- Dan Rafael, Boxing
- 0 Shares
Junior welterweight titleholders Amir Khan and Zab Judah will meet to unify their belts in one of the biggest fights of the summer on July 23 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, both camps told ESPN.com.
The bout will headline HBO's "World Championship Boxing," the second fight of a four-fight deal Khan signed with the network before his April 16 victory against Paul McCloskey.
Kathy Duva of Main Events, Judah's promoter, made a deal with Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, Khan's promoter, on Tuesday morning, a little over a week after titleholder Timothy Bradley turned his back on a career-high payday of at least $1.4 million to face Khan.
The fight with Bradley was the one Khan really wanted, and the fight HBO was hoping for. But when Bradley stunningly rejected a 50-50 deal -- including half of the money generated from the television rights in Khan's native England -- attention turned elsewhere.
Schaefer offered the fight to resurgent former three-division champion Erik Morales, who works with Golden Boy, but he rejected the fight. That left Judah, a big name and owner of a world title, as the obvious choice.
"We've agreed on the terms and the contracts are being drawn," Duva said.
Said Schaefer, "This was not an easy deal to make, but I am happy that in the end it got done. Whenever you have two world champions fighting each other you have a big fight. It's a big-time fight with two big time names. It's a big test for Amir and a tremendous opportunity for Judah."
Schaefer and Duva have been going back and forth for days over the deal. Khan wanted a 60-40 split in his favor while Judah wanted a 50-50 deal on everything other than the British television revenue, which he said Khan could keep.
The sides eventually agreed to a 55-45 split in Khan's favor, but the sticking point was location. Golden Boy insisted on Las Vegas while Duva hoped to explore a deal in Atlantic City, N.J., Judah's home region. Duva and Judah eventually dropped that demand, clearing the way for a deal.
"I told Zab I'd rather just get the promotion going and get him in the gym and we'll make money at the site in Las Vegas if we promote it well," Duva said. "Zab agreed. At some point you stop quibbling over a couple of points. Zab will make money when he beats this guy. That's where the upside is. They each have a world title, but the thing Khan has that Zab doesn't is a multi-fight agreement with HBO. That's where his strength comes from. And when Zab beats him, HBO will be seeking out Zab Judah for a multi-fight contract. He'll be the man at that point."
"I got what I wanted, so I am happy. Now it's time to go work," said Judah, who was on his way to the gym for a training session. "I've been praying on this fight. My goal is to be undisputed champion at two weights. I did it at 147 and I'm gonna do it at 140 starting with Amir Khan. I'm gonna work hard. I'm very experienced, so whichever way he brings the fight I can deal with it and take it from him.
"I know Amir wanted the Bradley fight, but who wouldn't? Bradley can't break an egg. A fight with 'Super' Judah is not a fight Amir wanted. Don't let him lie to you."
Khan, however, sure sounded gung-ho about facing Judah, with whom he has engaged in an amusing war of words on Twitter in recent days.
"Zab's a good fighter. He's strong, he's fit. All the stuff on Twitter is fun, but we're both professionals. It's just spicing things up," Khan told ESPN.com a couple of days before the deal was agreed to. "He was undisputed champion at 147 and now he's a champion at 140. ... If Bradley don't want me, I'm happy to take Judah on and beat him."
Khan (25-1, 17 KOs) will be making his fifth defense of the belt he won by virtual shutout decision against Andriy Kotelnik in July 2009. He knocked out Dmitriy Salita in 76 seconds in his first defense and followed with an 11th-round TKO of former titlist Paulie Malignaggi, a decision against slugger Marcos Maidana in an action-packed bout named 2010 Boxing Writers Association of America fight of the year, and a six-round technical decision against McCloskey in April.
Judah (41-6, 28 KOs), 33, will be making the first defense of his third 140-pound title reign. He won his first 140-pound belt in 2000 and made five defenses before suffering his first defeat, a second-round knockout to Kostya Tszyu in a fight for the undisputed championship. Judah eventually won another slice of the title in 2003 and eventually moved up in weight. He captured the undisputed welterweight title in 2005 when he went to Cory Spinks' hometown of St. Louis and knocked him out in the ninth round.
In 2006, Carlos Baldomir outpointed Judah in a massive upset to win the welterweight crown. Judah later suffered welterweight losses to Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto and Joshua Clottey and decided he would be best served by returning to the junior welterweight division.
He moved down in weight last summer and stopped Jose Armando Santa Cruz in three rounds. In November, he won a split decision against Lucas Matthysse in a title eliminator. When Devon Alexander was stripped of his version of the title for not facing No. 1 contender Kaizer Mabuza, Judah got the opportunity to face Mabuza for the vacant belt in March and made the most of it.
Judah, who brought in Hall of Famer and mentor Pernell Whitaker to train him along with his father, Yoel Judah, knocked Mabuza out in the seventh round, setting the stage for the fight with Khan.
"You see Bradley and Morales turning down this fight with Khan and, at some point, you just say, 'OK, thank you.' Zab is very excited to get the fight. So is Whitaker," Duva said. "This leads Zab to a very nice position in the fall where he's got major fights and nothing but major fights when he wins. We're all very excited about it. We believed since he came back to junior welterweight that he could beat everyone in the division. He's already taken out Matthysse and Mabuza and now it's Khan."
Said Judah, "My trainer, Pernell Whitaker, will have a great game plan for this fight. I knew this fight was coming and I've been preparing myself. I have already been training. I wish we could do a press conference tomorrow so I could take off my shirt and show everybody how ready I am already."
Whitaker's presence in Judah's corner makes it a fight with two big-name trainers. Khan is trained by five-time trainer of the year Freddie Roach.
"Freddie Roach against Pernell Whitaker, that's a helluva trainer matchup," Duva said. "It will be really interesting to watch them go head to head and try to outdo the other guy's game plan."
Golden Boy and Main Events will share the undercard and Duva said she intends to put welterweight contender Joel "Love Child" Julio (37-4, 31 KOs) on the card in one of her company's fights. Julio scored a lopsided decision win against Anges Adjaho on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights" on May 20.
"Our plan is to put him on the card," she said. "We're looking for somebody interesting for him to fight. Maybe we can match him with one of Golden Boy's fighters."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
Junior welterweight titleholders Amir Khan and Zab Judah will meet to unify their belts in one of the biggest fights of the summer on July 23 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.