Amir Khan vs Kotelnik Tonight!

By JOHN WIGHT - Freddie Roach is not a man to waste his own or anyone else’s time. His reputation for honesty is richly deserved, which is why if Amir Khan fails to show significant improvement on Saturday night in Manchester he may find himself in the market for a new trainer sooner rather than later. It is known, from sources within the Roach camp, that despite working on reshaping and remoulding the young British fighter’s style, specifically with regard to his defence and in varying the angles of his attack, concern remains over Khan’s propensity to rush in with wild flurries and leave himself open to being countered. His old habit of leaving his hand out after throwing a right hand has also resurfaced during sparring on odd occasions, which against a fighter of Kotelnik’s experience could prove fatal..

Amir KhanThat the young man from Bolton has the strength, speed, dedication, and courage to go all the way is not in doubt. What has yet to be answered, however, is whether he has the discipline, patience, and boxing brain. Against Barrera there was evidence both of vast improvement and the old weaknesses and bad habits that were finally punished in spectacular fashion by the hard-punching Colombian, Breidis Prescott, back in 2008. These weaknesses were in evidence at the very start of the Barrera fight, when Khan straightaway started jumping in and out of range like an amateur, throwing rights and lefts like a man involved in a square go outside the local pub. His hands were held higher than they’d been previously, and when he settled down he began to pick Barrera apart using his hand speed and superior range. But how much of Khan’s improvement in that fight was due to Barrera’s age and diminishing powers is still open to question.

Khan’s chin also remains a worry. Indeed, Roach remains concerned enough about this chink in his armour to ensure that his charge avoids being matched against any of the current hard hitting punchers in the light welterweight division, such as Argentina’s Marcos Rene Maidana. A possible future match-up for Khan, should he overcome Kotelnik, is against Ricky Hatton. As yet Hatton has yet to declare his future intentions, and he’ll no doubt be an interested spectator in Manchester on Saturday, with the roar of the crowd certain to reignite his taste for the spotlight. Interestingly, Roach is known to fancy Khan’s chances against the hitman, who it is felt no longer possesses enough in his tank to resist the younger man’s power and speed. Another attractive future fight for Roach is against Erik Morales, significantly like Barrera another marquee name at the very end of his career. Such caution in leaning towards fighters past their prime hardly suggests a reservoir of confidence on Roach’s part in his fighter’s readiness to take on the best in the world.

Something else which Khan lacks as yet is the box office appeal of a Ricky Hatton or a Manny Pacquaio. With a day to go tickets for the fight are still available, and it seems likely that the MEN Arena will have more than a few empty seats when boith fighters makes their ring entrance. Only a very few fighters today are guaranteed pay per view box office, and as yet Khan isn’t one of them. Perhaps, ironically, by decamping to LA at the start of the year to learn his craft under the tutelage of boxing’s premier trainer, Khan has faded from public view in the UK to the extent that it has harmed his popularity and box office appeal. Moreover, his opponent, Andreas Kotelnik, regardless of the fact that he’s the current WBA world champion, is hardly a name that’s on everyone’s lips, which suggests that Khan’s immediate future, should he beat Kotelnik, lies in matching up against a Morales or a Hatton in order to boost his marquee value, before going after the very best in either the lightweight or light welterweight division.

Whatever happens on Saturday night, Amir Khan is at the stage in his career where he can no longer afford to lapse into the bad habits which have ensured that questions remain surrounding his potential.

If he fails to overcome the Ukrainian it’ll be back to the drawing board and, quite possibly, back to the UK for the young man from Bolton.

Article posted on 17.07.2009

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