When the negotiations between the Amir Khan and Tim Bradley camps fell apart, Khan's team was left with a tricky job in filling the hole in his schedule. Khan fought a virtual tomato can in Paul McCloskey in April so they needed a fight that looked reasonable on paper. On the other hand, with hugely lucrative future bouts available, they didn't need or want to take a lot of risk.
They needed an opponent who would look good on the resume and one who would sell tickets but also one who would not endanger Khan's future. They found the perfect man for their criteria in Zab Judah.
A few years ago, Judah looked like a fighter who was done. Losses to Baldomir, Mayweather, Cotto and Clottey left the former 140-pound titleholder clinging to the edges of the top level of the sport.
Judah earned the Khan fight by rejuvenating his career, going 5-0 since his loss to Clottey in 2008. Articles began appearing saying "Zab is back" and his decision to drop back down to 140 after a dismal showing at 147 further fueled the fire.
You have to look deeper than the 5-0 record, though, to understand that the rise of Zab Judah is more smoke and mirrors than return to form.
He beat Ernest Johnson who doesn't have a single quality win on his record.
He beat Ubaldo Hernandez who was coming off a two-year layoff and brought a 22-19-2 record into the ring with Judah.
He beat Jose Santa Cruz who had an impressive 28-4 record but who has lost every time he tried to step up to the top level of the sport.
He got a split decision against Lucas Matthyse. This is a quality win but it was by the skin of his teeth. One judge scores one round differently and Judah loses the fight.
Finally, he beat Kaizer Mabuza, a South African with an unimpressive resume.
Not all 5-0 streaks are equal and Judah's really isn't very impressive.
The real reason that Golden Boy chose Judah for Khan has to do with styles. There are two ways to beat Khan—have one punch KO power and land that punch or turn the fight into a brawl. When and if Khan faces Tim Bradley, Bradley will give Khan all he can handle because, let's face it, Bradley turns every fight into an ugly brawl.
Zab Judah, though, doesn't bring power to the ring nor is he the type to create an ugly fight like Bradley. When Judah does get a KO, it is through an accumulation of punches, not because of innate power.
Judah's calling card has always been his hand speed. Even at 33, he's quicker than most of the men he faces and he uses that speed to his advantage. Unfortunately for Judah, like the gunmen of the Wild West, he's about to learn that there is always someone faster. You have to neutralize Khan's speed and Judah, as quick as he is, isn't going to be able to do it by fighting speed with speed.
Even if Judah changes tactics, he won't win. Khan survived a brawl with Maidana last December and there is simply no comparison between Maidana and Judah when it comes to slugging it out.
Judah doesn't have the power to take Khan out with one punch, he won't turn the fight into an ugly brawl and he's not faster than Khan. It's a nice paycheck for Zab and a decent showing will give him chances for more paychecks in the future but he is going to walk out of Mandalay Bay with another loss to go along with the money. And that's exactly why Golden Boy and Khan picked him.