Everyone wants a shot at the king. Amir Khan really, really wants a shot at the king. The argument against him facing off with Floyd Mayweather was always to point out that he didn’t really earn the shot, unless pounding on a helpless Zab Judah or defeating Manny Pacquiao Fan Club President Paulie Malignaggi counted as a prerequisite.
Khan was lined up to face Devon Alexander last winter when he bailed on the fight, ostensibly to await an impending showdown with Mayweather. It was more likely because Khan knew the fight would be extremely difficult and a loss would effectively kill a future fight with the champ. So what happened? Floyd dangled Khan as a possible opponent before settling on the guy who made everyone happy by beating the shit out of Adrien Broner.
Khan was furious. He had beaten Marcos Maidana in 2011, so it made no sense to him that Floyd would select “Chino” as his PPV dance partner. Of course, Floyd does whatever the hell he wants, and Maidana was the hot ticket at the time. The British fighter moved on and finally entered a ring again, easily spanking whatever is left of Luis Collazo this past May, and once again, he tolled the bell for Mayweather.
Only this time, he’s doing it the right way–he’s trying to fight his way into the Mayweather Sweepstakes. But here’s the thing with Khan–not only does he have to win, he’s got to look damn good doing it. That’s not to say he’ll be a lock for a Mayweather showdown even if he does look impressive, but it’s absolutely imperative that he puts on a performance that compels the undefeated pound-for-pound king to join him in the ring.
Luckily for Khan, he’s got plenty of tools at his disposal–good power, ridiculous hand speed and a tendency to get hit. While the latter might not be a tool you’d necessarily clamor for when building an elite fighter, it does allow for exciting fights.
Devon Alexander has not been tagged with an “exciting fighter” label. In fact, his twitter account has been considerably more exciting than his fights. He’s a fine craftsman, a southpaw slickster who uses movement and speed to befuddle opponents. But he’s got a knockout percentage locked in at 50 percent, and he’s only got one stoppage win since his gorgeous decking of Juan Urango nearly five years ago.
He scored a nice victory over Jesus Soto Karass in June, six months after losing to Shawn “Huggy Bear” Porter. And while the Soto Karass fight went the distance, Alexander fired shots with a renewed vigor that has been absent from his game for awhile. Hopefully, it wasn’t a one-off effort. If he comes in firing hard shots against Khan, we could be in for a hell of a fight.
Khan needs to bank on it. While he’s been in some fun bouts, they’re usually fun for the wrong reasons–because they either end with Khan being corkscrewed into the canvas, or barely clinging to life as he’s being blasted from pillar to post.
Of course, he’s been trying to live down this little ditty for over six years. The point? He’s vulnerable. Fair or not, he’s been stuck with the dreaded “chinny” label for awhile, though to me, it’s more about him throwing punches blindly while leaving himself totally exposed than having an iffy chin.
His response to the defensive issues was to pair up with trainer Virgil Hunter, though the results are still up in the air at the moment. We’ll get a better idea of where he’s at on Saturday. But Khan is a guy who naturally wants to get in there and fire away, so Hunter’s methods seem counterintuitive to Khan’s style. Khan probably won’t be able to get away with a 12-round decision, unless he puts on an absolute boxing clinic. He’ll need to look spectacular to get Mayweather’s attention.
The fact is that Mayweather is in need of a boxer that the public deems worthy to be in a ring with him. He seems to have exhausted his options for fighters that would put up eye-popping PPV numbers, and the demand for Mayweather to fight Manny Pacquiao has reached a boiling point. The more Mayweather dodges the fight, the more people look away.
If he is to continue avoiding a Pacquiao bout, and it’s this writer’s contention that he will absolutely keep doing so, then he needs to satiate the public demand by getting into the ring with a challenging opponent. Fighting an Amir Khan who has been stopped multiple times and squeaked by Devon Alexander won’t cut it. But if Khan can pull off something dramatic, like say, go in there and destroy Alexander, he may have what Floyd is looking for.
At this point, the challenge is the key. Khan needs to present himself as a real, viable threat to Mayweather’s perfect record. To do that, he needs to be special on Saturday night. And really, is that too much to ask for a guy who has been brought up to be the next superstar since he was a teenager?
It won’t be easy. Alexander moves well and is hard to hit cleanly, and he’s more than willing to tie up if things aren’t going right. If Khan is to overcome that, he’s going to need to use his speed and combinations to overwhelm his man.
But again, he’s supposed to be the heir to the throne. He’s had some pretty serious bumps in the road, and it might be that he just won’t ever live up to the hype. But if he’s going to make a move, Saturday night is the time to bring his game to the elite level.
We’ll see whether or not he can actually do it.
Some Random Notes From Around The Boxing World:
Well that was a nice win for David Lemieux, who spent the majority of Saturday evening hacking Gabe Rosado’s face to bits. Still, I had to laugh at the HBO crew, who were so concerned with Lemieux’ stamina that it seemed like they expected him to spontaneously collapse into heat-stroke-induced convulsions right around the eighth round.
Rosado is all warrior. A very limited one, but a warrior nonetheless.
Steve Willis became my new favorite referee Saturday night. Between his weird, cha-cha moves around the ring and the peculiar grimace on his face everytime he so much as glanced at Rosado’s gross, enlarged eye socket, he stole the show. Nevermind that he stopped and restarted the fight 47 times, looked utterly confused as to where he was for the last three rounds, and had the ring doctor look at Rosado every 8 seconds. I’m excited to see his next performance.
James De La Rosa found out the hard way the difference between fighting a dead guy and fighting a live human being. Hugo Centeno gave him the Sergio Martinez treatment when he housed him with a gorgeous left hand. It was really nice of referee Pete Santiago to first try and catch De La Rosa on the way down, and then not even bother to count even though De La Rosa was attempting to get up. Still, when you are face planted the way he was, it is probably best that you don’t take anymore blows to the head for awhile.
Lemieux is a serious puncher, albeit with limitations. But hey, he’s not afraid of GGG, so let’s see them fight.
Andy Lee is going to be hell on earth for Matt Korobov. The guy can be outboxed, but he’s got the grit that only some other fighters have.
That Pascal vs. Bolonti fight was interesting huh? Either Pascal now punches like The Incredible Hulk, or Bolonti put on the finest acting performance since Deniro in The Deer Hunter. After Pascal punched him off the break, you’d have thought somebody sniped Bolonti from the rafters. He dropped like a brick and was motionless for some time. Good show, dude.
It appears as though Pascal will still get to fight Kovalev, which will end very badly for him. Still, it’s probably the best fight that can be made other than Kovalev vs. Adonis Stevenson.
Tim Bradley better damn well box, or Diego Chaves is going to hurt him. Bradley’s stones are too big for his own good. Can’t wait for this fight.
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