Amir Khan: Where does he go from here?
By Danni Rocket: Throughout the boxing world there are many fighters that for one reason or another never achieve their full potential. This can be due to any number of reasons: a thirst for money over glory, the lack of a fighters’ mentality, or problems with mental health. Over the next few weeks I am going to invite the readers to explore the history of some of these cases of wasted talent with me, and hopefully make some helpful suggestions to the fighters and their training team as how to get them back on track and moving forward.
In light of his recent negative media attention, I thought I would start this series off with a brief history of the boxing life of Amir ‘King’ Khan, a man I feel has the natural boxing ability to defeat anyone in the 147-pound division, with the possible exception of Errol Spence Jr, and yet has not lived up to this expectation since 2011. I will be focusing on his achievements, the mistakes he has made, and where he is to go from now to progress sagging career.
As the only British Boxer to qualify for the 2004 Athens Olympics, the pressure was on the 17-year-old Khan to perform, and he did so spectacularly. He progressed through the heats and bronze medal match with surprising ease, but more importantly from a professional point of view, he did so excitingly and with much charisma. Amir had become the nation’s sweetheart, and had an entirely new set of boxing fans glued to their televisions on the 29th of August for his men’s lightweight final. The fairy tale came to an end however at the hands of Cuban legend Mario Kindelan, famed for his two Olympic gold medals and amateur victories over the likes of Tito Trinidad, Miguel Cotto and now a young Amir Khan. It was not all gloom for Amir however, as he left Greece with a silver medal and an entire nation following his every move.
After a remaining in the unpaid ranks for another year in order to avenge his defeat to Kindelan, reducing his impressive amateur record to 358-22, he turned professional with the worlds eyes on him. After quickly racking up twelve victories against mostly underwhelming opposition he fought Willie Limond for his Commonwealth Lightweight Title. Khan made easy work of Limond and was already highlighting his world title ambitions to any and all interviewers. After several more domestic level fights, Khan made a jump up in class and put his WBO Intercontinental Title on the line in his nineteenth fight against Columbian banger Breidis Prescott. Khan was annihilated inside one round, getting dropped hard twice and forcing a stoppage out of the referee.
Khan blamed his clearly shaky chin on fighting at lightweight and being drained, and this was to become a running excuse throughout his career. He also changed trainer, joining the stable of the world-renowned Freddie Roach. Khan fought twice more at lightweight, including a five-round blood fest against the already faded Marco Antonio Barrera, which ended in a Technical Decision after going to the judges’ score cards due to a cut on the Mexican from a clash of heads. From here Khan moved up to Light Welterweight to fight for the WBA title against another Mario Kindelan victim, Andreas Kotelnik. Khan easily dominated the Ukrainian over twelve rounds to claim his first world title, and all looked rosy for the 22-year-old Brit. Over the next two years Khan made five defences of his new crown, stopping Paulie Malignaggi, engaging in a fight of the year against Marcos Maidana, and unify in the WBA and IBF belts against ‘Super’ Zab Judah. He also switched promoters before the Malignaggi fight, leaving Frank Warren in favor of former 6 division champion Oscar De La Hoyas’ promotional company, Golden Boy Promotions.
On the 15th of December 2011 Amir ‘King’ Khan faced Lamont Peterson on his home turf in Washington DC. This was to prove a mistake for the Bolton native, as the fight became one of the most controversial bouts in recent times. To list just a few of the factors working against Khan; there was the knockdown that was ruled a slip, there was constantly interfering referee, there was the judges (who seemed either swayed by the pro Peterson crowd, or maybe even corrupt – a member of the IBF was clearly interfering with the cards, before celebrating with Team Peterson), there was the extraordinary decision of the referee to dock Amir two points (one for pushing!), and to top it all off, Peterson was later found to have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs. Never the less, the second loss on Khan’s record stands, although the WBA did reinstate him as their champion shortly after the drug test results were reported.
