Amir Khan: More Questions Than Answers

boxingby John Wight: Maybe itís just me. Maybe I saw I different fight to the one thatís been reported by every boxing pundit, commentator and writer thus far. Maybe my eyesight is on the wane. Maybe my judgment just stinks.

Regardless, I have to say it how I saw it; which means to say that I was left unimpressed by Amir Khanís victory over Paulie Malignaggi on Saturday night in New York.

Before I go on, I should stress that Iíve long been an admirer of Amir Khan and have followed his progress avidly. A quick check back through some of my previous articles on the young man from Bolton proves this is so. I also know and admire Freddie Roach, have done for 15 years, which means I have no axe of any kind to grind with either. On the contrary, I wish the two of them continued success for many years to come..

Another thing I should point out is that due to having been bed stricken with flu on Saturday, I was late getting to the betting shop to put my money on a Khan victory and wound up losing what would have been approx $1000 dollars in winnings Ė this on the back of a five grand stake Ė which if you knew the parlous state of my finances youíd know is about as much faith as any man could ever be expected to place in another inside the squared circle.

Like many in the run-up to this fight, I confidently expected Khan to blow his brash opponent away by the middle rounds, if not sooner. After all, the evidence seemed overwhelming. Khan possessed the power, speed, accuracy, and after working with Roach for nigh on two years, the ring intelligence to be able to vary the angles of attack utilising the kind of combinations that roll over everything in their path.

But that didnít happen. Instead, from the opening bell, Khan found it difficult to get more than two shots off at a time, and for the first four rounds the fight consisted of the younger man stepping forward behind a fast jab to end up in a clinch with his much more experienced and wily opponent. With his superior strength, power and range, it seemed impossible before the fight to envisage any scenario other than Kahn backing Malignaggi up against the ropes, before unleashing a barrage of crushing punches to the head and body. But Malignaggi obviously hadnít read the script and doggedly refused to give up the centre of the ring. Instead, he moved to the side with his head low, which had the effect of nullifying the majority of punches which Khan threw behind his jab. The self styled Magic Man also managed to keep Khan busy with an effective counter jab, breaking up his rhythm and frustrating his gameplan for most of the night. The bruising around Khanís eyes was more than Iíve ever seen on him after a fight throughout his pro career, evidence of the fact that if his opponent hadnít been cursed with so little juice in his hands, the outcome may well have been different.

Another thing which should give Freddie Roach some cause for concern was his fighterís tendency at times to lunge in with a right hand lead and pitching himself off balance in the process, redolent of the bad habits of old. Against someone like Paulie Malignaggi, he was able to get away with it. Against a Timothy Bradley, Marcus Maidana, Michael Katsidis, or Devon Alexander, heíd get nailed, just as he did against Prescott.
This is why, for me, Saturday night threw up more questions than answers where Amir is concerned. And now thatís heís made the step up to the big leagues, they are questions he has to answer if he hopes to do as he proclaimed in his post-fight interview and unify the division.

As for Pauli Malignaggi, in the end he just couldnít live with the younger manís intensity. As he tired, his reflexes deserted him and by the ninth round he was getting caught with near enough every shot that Khan threw. That said, I came away from this fight with a new found respect for him. Yes, he may overdo things with the prefight trash talking. But who are we to dictate to a man about to step through the ropes to put it on the line how he should conduct himself? Fear manifests itself in different ways, and I am of the opinion that trash talking is employed by many fighters to bolster their confidence and conceal their innermost fears and doubts as fight night approaches. After all, this is boxing, where the objective is to beat the man in front of you into submission. As such, it ainít no joke.

Paulie showed he has the heart of a lion, not to mention the boxing skills, to be in there with the best of them, though perhaps his best days are now behind him. The state of his face after the fight should give him and his camp cause to question the wisdom of going on past the point where bravery becomes stupidity and he suffers permanent damage.

So in the end, for me, a solid but not spectacular performance by Amir Khan on Saturday night. One thing I do know, itís the last fight of his Iíd be confident enough to bet on in the near certainty Iíd wake up the next again morning with my stake intact.

With the embarrassment of riches currently on offer in the 140 lb division, the next year promises more excitement and drama than weíve seen in a long time.

Hold on tight.

Article posted on 17.05.2010

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