-1) to unify the WBA junior welterweight crowd with his own IBF strap.

Judah (41-6) has not lost since 2008 to Joshua Clottey at welterweight. He is now three years older, five victories maturer, one weight division lighter, and one world title better. The press awaited his arrival for an hour, but it was only fitting that a man who appears to have turned back the hands of time would appear to have no concept of it.

Performing a light workout, Judah ran several perfunctory rounds of mitts as his head trainer and new defensive guru Pernell Whitaker watched from a neutral corner. The techniques seemed more to be perfunctory than strategic. Perhaps the mitt work could be said to have been “perfunctorily strategic,” an attempt to prevent the Khan camp (which had arrived by then) from seeing anything of use.

With as little fanfare in his exit as his entrance, Judah jumped rope on the floor, as Lakers center Andrew Bynum absorbed the media, having arrived in tow with Khan’s trainer Freddie Roach to continue his off-season boxing regimen.

Khan then climbed into the elevated ring to applause, while Judah’s mother chanted “Suuuuuper Zab!” to him as jealousy flashed across his eyes peering over at Khan’s hoard of admirers. They would not see much work of their champion. Khan did not have a public workout, so much as a public warm-up.

Ninety minutes after lightly shadowboxing for the crowd at Mandalay, Team Khan piled into a Cadillac SUV and headed over the IBA Gym off Flamingo where a private workout was conducted. The Briton would do his final four rounds of mitt work with Roach with no air-conditioning in 110-degree heat.

As Roach mimed Judah’s postures and movements, Khan refined his approach to attack, incorporating feints and angles to exploit Judah’s occasionally blundering footwork. “It’s been a great camp,” said Khan, whose training has lasted ten weeks (two more than he has trained with Roach in some previous camps). The extra preparation appears to have paid dividends, as strength coach Alex Ariza said, “Amir’s exactly where we want him right now.” We will see if Ariza repeats these words after Judah has his say on Saturday night.

Photo: Hoganphotos.com

Zab Judah

Amir Khan vs. Zab Judah

HBO WCB - July 23, 2011