Khan: Fighting in the U.S will make me a bigger name
By Mark Eisner: Amir Khan sees his fight against WBO welterweight champion as a move that will pay off for him in folds with him becoming a bigger name world wide if/when he beats him. Khan (33-4, 20 KOs) believes that the key to him becoming a star in boxing is to be seen fighting in the United States rather than in the UK against the likes of Kell Brook.
Khan, 32, has been mostly fighting in the United States for the last nine years since stopping Paulie Malignaggi in the 11th round in 2010 in May 2010 at Madison Square Garden in New York. Since that fight, Khan has fought 9 out of his last 13 fights in the U.S. Khan’s promoter Eddie Hearn, who he signed with last year, has had him fighting in England in his last two fights against Phil Lo Greco and Samuel Vargas. Hearn sees things differently than Khan. He’s seemingly more interested in taking advantage of Khan drawing crowds in England rather than having him fight in the U.S. However, Khan is the decider, and he’s chosen to take his next fight against Crawford in the U.S rather than against British fighter Kell Brook, who Hearn wanted Khan to fight next in the UK in a stadium. This isn’t a move that Hearn would be making for Khan if he was the one that was in charge of who he faces next. Hearn would have scheduled Khan to fight Brook, and then likely put them back in with each other for an immediate rematch.
“It makes you a bigger name fighting in the States. I got a lot more fans by fighting in the U.S. The whole world watches fights in the U.S. U.S. TV is seen in a lot of countries all over the world and when I’m in different countries people come up to me because they have seen me fighting,” Khan said to ESPN.com.
Khan could have made more money fighting Brook, 33, in the UK, but he wants to shock the world by taking on and beating the #2 rated pound-for-pound star Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs) on April 20 on ESPN pay-per-view in a Top Rank Boxing card at Madison Square Garden in New York. To be sure, Khan could definitely make a big name in the United States if he beats Crawford. Of course, Khan would likely make a bigger name if he’d fought IBF welterweight champion Errol Spence Jr. on DAZN, as that fight wouldn’t be on pay-per-view, and it would arguably against a more popular fighter. The money that Khan was offered by Top Rank to fight Crawford was too good for him to pass up.
The problem that has prevented Khan from becoming a big star in his nine years of fighting in the U.S is the fact that he rarely looks good, and he’s lost there on three occasions in defeats against Lamont Peterson , Danny Garcia  and Saul Canelo Alvarez . Khan’s best win in the U.S came against Marcos Maidana in December 2010 in winning a 12 round unanimous decision in a fight that some boxing fans felt officiated in an odd way by referee Joe Cortez. The fight didn’t win Khan very many fans in the U.S, because he didn’t finish strong. It was Maidana came out of the contest with more boxing fans.
What could keep Khan from being a big name from defeating Crawford is the fact the fight is being shown on ESPN PPV. A lot of the U.S boxing fans aren’t going to want to pay to see this fight, because it’s not viewed as a pay-per-view worthy match to the fans. As such, the fight won’t be seen by a legion of the fans in America. As the saying goes, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ Even if Khan beats Crawford, a lot of the U.S fans will have missed the fight, and wont’ care too much at hearing about the news results of the fight. It would have been a better move on Top Rank’s part to put the Khan vs. Crawford fight on regular ESPN so that the masses could see it. Even having that fight on the ESPN+ app would be a mistake, because it’s not big enough to lure fans to want to pay $4.99 to sign up to ESPN+ to see it. Khan is viewed as an over-the-hill fighter in the eyes of the hardcore boxing fans in the U.S. The casual fans in America have no idea who Khan or Crawford is, so they’re not going to bother ordering this fight on ESPN PPV. Crawford is mostly just popular in his home state of Nebraska. He would be a bigger name if Top Rank had matched him against the biggest names at 135, 140 and 147 since he turned pro, but they’ve failed to do that. The best name on Crawford’s resume is a shot Yuriorkis Gamboa, who was fighting two divisions out of his best weight class of featherweight when he fought Craword in 2014. Crawford’s popularity has suffered due to the careful match-making that’s done for him by Top Rank.
Khan is taking a big gamble in fighting Crawford instead of listening to his promoter Hearn and facing Brook in the UK on Sky Box Office in a stadium in front of massive amounts of boxing fans. Most people see this fight going badly for Khan in dealing with the red-hot Crawford, who some fans believe is the best fighter in the welterweight division. Khan doesn’t see Crawford in that light. Khan feels that Crawford is a product of soft match-making by his clever promoters at Top Rank, who for some reason have never chosen to match him against the lions in any of the weight classes he’s fought at. Crawford never fought Miguel Berchelt, Vasiliy Lomachenko, Mikey Garcia, Regis Prograis, Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr., Shawn Porter, Danny Garcia, Manny Pacquiao, Josh Taylor, Jose Ramirez, Ivan Baranchyk, Maurice Hooker, and Kiryl Relikh. Khan sees Crawford’s soft resume of beatable opposition, and he feels he would have the identical 34-0 record if he had been matched against the same fighters. In looking at Crawford’s record, you have to give Top Rank credit for the way they’ve matched him. They’ve done a good job with their match-making for the Nebraska native. But whether Khan has enough talent to be the first guy to beat Crawford is open for debate. What Khan doesn’t realize is that Top Rank has picked him out in the same way they selected beatable guys like Julius Indongo, John Molina Jr., Dierry Jean and Hank Lundy for Crawford to beat. Khan is clearly seen by Top Rank as someone Crawford can beat. Hence, this fight has been made. If Top Rank wanted to put Crawford in a fight where he wouldn’t be the favorite, they could have thrown a ton of money at Errol Spence Jr. to fight him. Crawford would then be the underdog instead of the favorite.
With Khan you don’t know what you’re going to get. He can either be great like he was against Luis Collazo and Paulie Malignaggi, or terrible like in his losses to Briedis Prescott, Saul Canelo Alvarez and Danny Garcia. The problem that Khan has is he’s not been fighting often in the last three years, and he’s not looked great against world class opposition since his win over Collazo five years ago in 2014. In boxing, five years is a lifetime ago. For Khan to get back to the level he was at in 2014 for the Crawford fight might be asking too much of him. Khan isn’t as fast as he once was back then, and his stamina has taken a huge hit. Khan tends to get tired after the first four rounds nowadays, and he’s beatable after that. If Khan fades against Crawford at the midpoint of their fight on April 20, he’s likely going to get stopped. Crawford isn’t a big puncher at 147, but he can land precise punches to stop mediocre fighters and/or tired guys like Khan will likely be after the first four rounds. Top Rank has matched Crawford softly in his two fights at welterweight in putting him in with Jose Benavidez Jr. and Jeff Horn. Those are lesser welterweights, and not the good fighters in the division. Crawford didn’t look great against either of them. He’s slower, weaker and more hittable at 147 than he was when he dominating over-matched guys like Felix Diaz, Indongo and Viktor Postol at 140.