Amir Khan has been pounding on doors for awhile. He spent years chasing the best boxer in the eorld, Floyd Mayweather, to no avail. In fact, Mayweather seemed to revel in dangling a possible fight in front of Khan, only to rip it away like the school bully holding some poor kid’s lunch just out of reach. Mayweather then stuck it to Khan one last time, choosing Andre Berto for his swan song when everyone just assumed Khan would finally hit the lottery.
With Mayweather’s retirement, Khan (above right) has moved from “Money” to Manny. I’m referring of course to Khan’s one-time stablemate and sparring partner, Manny Pacquiao. After suffering a duller-than-all-hell defeat to Mayweather, “Pac Man” (above left) appears ready to talk about a return to the ring, and Khan is a strong candidate to be his opponent. Khan’s advisor is Al Haymon, which would ordinarily shut down any potential fight with Pacquiao’s promoter, Bob Arum. But Khan gives the impression that he’d not only sell his soul to Satan for a big fight, but those of his close friends, relatives and any nearby pets. Haymon might be pushed right the hell out of the way for this one. Khan could actually get what he’s desperately craved — a big fight. His problem will be what happens next.
Amir Khan looks like a great fighter. His hand speed is up there with the quickest draws in the sport. He has good power. He throws every punch well, and he’s laser beam-accurate. He owns an Olympic silver medal, and he was brought up early in his career as a future pound-for-pound king. Everything lines up.
Except, he isn’t a great fighter. Certainly, he’s very good. He’s earned victories over Marcos Maidana, Devon Alexander, Zab Judah, Chris Algieri and Paulie Malignaggi. Those are all quality wins over solid opposition. But when we talk about Khan, we must discuss the obvious: that chin. Breidis Prescott knocked him out several years ago, when Khan was still considered a prospect. He had just started to shake the “chinny” label when he ran into Danny Garcia’s monster left hook in 2012.
And that has really been Khan’s issue — he runs into a lot of punches. He is so hell-bent on offense that he often forgets the fact that the guys he’s fighting are generally very happy to hit him back. This is only a minor issue when dealing with non-punchers like Malignaggi, or Algieri. He can swallow a few shots and walk through them. But Pacquiao? He can pop, even if he’s nowhere near the destructive hurricane he used to be.
Khan believes his skills are on par with those of Pacquiao and Mayweather. But Mayweather never went to sleep multiple times in the ring, and Pacquiao didn’t struggle with Algieri. In fact, he beat the living shit out of him. Styles make fights, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that Algieri gave Khan a pretty tough battle when they met this past May on a Spike TV broadcast of Haymon’s “Premier Boxing Champions.” Khan then acted as though he’d just defeated Tommy Hearns.
Maybe this is the perfect time for Khan. Pacquiao will be 37 at the end of the year, and he may not be as sharp when he returns, especially after going through shoulder surgery and rehab. And by rehab, I mean salt water.
But Pacquiao isn’t just another decent opponent. He’s an all-time-great, capable of making very good fighters look dreadful, even at his advanced age. It’s hard to envision Khan recklessly flying into one of Pacquiao’s straight left hands or right hooks and coming out okay. And though he’s been under the defensive tutelage of silky-smooth-sounding Virgil Hunter for a few fights, Khan can’t seem to help himself — he is an attacker. The good news for fans is that Pacquiao is too, so the fight could be an absolute scorcher, at least for awhile.
But when Khan gets caught (and he absolutely will get caught), what happens next? Again, Pacquiao is no longer a battering ram with fists, but as Algieri can attest — he’s not tossing cotton balls, either.
Khan badly wants to fight Pacquiao, and he wanted to fight Mayweather before him, because he wants to fight the best. But that feels too simple in this case — everyone wants to fight the best, to prove themselves against the elite. But Khan is different. Khan is chasing redemption. The Prescott loss haunted him for years, and the Garcia knockout was no different. If he can score a victory over Pacquiao, while those losses won’t go away, they’ll certainly sting a hell of a lot less.
Pacquiao’s team could go in another direction and pick a guy like Lucas Matthysse, or even Terence Crawford. But I don’t think they will. I think Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s trainer, absolutely loves the idea of getting his former pupil in the ring. And Bob Arum, head of Top Rank, is likely rubbing his hands together, real creepy-like, at the thought of bringing a whole bunch of rowdy U.K. fans across the pond to Las Vegas.
And then we’ll see what Khan has. He believes he’s one of the best fighters in the world, so perhaps he’ll get another chance to prove it. Or, maybe he’ll end up on the business end of a wicked beating.
Either way, he asked for it.