Khan moved on, looking to re-unify the division against up and coming WBC champion Danny Garcia. Amir stated in the build-up to the fight that he hoped to secure a lucrative showdown with Floyd ‘Money’ Mayweather after defeating Garcia. Khan was heavily favored to win in impressive style. Danny Garcia, however, had other plans. After three good rounds for the Brit, all appear to be going according to the script. His hand speed and accuracy was proving to much for the Puerto Rican/American to handle, and he was dominating the fight. However, as the third round came to a close, Garcia, taking advantage or a defensive error from Khan, landed a left hook that hit Amir on the neck and below the ear, causing the Bolton man to go down hard. He managed to make it to his feet and out the round, but two more knockdowns in the fourth-round forced Kenny Bayless to call and end to the action, and pile on fresh doubt over Khan’s ability to take a hard shot.
Again, Khan claimed he was weight drained and made the decision to move up to welterweight. And again, Khan blamed his trainer for his ropey defence, and swiftly ditched Roach for the defensively minded coach of Andre Ward, Virgil Hunter. Khan fought under Hunter’s tutelage against little known Carlos Molina (not the light middleweight former champion), dominating him, and stopping him in 10 rounds. He then struggled badly in claiming a decision in his home coming bout against Julio Diaz, a past his best former Lightweight Champion, who dropped Khan with another left hook in the fourth round. He then returned after over a year out to some of his former shine in his next two bouts against Luis Collazo and Devon Alexander, barely losing a round in either fight, before a surprisingly competitive fight against former champ, Chris Algieri. Things seemed to be going well for Khan as he had managed to navigate his way to the top of the WBC rankings, making him mandatory challenger to the title soon to be held by Danny Garcia.
Another year past with no fight for Khan. He seemed more interested in the big paydays, chasing Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, rather than trying to reclaim world honors. He eventually took a ridiculous fight against the huge middleweight, Saul Canelo Alvarez at a catch weight of 155 pounds. Khan fought superbly for the first 4 rounds, clearly dominating the 180-pound Mexican, despite what the judges’ score cards said. However, by the fifth round the body shots of the Mexican had started taking their toll on the Brit and his movement around the ring began to slow. The sixth began, and the shot all had been expecting landed flush on Khan’s jaw; an overhand right from the big hitting Alvarez. In a Knockout of the year shoe in, Khan slammed against the canvas and stared into the lights, wide eyed and clearly in big trouble. His opponent slumped to his knees in obvious distress at what he had done to a man 22 pounds lighter than himself.
And that brings us up to today. Over a year on and again, still no fight for Khan. The big question Khan should be asking himself is this: do I now fight for money or recognition?
I truly believe that on his day, and without any of his notorious slip ups (trying to stop a shot with two hands out stretched springs to mind) Amir Khan has the potential to beat any welterweight in the world. As a natural boxer, he is almost unmatched. Yes, he has a massively suspect chin, however he has the hand speed and range to keep his opponents from landing any telling shots (the first 9 rounds against Marcos Maidana is a good example), and although his power is not explosive, it is sufficient to stop fighters walking him down. His ring movement is sensational, as is his fitness, and with Hunter training him, he has developed a much safer, though far more boring style of hit and hold. If Khan wishes to become champion again, the route I would suggest would be as follows: a tune up bout in November (to give him sufficient time post Ramadan to train) against a fighter like Thomas Dulorme or Frankie Gavin. Then in March time 2018, look for a fight against WBA (regular) Champion, and previous conqueror, Lamont Peterson. Then look for a showdown in the summer against the WBO Champion at the time, possibly the winner of Jeff Horn vs. Manny Pacquiao rematch.
If he wants to fight for cash, the initial two fights would be the same, but look at getting a summer showdown against fellow Brit and former Champion Kell Brook in a stadium fight in the summer, held in Wembley Stadium. Providing this fight is promoted properly, it could provide Amir with the sort of Cash-Out fight that he has unfortunately been searching for in recent years.
What does the reader think? Do you think Khan in over or under rated? And what steps could he take to pose a true threat to the best Welterweights in the world? I look forward to reading your comments.