The Pugilist

How Amir Khan breathed fresh life into his stalling career

The Pugilist

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What a difference 45 minutes can make.

To say that Amir Khan’s boxing career was not exactly going the way he would have liked over the last two years would be an understatement.

Okay, dodgy scoring and a failed drug test made his world title defeat to Lamont Peterson rather dubious. But it was nonetheless a setback which kicked off a very testing period for the British boxer.

Danny Garcia KOd Khan in his next bout, which led to Amir firing trainer Freddie Roach and hiring Virgil Hunter instead. Almost a year and two more fights after that, there weren’t any actual signs that the change of cornerman was leading to any change in Khan’s performances.

Then, since the ropey win over Julio Diaz in Sheffield, Khan went a year without a fight.

There could have been one in the winter: Devon Alexander was lined up. Khan voluntarily abandoned those plans when Floyd Mayweather’s camp suggested he should keep his schedule clear for a big-money meeting – before Floyd opted late on to battle Marcos Maidana instead.

All of the above, as you can imagine, did nothing to quell the criticism Khan has endured since the early days of his professional career.

Criticism for running his mouth too often – which while irritating is commonplace in this sport. Criticism for being heralded by media and promoters alike from day one – less understandable, considering how the media and promoters ultimately have to respond to demand, which like the vitriol comes from the fanbase. Unfortunately and least understandable of all, he also endures criticism for having the ‘nerve’ to be British-Pakistani.

Of course, the one surefire way to silence that is to do the business between the ropes. Even Khan would surely admit that in the 24 months leading up to May 3, 2014, he simply wasn’t doing that.

But on the evidence of his performance in defeating Luis Collazo in Las Vegas on a card he expected months beforehand to be headlining, he is finally reacting to the negativity the right way.


Against a strong and dangerous opponent, Khan resisted his trademark urge to dive in carelessly. His work was assured and well-rounded. As Sunday’s post-fight analysis pointed out, trainer Hunter didn’t have to bark at his charge as often as in the Carlos Molina and Diaz fights.

When Mayweather was made to work harder than he has in years by Maidana – who a prime Amir beat in a thriller in 2010 – it gave Khan the opportunity to bounce back from being a castrated Floyd lapdog to staking a serious case for a crack at ‘Money’ by following up his own win with determined words in his press conference. [WATCH THAT HERE]

So, finally, we have a positive reaction to adversity from Amir Khan at the top level. That begs further questions: Can he keep it going? Who should he fight next? And, could he seriously be the one to crack the ‘Mayweather code’?

It looks as though Mayweather-Maidana II may be forthcoming in September, at which point Khan would be observing Ramadan. It’s not inconceivable that Amir could take on a top opponent in the winter before finally sealing the deal to take on Floyd in exactly a year’s time.

We looked at possible top-level Khan foes after he missed out on Mayweather in the below video. And since none of the five we suggested were Luis Collazo, all of them remain viable bouts to bridge Khan between now and the big one:

Khan’s shift up to welterweight is off to a promising start, though time will tell whether he can become a two-weight world champion. It’s actually a bit of a shame that, of the five boxers highlighted on the video, Broner is going in the opposite direction and looking to assert himself as a light-welter. He was the scalp which earned Maidana the crack at Mayweather, and I doubt Khan would have much trouble with the insipid ‘Problem’.

Regardless of who, though, it’s important that Khan does fight another serious opponent before he is to potentially challenge Mayweather. The Collazo fight was a great start to his long-overdue revival – but the hard work isn’t quite over yet.

If he can knock off the winner of Shawn Porter and Kell Brook or even gain revenge against Peterson or Garcia, then he like Maidana will have the case he needs to go for the biggest scalp of all.

Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe

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