By Jeff Day: The reaction to Britain’s Amir Khan being knocked out in four rounds at the weekend by Danny Garcia has bordered on the hysterical. Yes, he was the big favourite against the unbeaten Philadelphian, but the way some members of the media have called for Khan to retire is ludicrous.
Boxing history is littered with fighters that were knocked out and came back to win world titles and at 25 years old, Khan can surely regroup and return. I believe coming back to Britain, dusting himself off and starting all over again could be just what the ring doctor ordered.. I think a reality check may be no bad thing as well because Amir is leagues away from Floyd Mayweather Jr, the man he was clearly looking at meeting in the not too distant future. However, thanks to the numerous alphabet boys out there, there are other routes for Khan to take at 140lbs or more likely 147lbs.
I have watched the bout with Garcia numerous times since. I thought Khan started well. Tucked up, landing stiff jabs, decent right crosses and controlled the opening round, although Garcia was unruffled and composed.
In round two, Danny started to have more success, but Amir took them without discomfort and just took the round on cleaner shots and the fact it he that was dictating the pace. Garcia was cut over the right eye so something was getting through.
In the last minute of round three, Khan got caught with a left hook that caught him on the neck just below the ear. He went down and wobbled to his feet with his equilibrium clearly shaken and instead of holding or running he engaged Garcia in a toe to toe battle and was tagged again right on the bell.
At the start of round four Danny lands a right and the momentum knocks the Brit into the ropes and referee Kenny Bayless gives Khan a count. Once more, Amir’s heart overrules his head and he goes toe to toe. He even lands some clean shots, but Garcia takes them well. The final knockdown is a result of a left hook that seems to graze the top of Amir’s head. The effect was dramatic enough and Bayless stops the fight with Khan having risen from the canvas and wanting to continue. You can see Khan telling Bayless “I’m okay. I’m okay”.
The point here is that Amir was not ‘chinned’. Shots to the neck and top of the head caused his body to react in the way it did. This is an issue with defence and not poor punch resistance.
I don’t believe Amir is ‘chinny’. Take another look at round ten of the Maidana bout. I’m not saying he has a LaMotta or Hagler chin by any means, but he has a better chin than some think. Anyway, let’s take a look at examples of where six fighters have been knocked out and came back with varying degrees of success:
Louis was 27-0, winning all bar four by knockout, when he met former world heavyweight champion Max Schmeling of Germany in 1936. Schmeling had won and lost in world title fights to Jack Sharkey and was expected to be blown away by Joe in the same manner that the ‘Brown Bomber’ had despatched two other former heavyweight kings Primo Carnera and Max Baer. Instead, Louis, who had spent more time on the golf course than in the gym, was knocked out in 12. Joe was 22 years old. Louis came back and won seven straight before knocking out James J Braddock in 8 rounds a year later to become world heavyweight champion. The following year he also exacted revenge on Schmeling in 124 seconds.
Hands of Stone was a three weight world champion – lightweight, welter and light-middle – and had gone 15 rounds losing narrowly to Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1983 when attempting to win a fourth at middleweight. In June 1984 he challenged Thomas Hearns for the Hitman’s WBC 154lb crown at Caesars Palace, but was destroyed in two rounds in a devastating display of power by Tommy. Duran was ‘out’ before he hit the floor. Duran was 33, but there was life in the old dog yet. Five years later Duran wins the WBC middleweight title in a fight of the year classic against Iran Barkley.
The ‘Dark Destroyer’ was 22-0 (all by knockout) when he defended the Commonwealth middleweight title against fellow Brit Michael Watson in a tent at Finsbury Park. I was actually at this fight in May 1989 and the atmosphere still ranks as about the best I have ever experienced at a boxing show. Benn threw everything he had at Watson who tucked up, countered and remained unfazed by the tornado coming at him, In round six, with Nigel completely spent, Watson landed a stiff jab and Benn went down as much from exhaustion as the Watson punch and suffered his first loss at the age of 25. Benn re-launched his career stateside and subsequently won the WBO middleweight and WBC super-middleweight belts.
The 1996 Olympic champion started his career with a 24 fight winning streak with only Everett ‘Big Foot’ Martin taking him the distance. In December 1998, Wlad was beaten in the 11th round of a WBC International title fight against American journeyman Ross Puritty in a big upset in Kiev. The Ukrainian was just 22 at the time and but for his cornerman entering the ring to stop the fight he could have been seriously hurt. Dr Steelhammer was spent. He was also beaten inside the distance after that by Corrie Sanders and Lamont Brewster, yet Wladimir is now generally recognised by most observers as the world’s premier heavyweight holding all bar one of the alphabet trinkets.
Like Wlad, Lennox was an Olympic gold medallist and he won his first 25 pro fights, being awarded the WBC title along the way when Riddick Bowe threw it in a dustbin in London rather than defend against Lennox! Is September 1994, the 29 year old Lewis was knocked out in two rounds by Emmanuel Steward trained Oliver McCall at Wembley Arena in London. Two and half years later the defeat was avenged when Oliver appeared to have a breakdown in the ring in Vegas and the Emmanuel Steward trained Lewis regained the title. Lennox was knocked out again by Hasim Rahman in April 2001 and once more he avenged the defeat in emphatic fashion. Despite being knocked out twice in his career, Lennox is regarded as an all-time great.
British fans will remember the Panamanian as the man Barry McGuigan beat for the WBA featherweight title at Loftus Road football ground in London in June 1985. Pedroza had made 19 successful defences – a record at featherweight – before defending against the Irishman in one of British boxing’s most memorable nights. Barry took a unanimous decision. Pedroza’s feat is all the more remarkable because he had been knocked out three times in his career before he even won the featherweight crown and each of these defeats occurred before he was 21!
I am not in any way comparing Amir Khan with the aforementioned fighters. They are just random examples. The point here is that to write the man’s career off at the age of 25 is hasty to say the least and Khan also does not look a shot fighter to me. There are any number of bouts that can be made at 140 or 147.
So what is next for Amir? A Garcia rematch? Starting again in Britain? Perhaps a change of trainer? Freddie Roach is a great trainer, but Khan has already intimated that he is reviewing their relationship, what with Freddie’s main charge being Manny Pacquiao. I also think a more defensive minded trainer with new ideas may help Khan, like a Roger Mayweather, although I don’t see that happening.
A move up to 147lbs may help. The defeat to Breidis Prescott was in part blamed on his struggles making lightweight and at 5ft 10in Khan would likely be comfortable and strong at welter. Whatever he chooses to do it is surely too early to write the man off.