Amir Khan Comes of Age in Sin City

Ever since he turned professional, Amir Khan has had to put up with a lot of criticism. Whatever happens from here on in, his performance against Marcos Maidana has answered every question asked of him and then some.
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Ever since he turned professional, Amir Khan has had to put up with a lot of criticism. Whatever happens from here on in, his performance against Marcos Maidana has answered every question asked of him and then some.

Since my old man allowed me to stay up to listen to Bruno v Tyson mk1 I've been hooked on boxing. I know it is barbaric, brutal on the fighters and possibly fatal. But I can't keep away from it. I've zero interest in MMA, Thai Boxing or Gypsy Bare Knuckle, but from the sepia tinged memories of Jack Johnson through the GOAT and on to Nas, Hatton, Manny and Floyd I'm obsessed with the hardest game.

I've watched every Amir Kahn fight since he turned professional. I've seen him look tasty, tired, clueless and wild. I've watched him out-box opponents without breaking sweat and I've seen him banged out and apparently finished. But never in a million years did I think I would see the type of performance he put on to retain his WBA light-welterweight belt in Las Vegas last night.

Although it has been correct in the past to ask serious questions about Khan's chin, I've often been baffled by the morons who say Khan is a flash harry lacking bravery and heart. Never again can these questions be raised. For anyone who watched it, the Khan v Maidana fight will be remembered as a modern classic.

Maidana is a double-hard Argentine with a head made of iron. The diametric opposite of Khan in that he moves in straight lines, mostly forward, and throws punches from the waist, you get the impression he trained by headbutting bulls in Santa Fe.

This fight was a gladiatorial as boxing gets. There cannot be many other boxers currently active who would have risen from the canvas after being felled by the pair of violent body shots dished out by Khan in the first. Maidana did, and he also recovered from being outclassed by the speed and accuracy of Khan to almost turn it around in the second half of the fight.

Boxing’s new superstar won the hearts and minds of millions of people in bedrooms and boardrooms the world over.

They hit each other with everything. It's hard to gauge the power of Khan's head shots because A) He throws them so fast and B) Maidana is a lump of bone and gristle. Khan was out on his feet twice last night. As close to being unconscious without dropping, how he managed to hang on in the 10th when he was bludgeoned with 20 sickening headshots is beyond me.

Maidana fought a very good fight. He took Khan's body away at times and forced Khan onto the ropes. Khan is tall, rangy, with long arms and he couldn't effectively cover up to avoid the violent uppercuts from the challenger.

But he hung on. He danced for as long as he could, fired off rapid combinations to stem the hell being delivered in front of him and showed the desire of a champion. There’s a theory that Khan wanted to win in this fashion. That he wanted to take a few on the chin and continue to dance. That he felt the need to both wow the yanks, encourage HBO to make him their marquee fighter and ram the taunts of critics down their throats. He did all of this and more, but I can’t believe that anyone would request the amount of punishment that Khan absorbed last night. Essentially, he fought the hardest punching and highest ranked contender in his division and beat him. Don’t be surprised if he moves up a weight class in pursuit of another belt.

A lot of credit here has to go to Freddie Roach and Alex Azira. One of the first things they did was to take weight off Khan's chest and put it on his thighs, raising the possibility that his chin was never the problem in the first place. He has obviously benefited from sparring with Pacquiao and can rightly claim to be the fittest boxer on the planet. A trainer can only do so much though, and Khan deserves every plaudit thrown his way for his refusal to be cowed.

On a night that had started with Kell Brook and James De Gale advancing their own claims to join Khan in Sin City, Boxing’s new superstar won the hearts and minds of millions of people in bedrooms and boardrooms the world over.

That he did it by showing he has the grit and gumption to complement his frightening hand speed and moonwalking feet makes it even more special.

Bring on Floyd Mayweather.

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