Zab Judah can claim he was the victim of a low blow, but the truth is he was heading for defeat and it was just going to be a question of how soon before Amir Khan put him away Saturday night at Mandalay Bay.
Khan, the reigning WBA junior welterweight champion, took Judah’s IBF belt in convincing fashion, dominating their unification fight over the four-plus rounds it lasted. With time winding down in the fifth round, the Englishman delivered the coup de grace — a right uppercut to the midsection — that sent Judah crumbling to the canvas.
Referee Vic Drakulich correctly ruled the blow, which was right on the belt line, as legal and counted Judah out at 2:47 as an announced crowd of 7,279 looked on somewhat shocked at the sudden turn of events.
“I saw I was hurting him, and it was only a matter of time,” Khan, a 4-1 betting favorite, said of his lopsided win. “I think my speed overwhelmed him along with my power.
“I could’ve knocked him out sooner, but I wanted to work my way up.”
Khan (26-1, 18 knockouts) had tagged Judah with a right to the head late in the fifth round that had Judah reeling. He followed with the decisive shot to the body, which replays confirmed was not low.
Judah, of course, begged to differ.
“It was a low blow,” said Judah (41-7). “I was trying to get myself together; that was self-defense.
“It hit my (protective) cup. When the referee counted, I thought it was a standing eight-count. I didn’t understand the count. But things happen.”
While Judah was confused over the outcome, there’s no doubt who was the better fighter. Khan dominated from the opening bell, establishing his jab early and maintaining a safe distance from any counter-punching by Judah.
Judah suffered some puffiness of his right eye after the two fighters clashed heads in the first round.
In the fourth round, Judah complained to Drakulich that Khan had thumbed him in his left eye and he couldn’t see, but Drakulich did not issue any warning to Khan.
Meanwhile, Khan was dominating, consistently landing crisp combinations with Judah doing little to fight back.
“I knew he was hurt because he kept moving away and ducking,” Khan said. “Eventually, I would have taken him out.”
Before the fourth round, Judah’s trainer, Pernell Whitaker, became animated, yelling at his fighter to get busy, throw punches and work the body. But Judah couldn’t or wouldn’t comply, throwing just 115 punches and landing only 20.
Khan was clearly the busier fighter. He threw 284 punches and landed 61. All three judges had Khan winning the four completed rounds.
“We have no excuses,” Whitaker said.
For Khan, it was a flawless performance, and he credited his team, particularly trainer Freddie Roach and strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza, for having him ready.
“I was in the best shape of my life,” said Khan, who made $1,072,500 (Judah’s purse was $500,000). “Zab’s a great fighter. He was a little bit awkward. But Freddie came up with a brilliant game plan. We kept the pressure on him, and it was just a matter of time before we stopped him.”
Khan plans to fight in December at 140 pounds, with Erik Morales or the winner of the Aug. 27 fight between Marcos Maidana and Robert Guerrero as possible opponents. If he is successful, he’ll move up to welterweight in 2012 and eventually try to put himself in position for a megafight against Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Richard Schaefer, chief executive officer of Golden Boy Promotions, which promotes Khan, doesn’t see Timothy Bradley, the WBC/WBO junior welterweight champ, as a viable option.
“If Bradley didn’t want to fight Amir before (Saturday), he won’t want to fight him now,” Schaefer said. “That was as impressive a performance as I’ve seen from Amir.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.