Amir Khan: He Walked The Street Of Dreams….

boxingBy Ted Spoon: “I didn't think he had the toughness, the strength, or maturity to survive in a fight like this. This has been unbelievable. Phenomenal.” - Jim Watt, Sky Sports

One must confess…back when Amir scooped up the gold in that hazardless triumph over Andreas Kotelnik it looked as if the newly formed alliance with Freddie Roach had been designed to stem any possibility of excitement. Anything that unearthed images of the Prescott disaster was sure to be avoided, and so when the name 'Maidana' slipped its way into a conversation, Roach was not shy in explaining his reluctance to tackle the man with the punch…and after the festivities we can see why.

Khan stood up to the big punch, just about. The last few scuffing efforts at the end of a damaging round 10 reduced Khan to an empathetic piece of jelly left to zigzag back to its corner. Scornful of the efforts to touch gloves and always obliged to club away with his free arm, Maidana had been hunting Khan down with that inevitable plod characteristic of many war horses; a Stanley Ketchel or a Bennie Briscoe..

There is something altogether admirable about how nothing seems to concern certain fighters as Khan's sizzling 'threes' and 'fours' repeatedly bounced off the sharp mug of the Argentinean. At the sound of each bell Marcos had to contend with a man much faster and slicker than himself, but there was little let up, few sighs of impatience, and no reluctance to get stuck in despite a rib-denting body shot in the opener.

'King Khan' stood ready to validate that epic alias when Maidana's body slammed to the canvas, but in came the bell, roping Khan into a fantastically gritty ordeal.

Too often have big fights unfolded without any twists or cliffhangers; Margarito did not allow Pacquiao to cruise but other than some extra deep breaths and a few marks it was all rather routine, and so when Khan changed a likely points victory into a likely KO he left the greatest chapter for the murderously intended Maidana to ink.

Having endured the initial wrath of Pacquiao back in 2004, Juan Manuel Marquez began his own heroic bid to polish over the points deficit with a counter-punching enterprise. Hugely engrossing, but lacking the threat of a reverse outcome, it did not spike the senses as did Maidana's callous swings. An audible crack in the third put the warning lights on, a mid-fight onslaught got everyone revising their predictions, and a spine-tingling tenth gave the boxing world exactly that which compels its most passive viewer to stand at attention.

We don't need a narrative when something extraordinary is taking place; the site of the thought-to-be fragile champion escaping annihilation was just that. In the eyes of many, a win for Maidana had rested on whether or not he would really connect. As it was Marcos did not so much connect as he did plaster his rival but it still proved insufficient to seal the deal. Khan had later been quoted as saying he wasn't hurt, an interesting attitude that can be forgiven for it is the same one that refused to wilt.

There were alarming, extended instances of Maidana crudely thumping Khan into a shell, but has it not always been more important in showing a capacity to deal with a crisis than not being put in one at all? The Khan who instantly tried to fight back against Prescott was easily dispatched but this time he hopped on his bike and survived. Moreover he got back to slipping in his flashy cameos, once again asserting himself.

You could say he was lucky, that a better operator would have cleaned up, but what can be said is that a developing fighter came through his hardest assignment, and having Roach on board is no doubt going to go a long way in helping Khan side step future danger.

After 12 rounds, Maidana did not bare the angry blemishes which spread over Khan's face; he looked fresh, and expressed the desire for a rematch. The manner in which he came back after that wincing start was especially gutsy and Khan wasn't the only obstacle when Joe Cortez got on his case.

Rightly stated, referees should not rank high in a list of forgiving occupations, but with Cortez there is nearly always an element of fuss to go with the firmness. For whatever reason he was again compelled to do that bit more with his authoritative position, scalding Marcos in a relatively clean affair. The point deduction, regardless of its inability to alter the decision, needed almost no prompting.

In the end it is Khan who deserves the big congratulations. The dog fight almost everyone banked on him losing happened, and he won. For a speedy boxer he's prone to get involved in a brawl, but he demonstrated the ability to handle the heat.

Mayweather has been mentioned as a future opponent, but frankly, noting Mayweather's own troubles, and the never-to-dwindle public duty to fight Pacquiao, it should not even merit consideration. If the fight somehow came off, then Khan would rightly see the odds stacked against him, but with all the loaded criticism fighters suffer at every turn, it's a moot point.

What really matters is that Britain's golden boy has made the grand metamorphosis from smiting the hapless to digging deep on the big stage. In stark contrast to Audley Harrison's performance against David Haye it is was liberating to see Khan fighting up to the title of champion.

Numerous unwanted comments have pervaded the ring this year, questions about its health, and the ever-ludicrous assumption that the contest which has gripped the passions of mankind for millenia is on its way out. In actuality, so long as the will to simply prove oneself continues to run through our blood then boxing will provide refuge for men like Khan and Maidana to enchant us; 2010's prime example of why pugilism stands alone.

Article posted on 25.12.2010

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