Amir Khan takes on Jab Zudah in Vegas in the early hours of Sunday, should he get past him then all roads lead to Floyd Mayweather, but not before taking out a legend and an upstart...
Amir Khan gets a lot of criticism. They say he’s chinny, that he lacks class, is too cocky and has a standing in the game that belies his talent and experience. Whatever parts of those accusations you consider apocryphal or gospel, there are no grey areas surrounding the cast-iron fact that, following David Haye’s capitulation against Waldimir Klitschko, the weight of British Boxing at World level – Froch and Cleverley notwithstanding - has again settled on the broad shoulders of the man who calls himself King.
Not that Khan feels it. In a relatively unprecedented move for this era of the hardest game, Khan yesterday announced a plan that ends with him fighting Floyd Mayweather to become the pre-eminent fighter at welterweight and the biggest draw in boxing. That sentence alone is grandstanding of the highest order, Mayweather is considered the finest pound-for-pound fighter of his generation and has a defence so tight that even a Murdoch Hack couldn’t crack. But, as with everything Freddie Roach does (and Murdoch for that matter, though I’m not comparing the two), the Devil, and genius, is in the detail.
Zab Judah, Erik Morales and Kell Brook don’t, as three names chosen at random, seem a plan designed to beat Floyd. But look again. Weld the possibilities of the three fights together, hypothetically solder what victories in each of them would do to the reputation, confidence, skill level and heart of Khan and you can see a plan emerging. None of Judah, Morales and Brook boast the individual talents of Mayweather – who does – but psychologically and physically, if you break down the little pieces of each fight, then it quickly becomes apparent that they could prove to be more than the sum of their parts in his quest for glory.
Let’s start with Judah. As the last fighter to really - three rounds of De La Hoya apart - take it Floyd in 2006, Judah is a dangerous opponent for Khan. Khan cold have jumped straight to welterweight once he was ducked by Bradley and he should be commended for taking on the IBF holder. He’s had dips in his career, but with a style somewhere between a young Roy Jones Jr and a good Prince Naseem Hamed, he has been dodged more times than a toeless Hayemaker and is a five-time World Champion between junior and super-welterweight, including a spell as undisputed Welterweight Champion of the World. Yes, he’s been beaten, six times to be exact, but all of those losses have been in world title fights and have been against very good fighters, men like Mayweather, Miguel Cotto, Carlos Baldomir and Cory Spinks. Judah might be 33, but beating a fighter with such an awkward style will be a vital first step towards a match-up with Mayweather.
I see nothing but a good old-fashioned tear-up for the ages. Lancashire v Yorkshire, speed v speed, two cocky pretty-boys who will undoubtedly talk smack and aim to destroy each other when it comes to the crunch
Then there is Morales, El Terrible, one of the finest fighters I’ve had the privilege to watch and a man who has just restored his reputation with a points loss to the hard punching Marcos Maidana. Morales is, of course, the last man to beat Manny Pacquiao and is most remembered for his trilogy of fights with both Pac Man and Marco Antonio Barrera. At 34, Morales is clearly past his indomitable best and has just signed to fight Manchester’s Anthony ‘Million Dolla’ Crolla, so it would seem the strangest choice of the three, and will certainly not happen if Crolla wins. Yet there are plus points here. After his first retirement, Morales has bulked up to welterweight and will sit easy at that weight. He showed with his fearsome body punching against Willie Limond that he still has plenty of tools to make it difficult for Khan. He’s won five world titles in three weight classes, didn’t taste defeat until his 42nd pro bout and is rightly considered a legend. And there is the rub. Khan willl want to end that legend once and for all. Take him to pieces, show he has the power to back up the hand speed and add another vital notch to his psychological bed post.
Next up Kell Brook. I wrote about Brook after his recent victory over Lovemore N’Dou. He’s a fighter I’ve watched a lot since he turned professional and at 24-0 is now ranked 9th in the Ring Magazine Welterweight rankings. Brook is no Mayweather, but alongside being a typical Brendan Ingle fighter who can switch-hit effortlessly and moves beautifully, he showed against the Ghanaian that he can take a punch, box to a plan and has a Murdoch repelling defence of his own. Not that I think this would mean anything against Khan. Brook could, in all possibility hold a lesser world strap by the beginning of next year and will be the best domestic, and a credible world, challenger for Khan. I see nothing but a good old-fashioned tear-up for the ages. Lancashire v Yorkshire, speed v speed, two cocky pretty-boys who will undoubtedly talk smack and aim to destroy each other when it comes to the crunch. If this happens, Khan would surely have the whole of Britain in his corner when he returns to Las Vegas.
And then comes the prettiest of them all, a man who has probably spent a million on a mirror that tells him so every morning and a boxer that conjures up eulogies and exclamation marks in equal measure. He’s a brilliant braggart who makes his opponents look much poorer than they are, brings boxing fans together as one in their appreciation of his superiority yet has also left us all incredibly unfulfilled. He will undoubtedly go down as an all-time great but he will never be as universally loved as a Marvellous Marvin or a Roberto Duran. That is unless he makes good on his latest promise. He says he’s dedicated again, that he wants to fight more than once a year and wants to make the biggest fight of my adult lifetime and slay Manny Pacquiao. If that happens, the Khan fight will then become an even bigger fight. But if Pacquiao wins, there will be no more Floyd and I’m sure everyone agrees that Khan and Pacquiao will never make Freddie chose which end of the Roach clip to hold.
So there is a boatload of whats, ifs and buts littered throughout this piece but I was sufficiently piqued by the announcement and could instantly see the thinking behind the plan of Khan. He could, of course, lose to Judah, and then be forced to decide if it is worth him carrying on. But, for what it’s worth and even taking into account his recent argument with Sky, I think Khan is box office gold worth sticking with. He has the speed and accuracy to trouble Mayweather, the trainer to devise the plan and the belief to attempt it. My belief in destiny when it comes to boxing, possibly fuelled by watching too much Rocky, has led to me being right and wrong in equal measure. I don’t know if Khan will even get there, let alone beat him, but it should be one hell of a ride.
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