Fight fans were given an unexpected surprise when Amir Khan announced his next opponent as WBC Middleweight Champion, Saúl Álvarez. After months of domestic pressure to face IBF Welterweight Champion Kell Brook, Khan has pulled off a great coup securing a contest with the much-respected Mexican. Yet, he still faces a period of heavy criticism and a lack of respect instead of the support he deserves.
British boxing fans that dip in and out of the sport are hypocrites. They chastised Audley Harrison for being too cautious but denounce Khan because he gets caught now and again. He’s a warrior. One that goes into fights without any fear. They point out his “glass chin” by mentioning the Breidis Prescott fight from 2008.
Really? That was nearly eight years ago. Since then he’s been in wars and stood tall after taking far more telling blows. Anyone that doubts this – more likely missed it altogether, while playing the role of fair-weather fan – should remember his historic battle with Marcos Maidana.
He took more punishment there than a boxer with a classic Achilles heel of a glass jaw could and survived for an impressive points victory. This is the same Maidana that fought Mayweather twice, the rematch coming after he caused such a stir in the first. When people were asked how could a boxer that failed against Khan fare so well against the best, they said the Argentine had grown as a fighter. This same consideration is never given to Khan.
He’s built harder and stronger than the young pro that was knocked out by Prescott in 2008. Over the years his neck muscles have strengthened so knockouts are no longer a given. That’s not to say he can’t go down but only Danny García has secured victory in that fashion since (four years after the Manchester knockout). Going up a weight does place him in danger of killer blows at a power he’s potentially not faced.
The biggest danger is losing his hand speed – his greatest gift and obvious advantage.
It is a risk worth taking, the big fight opportunities were dwindling. He was right to demand more money from a potential Kell Brook fight. Brook doesn’t have a long line of impressive names on his record and lacks drawing power across the pond. His most famous story is getting stabbed in the leg when holidaying in Tenerife. He’s just a cog in Eddie Hearn’s self-serving evil empire.
Brook’s never been on Mayweather’s radar like Khan, and with good reason.
Khan was a potential opponent for a fight with the greatest boxer of his generation on merit. And unlike most of Floyd’s challengers who are there for the payday, Khan wanted the fight for boxing purposes. He’s always playing high-stake poker with his career and legacy, this latest fight with “Canelo” an example.
While most fighters are carefully plotting a safe route to a decent legacy, Khan keeps rolling the dice, willing to take on any of the big names. A win here will see him get a fight with Manny Pacquiao, the consolation prize after missing out on Mayweather.
The British press and its fight fans would have you believe he was never good enough for the major Vegas showdown with Mayweather or somebody close to that stature. The truth is, Mayweather will have seen Khan as an unnecessary risk.
Khan is a volatile warrior that makes up for momentary blips regarding in-ring intelligence with brave assaults on his foe.
His critics will continue to mention Prescott and ignore how impressive he looked against Luis Collazo. The same people that blame the referee for costing Ricky Hatton during his showdown with Floyd Mayweather, never mention Khan’s treatment before, during and after the Lamont Peterson debacle. They will start to peddle Brook’s theory that Khan has taken an option with built-in excuses.
Amir goes into the fight as an underdog. This is a reasonable assessment. But the most underrated boxer in recent memory – and possibly most undervalued British fighter of all time – has a chance to undo years of misrepresentation by overcoming the odds and defeating the Mexican.
If he does, people will have to refrain from making excuses to dislike him and accept the reasons that make him a world class boxer.