Veteran HBO analyst Larry Merchant has never been one to hide his feelings and I can’t say I was surprised when he showed little enthusiasm months back towards the Amir Khan-Zab Judah clash. Often skeptical of Judah in the past, Merchant didn’t know if the flashy southpaw from Brooklyn would be able to hang with Khan and this past weekend he was proved correct.
Inside of the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Khan would control his fight with Judah from the outset with his speed and range, eventually netting a 5th round knockout after flooring Zab with a wicked right hand to the body. Khan now adds the IBF junior welterweight crown next to the WBA bauble he already owned and will be eyeing greener pastures while Judah has to go back to the drawing board yet again.
Giving his take on the fight, Merchant claims to have seen the writing on the wall.
“Totally predictable,” Larry told me on Monday afternoon. “A veteran fighter who had a reputation, conned everybody, including himself perhaps, by reinventing himself as more of a cautious fighter than he had been when he was younger. And as soon as he faced the younger, quicker, hungrier guy, he got taken apart and exposed. And in the end he reverted to exactly who he has been in his major fights before.”
After the bout transpired, Judah and his team cried foul, claiming that the body shot from Khan that ended the contest was actually a low blow. And while replays certainly did show that the punch was right on the border of Judah’s trunks, Merchant quickly shot down such notions.
“That’s bull****. He’s always created a controversy at the end of all of his bad losses. That’s what he’s done. At the end of Kostya Tszyu, at the end of Mayweather, that’s what he’s done. He always tries to deflect the fact that he’s been beaten down and wasn’t up to it.”
Merchant than took a look at Khan’s options moving forward, including possible encounters with the likes of unified champion Timothy Bradley, WBA lightweight champion Brandon Rios, and the winner of next month’s Robert Guerrero-Marcos Maidana duel.
“He could fight the winner of Maidana and Guerrero at 140,” said Merchant. “I’m not sure who else is there at 140. Of course he could fight Bradley if Bradley decides to come back to the fight. I think Bradley’s got legal issues and I don’t know when he’s available. Those are the obvious choices at this moment. I could see him fighting Rios at 140, that could be a real fight. But I don’t know that Rios is available because of the different promoters.”
All of those fights would be interesting but the one scenario that seems to get people talking is of Khan moving up in weight and facing off with Floyd Mayweather Jr. sometime in 2012. Mayweather has a September 17th date with Victor Ortiz lined up at the MGM Grand and Khan would be one of the more ideal candidates if Floyd could emerge successful from that assignment.
Khan has showed serious interest in the fight and Merchant feels that the time to make it happen is now.
“I don’t think it’s too early for him. [Khan] was a star amateur who medaled at the age of seventeen in the Olympics. He’s now 24, he’s going to be 25, either he’s got it or he doesn’t. Would he want some other fights before he went to Mayweather? That’s all going to depend on what Mayweather’s dance card looks like. But why wouldn’t he take a shot?” Merchant mused.
Vegas odds have Mayweather at roughly an 8-1 betting favorite over Ortiz and he would also be tipped to beat Khan as well. But at age 34 it’s not certain how long Floyd can retain his God-given talents and Merchant feels that the youth, speed, and ambitious nature of Khan could make for a real fight.
“Look, I think that the history is that veteran fighters who have depended on their speed or quickness to dominate opponents, as [Shane] Mosley did when he was younger, generally when they get older themselves and they fight younger, quicker guys, the whole equation changes. Speed is a serious problem for older fighters. I’m not saying it can’t but overcome and I’m not saying that beating Judah is in the same class as beating some other guys here, but I think that Khan is a fighter to be reckoned with.”
Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at [email protected]