THE PERCEPTION OF KHAN
By Tom Watt on Aug 11 2014
I myself, personally find the criticism of Khan’s lack of experience against top opposition to be somewhat disrespectful to a man that has never backed down from a fight – as Britain’s top prospect coming out of the Athens Olympics, Khan could have been forgiven for taking the easy route to success but instead went about establishing himself as one of Europe’s most exciting fighters, showcasing speed and power that was unmatched at that level. His first real test came against highly-rated Scotsman, Willie Limond (38 -4-0, 10 KO) who had only been beaten once in his 29 outings as a professional at that point. Khan won by a Technical Decision and his stock continued to rise as he took on all-comers including a 1st round TKO of former WBO lightweight contender, Graham Earl (26-5-0, 12 KO).
Khan’s upward trajectory took its first knock soon after however against big-hitting, Breidis Prescott (27-5-0, 20 KO). Khan was rocked to his core by a huge early shot from the American and was left dazed on the canvas. It was a huge shock for ’King’ Khan and his supporters and, for the first time in his career, questions were raised over his chin and his elite-level status. – Questions that have failed to dissipate in the subsequent 5 years, especially following back to back losses against Lamont Peterson (32-2-1, 16 KO) and Danny Garcia (28-0-0, 16KO).
In between losses though Khan dusted himself off and continued to look for the big fights and before his controversial bout with Peterson in Washington, Khan went on a streak that included wins against Marco Antonio Barrera (67-7-0, 44 KO), Pauli Malignaggi (33-6-0, 7 KO) and Marcos Maidana (35-4-0, 31 KO). All of these fighters have been World Champions and Khan dispatched of them all, other than a late rally from the heavy-hitting Argentine, Maidana, Khan got through these fights with relative ease.
Those previously mentioned recent losses have been dragged up time and time again by fighters and pundits alike that have claimed Khan isn’t the challenger he once looked capable of being. However, when we break those 2 fights down, what we have is one of the most controversial fights in recent history (vs Lamont Peterson) and a flash KO to one of the best fighters of this generation in Danny Garcia.
The Peterson fight in particular is one that should not count against Khan, he won the fight convincingly in my opinion, flooring Peterson in round 1 and continuing to dominate the exchanges. Later in the fight Khan was on the receiving end of 2 questionable point deductions for pushing from local referee Joseph Cooper (Who has not officiated a fight at this level since). Although Peterson finished the fight strong it looked as if Khan had done enough, however the local judges were not on his side and the win went to Peterson despite disapproval from the majority of the boxing fraternity. Due to the controversy a rematch was ordered but Peterson was subsequently found guilty of using PEDs and as a result, the loss for Khan was never avenged.
The Garcia loss as well was not without its positives for ‘King’ Khan, he dominated the opening rounds against a fighter that nobody doubts is World Class, it was only a looping right that caught the British fighter as clean as a whistle and slowed him down. Khan continued to come forward but his legs had given in and the fight was called. Khan had lost, but he had simultaneously proven that he has the talent and natural ability to mix it with the likes of Garcia. – Or so the British audiences saw it, America has not been quite as kind in its review of Khan throughout his career.
Since those losses Khan has quietly gone about redeveloping his career inside and outside the ring, Man-handling Carlos Molina (17-2-0, 7KO) and fighting back to outclass Julio Diaz (40-10-1, 29KO) despite being dropped in the 4th round. All of this under the tutelage of his new trainer, Virgil Hunter.
Following those convincing victories the question of Floyd Mayweather’s next opponent was raised – Khan was in the running against his former victim, Marcos Maidana (35-4-0, 31KO) and, in his eternal PR wisdom, Mayweather chose to let the fans decide on his opponent through an online poll on his website. Khan won the official vote by a landslide but was overlooked in favour of the fighter he had beaten back in 2012. Since then he has been a man on a mission to secure that big-money fight against the best fighter on the planet.
He has upped his television exposure in the US and has pulled no punches when explaining why he deserves his time in the spotlight. And I have to say that it is a hard job to disagree with him – Floyd is all about making his money, Khan can bring the world-famous British fan-base anywhere in the world and sell-out. Floyd claims he doesn’t deserve the fight given his recent opponents - Although Khan has beaten Mayweather’s previous/next opponent convincingly 2 years ago and, other than the Argentine’s shock win against Adrien Broner (28-1-0, 22 KO) Maidana has not exactly been knocking out top-10 contenders of late. (Even if you don’t agree that Khan has, it does take away from Floyd’s argument somewhat)
So is there another issue? Well the obvious point to make is that Khan doesn’t fit into the mould of fighters that Mayweather has traditionally chosen to fight in his later years – fighters like Maidana, Geurrero and Ortiz who will plod forward continuously, allowing Mayweather to settle into his groove and pick them off on the counter. Khan on the other hand is fast, as fast as anyone Mayweather will have faced in his career and probably the fastest man in the division at present. With Floyd not being as convincing against Maidana as he often is, is there the question mark that age is catching up with ‘Money’ and if so, would fighting someone as fast as Khan be the right way to go for a man conserving his legacy? Khan also looked very strong at his new Welterweight limit and against Collazo (a fighter many expected to be too powerful and experienced for the Brit) Khan was able to out jab and bully the Peurto-Rican former World Champion – That night, Khan’s fast, heavy hands perhaps stole the show at the MGM on Maidana’s big night. Yet he still waits on the side-lines for that call-up to the big leagues.
When looked at in the cold light of day, it is hard to see why Khan wouldn’t get his shot at the big-time - unlike most highly-repped fighters out there, he has never been afraid of taking the bigger fights in order to preserve his legacy, definitely a criticism that could be laid at the feet of many of today’s greats including Mayweather (in his latter years), Danny Garcia and even long-time Heavyweight champion, Klitschko. On the flip-side, Khan’s CV includes wins against highly rated opponents such as; Marcos Maidana, Pauli Malignaggi, Zab Judah, Carlos Molina and most recently Luis Collazo – I would challenge any boxing fan to argue that he has not fought top-level opponents.
So that brings us to the here and now, where does Khan go from here? Mayweather has announced his rematch in September with Marcos Maidana and Manny Pacquiao (Khan’s former Wild Card Gym stable-mate) has announced his next opponent will be former Kickboxer, Chris Algieri (20-0-0, 8 KO) who is fresh off a shock victory against Ruslan Provodnikov (23-3-0, 17 KO). Not taking anything away from either fighter but neither Provodnikov or Algieri have beaten anyone worthy of a claim to be in-line for a fight with Boxing’s second brightest PPV star, Manny Pacquiao.
This has left Khan somewhat in limbo – a super-fight with Mayweather may be round the corner in May next year after Mayweather announced that there will be something special to look forward to. Speculation of a Khan-Mayweather fight at the 80,000 seater Wembley Stadium has been rife although many critics are expecting the Mega-Fight between Pacquiao and Mayweather to finally happen. Either way, he needs a big fight to keep himself relevant in America where people are just waiting for an opportunity to write him off but doesn’t want to take so much of a risk that he could jeopardise his career-defining fight with Floyd.
The next steps for Khan are unclear, but what is clear that once he gets to the top he will not want to let go. Should he get his shot at the P4P King it will not be through luck or a shock win against an out-of-sorts opponent, it will be through his own hard work and dedication.
1. FLOYD MAYWEATHER JR.
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