by Geoffrey Ciani, photos by Tom Casino / Showtime – Amir Khan (27-3, 19 KOs) ended a two fight losing streak when he impressively defeated an overmatched Carlos Molina (17-1-1, 7 KOs) last night in Los Angeles. This marked the first time Khan was paired up with new head trainer Virgil Hunter, who is best known for his long term working relationship with rising pound-for-pound superstar Andre Ward. The new team made a good impression in their first effort together, with Khan in complete control of the action that ultimately came to an end when Molina’s corner stopped the contest after the tenth.
Even though Khan and Hunter have only worked together eight weeks, Hunter already seemed to have a visible impact on Khan’s performance. Amir was very patient in the early going and was measured in his approach, especially when it came to attacking. Everything for Khan started with his jab, and this helped create openings where he could unleash short three and four punch combinations that possessed a nice blend of speed and precision. He would throw a short series of shots, reposition himself, throw another combination, and then calmly take a stroll to establish new perspective, resetting the action where he could resume controlling the range to his liking. As Showtime commentator Paulie Malignaggi noted, “There he goes again, Khan is taking a walk”. Amir was composed.
Of course everything was not perfect, though. Khan still often found himself in unfavorable positions where he was susceptible to left hooks and right hands, and at times he may have lost focus in the midst of combat where his offense became a bit more reckless and less calculated. But Khan seemed to stick with the strategy and follow through with it while the fight lasted. When he was getting caught with flush shots he appeared to absorb them well and never panicked. Khan did exhibit some weaknesses that better foes than Molina may have been able to exploit, but it is fair to note that Hunter and Khan have only yet worked together over a brief period. After all, even Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko both took several fights before they began mastering the lessons of the great Emanuel Steward. It takes time for a trainer to have a real impact on fine-tuning a new member of his stable.
While Hunter is a world class trainer with a proven record of success with Andre Ward, the question becomes can he have similar success with Amir Khan? Will the two share a special chemistry that enables them to go on and do great things together? It will be interesting to see how it plays out. Some observers feel that Khan’s offensive-minded style will never allow him to become proficiently adequate at defense, and as such he will always be prone to suffering the type of knockout losses he has in the past. Others believe that some subtle adjustments in his approach and technique could potentially render outstanding results, and many feel that Hunter is the trainer who can help implement these changes into Khan’s existing arsenal of skills and athleticism. Khan did seem to respond well to Hunter, so perhaps they are on the right track. Only time will tell.
What we do know is that Amir Khan has amazing talent. He is exceptionally fast, he is good on his feet, he has decent power, he possesses tremendous reflexes, and he puts his punches together in very nicely delivered packages. He is also a determined fighter with a great deal of self-belief. Those are his strengths. On the flipside he is sometimes very easy to hit clean, he does not have the best ability to absorb big punches, and he sometimes suffers from fatigue in the middle and late rounds of a fight. Another weakness for Khan is that he is occasionally known to get lost in the heat of the moment where he leaves himself vulnerable through bad decision making. When you consider Khan’s strengths and weaknesses as a fighter, and you also consider the strengths and weaknesses of Hunter as a trainer, there is strong reason to believe that Hunter can help Khan maximize his chances of winning by limiting his weaknesses from coming into play. Their next effort together should certainly give us more answers.
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