Khan looks to add name to list of British champions in Vegas

AMIR KHAN is relishing his return to “the Mecca of boxing” when he takes on wily American veteran Zab Judah in Las Vegas on Saturday night.

Lennox Lewis, Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe have all thrilled the masses in Sin City over the past decade and WBA light-welterweight champion Khan will look to add another chapter to that British lineage on the famous strip against 33-year-old IBF ruler Judah.

The Mandalay Bay Resort plays host to the unification match-up, the scene of Lewis’ comprehensive knockout of Hasim Rahman in 2001 and Khan’s own thrilling points triumph against Argentina’s Marcos Maidana last December.

“Vegas is the Mecca of boxing nowadays,” he said. “The biggest fights are over there and the Mandalay Bay has seen some big, big fights. It’s the second time I’m going there and I’m only 24. Not many fighters have ever done that at this age. Normally fighters head there towards the end of their careers.

“I love fighting away from home because I’m not one to feel like the outsider. It’s going to bring out the best in me.”

Khan will hope for a more routine outing against two-weight world champion Judah than he experienced over 12 brutal rounds with Maidana.

Flooring his man with a vicious first-round body shot and pocketing many rounds after that, Maidana had the Bolton man virtually out on his feet in round ten.

However, Khan weathered the storm to earn a narrow but unanimous points verdict thus allowing him bask in the plaudits of luminaries such as Oscar de la Hoya, who branded the contest “the fight of the decade”.

Khan’s capacity to withstand Maidana’s late onslaught – quite at odds with his first-round capitulation to Colombian Breidis Prescott in Manchester two years earlier – was widely credited to the work of strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza.

It therefore surprised many when Ariza was not present alongside trainer Freddie Roach for Khan’s bout against European Champion Paul McCloskey in April, his place taken by fellow American Michael Vale.

Stories of contractual wrangling were widespread at the time, but with Ariza back on board for the showdown with Judah, Khan insists all differences have been resolved and claims the main issue was the division of the coach’s time between himself and Roach’s star pupil Manny Pacquiao.

“We know how good Alex is,” he said. “We parted when I had the fight against McCloskey because at the same time he had Manny Pacquiao before his fight with Shane Mosley.

“I didn’t really want to step on toes. I knew he’d got Manny and would be rushing so I thought I’d bring someone else into the team. We sat down afterwards and planned the year to make sure that me and Manny Pacquiao get 100 percent of Alex’s time. We’re happy with everything. We’ve put all that other stuff behind us.

“He knows I’m one of the hardest-working fighters out there and I know he’s one of the best trainers out there. We make a good team.”

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