Early this month, Amir Khan outpointed the dangerous American veteran Luis Collazo at the MGM, Las Vegas, for many the boxing capital of the world. The British Pakistani, whose overall superiority was never in doubt, won the 12-round contest through a unanimous points decision.
The bout was one of the most important in the 27-year-old Amir Khan’s boxing career who first gained prominence by winning silver medal at the 2004 Olympics aged only 17 before turning pro in 2005. Less than two years back, his career seemed to be in doldrums. His loss against Danny Garcia in July 2012 was his second successive defeat.
The first boxing world champion of South Asian origin had already lost his WBA and IBF light-welterweight titles to Lamont Peterson in the preceding fight. Moreover, unlike the Peterson defeat which was a controversial split decision as the referee deducted Amir two points for pushing, this time the referee stopped the bout in the fourth round after Amir had thrice hit the canvas.
Some even predicted it was the end of the road for him. Among those were very respectable names such as Glenn McCrory. The former world champion and currently the boxing pundit and commentator at the Sky TV said, “Where does he go now? For me the option is get out. Despite being only 25, he should quit for the benefit of his own health?”
But the boy from Bolton, near Manchester, showed resilience as well as professionalism. Shortly after the Garcia defeat, Amir changed his trainer, replacing Freddie Roach, who had mentored him for four years, with Virgil Hunter, the long-time trainer of Olympic gold medalist and undefeated reigning WBA and WBC super-middleweight champion Andre Ward.
Within a few months, Amir had begun to rise again, with an impressive show against undefeated Mexican-American Carlos Molina, with a 10th round TKO (technical knockout).
He also won the next bout though not convincingly. Against Julio Diaz in April 2013, Amir survived a fourth round knockdown to win a unanimous but close decision. But there were still question marks after this hard earned win over the 33-year-old former world champion, who had been without a crown since 2007.
His latest fight, against Luis Collazo, also saw Amir making his debut in the higher welter weight class. The welter weight is presently the most competitive of all the 17 divisions of professional boxing with no less than four of the top six pound-for-pound pugilists. Then his opponent, the hard hitting former WBA welter weight champion was himself on a winning spree with victories in his last four bouts.
Amir prepared for this crucial contest in full earnest and spent much of the past six months in a camp near San Francisco with his trainer Virgil Hunter. All paid off.
Right from the first bell, Amir appeared fully geared up for the big occasion. Within the first couple of rounds, he had established his superiority, and Collazo was knocked down. Amir had a fight plan. He was quick, sharper, well-coordinated and moving better with great speed. His American opponent did fare well in a couple of rounds but was mostly on the receiving end.
At times, Collazo appeared frustrated and fighting only on guts. Towards the last few rounds, the only option left for him was to knock down the fast moving Amir.
However, it was Amir who sent him down again — twice— in the 10th round. Collazo’s desperation was very much evident when he was fouled in the last round for painfully hurting Amir with a below-the-belt blow. Two judges saw it 119-104 while the third scored 117-106.
Faryal Makhdoom, Amir’s American Pakistani wife of one year, is expecting a baby girl later this month. There couldn’t have been a better gift for her than this victory at a very crucial juncture of Amir’s career.
The Khan clan, originating from Rawalpindi, has another boxing star in the making. Amir’s kid brother Haroon Khan, who stepped into the pros ranks last year in the super fly weight class, has won all his four bouts so far. Haroon won a bronze at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, but not in England’s colours. Having been overlooked by the England selectors, he fought for Pakistan, ironically beating England’s representative in the quarter-finals.
What next for Amir, who now has a 29-3 pro record. Floyd Mayweather Jr, the WBA and WBC welter weight champion, is acclaimed as world’s best pound for pound boxer. Incidentally, Amir’s last bout, against Collazo, was undercard to American Mayweather’s fight against Marcos Maidana.
The talks of a Mayweather-Amir Khan fight have been going on for quite some time.
Now, after his latest resounding win, Amir appears to have all the credentials to be a worthy opponent of Mayweather. A view also endorsed by the former world champion David Haye. Khan is the no 2 in the world after Mayweather.
It will be a mouthwatering clash. Mayweather, who has won all his 46 professional fights, is currently the highest paid sports person in the world. For the Maidana bout, he was guaranteed $32 million prior to the fight. It could be $40 million for the much anticipated contest versus Amir Khan, who could earn $10 million.
Perhaps, the boxing fans will have to wait as Mayweather has talked about giving Maidana, whom he beat in a split decision, a rematch.
If a Mayweather-Amir Khan fight materialises, now very much on the cards, it could be a classic to be talked about for years to come.
Less than two years after he had been dubbed a spent force, the boy from Bolton is a serious contender for the title of world’s best boxer.