by James Slater - 22-year-old Amir Khan is just hours away from the biggest and most important fight of his life. In great physical shape as always, Khan is also very upbeat and positive ahead of his crack at Ukrainian Andriy Kotelnik's WBA light-welterweight championship. Indeed, Khan, 20-1(15) is so confident and relaxed he has even taken the time to talk about the tactics he will likely adopt on Saturday night in Manchester.
Speaking to Sky Sports, who will show his fight on Pay-Per-View, Khan said he and new trainer Freddie Roach have sat and devised a game-plan - two in fact - that will prove effective against natural counter-puncher and clever boxer Kotelnik, 31-2-1(13)..
"Body shots," Khan said. "Kotelnik is a fighter who keeps his guard very high so I think the body shots are going to work as well as the angles, I've got to hit and move. In and out movement is also going to work, but he's a counter-puncher so I've got to be one step ahead of him every time.
"He's a tough fighter, he knows what I'm good at, so we had to change a few things in camp. The key to victory is being patient and using my brains. Me and Freddie have got a game-plan, we've got a plan A and a plan B, and I'm sure it's going to work for us."
It's all well and good how Khan has reportedly changed tactics because of his concern that the champion would have been ready for his usual approach, but what if Kotelnik has a plan to come in and operate in a subtly different way to normal also? This fight may well come down to who can impose his style best once the bell rings, while the intriguing fight may also come down to who finds the ability to adapt to his rival better.
To my mind, a definite distance fight is what we will get; despite Khan's known chin problem.
Regarding his chin, Khan and Roach feel fighting up at 140-pounds, as opposed to down at 135 - a weight Khan had to boil down to make - will make him stronger and more durable.
"I don't want him getting hit but it's part of boxing and at 140 he's more resilient," Roach told Sky Sports. "At 135 he was draining himself even though he knows how to make weight. He still had to dehydrate his body and then try to rehydrate. At 140 he's going to have breakfast the day before the weigh-in, he's going to be strong and he's going to be mentally and physically a much better fighter.
"Fighting at your natural weight, you're going to be much stronger and a much better fighter. I learned that with [Manny] Pacquiao."
If Khan does indeed put on the type of performance he and Roach think he will and wins, the future will be incredibly bright for the former Olympian.
"Freddie said winning this fight will put me in the mix with the best in the world, with the likes of Ricky Hatton and Juan Manuel Marquez," Khan said.
Khan could scarcely have been able even to dream about being in such an enviable position last September when he was being shocked by Colombia's Breidis Prescott. True stardom awaits - if he can get past Kotelnik.
Article posted on 15.07.2009