King Khan Dethroned - Where does he go from here?
Writer Daniel Vano examines what could lie ahead for Amir Khan following Saturday's shock defeat.
I never imagined I’d be sat here questioning Amir Khan’s future. The Bolton man, on paper at least, had a perfectly winnable fight on Saturday. The 25 year old was once again headlining a bill over the Atlantic, this time attempting to add Danny Garcia’s WBC ‘world title’ to his WBA crown in the Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas.
Despite holding a version of the world title, many boxing observes considered Garcia a mere contender in the stacked 140lb division. His best win had come against faded legend Erik Morales earlier this year, but many were still unsure just how good the Philadelphia fighter was. Kendall Holt had taken Garcia the distance a year ago, and Ashley Theophane was unlucky to lose a split decision back in 2010. Khan was rightfully the bookmakers’ favourite.
The fight started out as many expected, with the faster, more agile, Khan controlling the opening round with his quick bursts, with Garcia was content to counter his man. Khan’s quick hands had even bloodied the nose and right eye of the unbeaten fighter by the end of the second. But worryingly for the Brit, Garcia was beginning to find the target with the right hand.
Garcia started the third by working the body well, and was beginning to time Amir’s rushing flurries with alarming regularity. With 30 seconds left in the round, Khan stepped in with a one-two combination. This time, Garcia dropped the shoulder and threw a counter left hook which hit Khan below the right ear, sending him sprawling to the canvas. Khan, instead of taking his time, rose at the count of ‘5’, but his legs were gone. Referee Kenny Bayless, however, let the fight continue. Garcia rushed at Khan, only to be halted by the bell.
A non-responsive Khan would come out for the 4th round, but it was clear he was still feeling the effects of the hard knockdown. A left hook hurt Khan in the first seconds of the round, and he was forced to touch down moments later when another left bounced off his temple. Garcia was now in full stalk mode as he reined home wild right hand swings, the majority of which bounced off Khan’s defenceless face. Khan attempted to dance away from trouble, but his legs were still shaky. At one point, Khan even waved Garcia in. But the showmanship was falling no-one, least of all Danny Garcia, who continued to hurt Khan with hooks to the head. Khan, instead of holding, was intent to go to war. Had he spoiled Garcia’s work on the inside, he may have regained his senses. But it wasn’t to be. Garcia landed a left hook to the forehead of Khan, sending him to the floor for the third time in as many minutes. Although the brave Khan rose once more, this time Kenny Bayless waved the fight off.
Danny Garcia had shocked the world, improving to 24-0 (15 KOs) in the process. In contrast, Khan slumped to his second defeat in as many fights.
So, where does Amir Khan go from here? The Bolton fighter has long talked about a move up to challenge the best Welterweights on the planet, but this will now be put back. "Well done to Danny Garcia on his performance, but I promise that I'll bounce back stronger than ever as I look to regain my spot at the top of the 140lbs division” said Khan just hours ago.
But this, forgive me for saying, seems incredibly optimistic at this point. Make no mistake, Khan was not caught by a lucky punch on Saturday. In fact, Garcia had lowered Khan’s guard with body-shots early in round three, and timed the left hook beautifully. Garcia would be a firm favourite should a rematch take place.
Taking into account Khan’s inability to deal with the pressure of Garcia, you have to wonder how he would deal with Brandon Rios, Mike Alvarado, and the heavy hitting Lucas Matthysse, should these fights be made. At this stage, all three would be incredibly risky, and ones which I cannot see Khan winning at this point. Perhaps a fight with British based Ajose Olusegun, the man who was due to fight for the WBC title before Khan stepped in, will happen. But Olusegun himself is an awkward unbeaten southpaw who Khan will struggle to look good against. Unbeaten Russian pair Khabib Allakhverdiev and Denis Shafikov are perfectly winnable fights, but they are some way off the likes of Floyd Mayweather, who Khan had naively talked of fighting if he had beaten Garcia. But this may be the level Amir Khan should be returning at.
His fights against Maidana, Prescott, Peterson and Garcia have seen Amir take vast amounts of punishment, and his defensive incapabilities need to be addressed before it is too late. There has been talk of a change in trainer, with many feeling Freddie Roach’s declining health, and his tendency to favour Manny Pacquiao, were reasons for the Garcia loss.
But perhaps Khan needs to look at himself. Constant talk of fighting Floyd Mayweather before the Peterson and Garcia fights seemed disrespectful and incredibly premature. Maybe this defeat will be the wakeup call Khan needs. Amir, at just 25, can come back from this loss. But radical changes to need happen if he is to reach the top of the light welterweight division once again.