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Amir “King” Khan: The Jury is Still Out

By Gina L. Caliboso

Even though my current DVR recording schedule is out of whack because of a bad signal, I still had the luck to record the Amir “King” Khan, 24-1, 17 KO’s, vs. Marcos Maidana, 29-2, 27 KO’s, fight and decided to watch it early on Sunday morning.

In the hype of this fight, I had already stated my case for Khan. Under Freddie Roach’s tutelage and with our own RSR stating the young Khan had knocked Pacquiao out in a sparring session, I had already made up my mind that Khan is the future. Against Maidana, it was the 3rd title defense since he first earned the WBA Light Welterweight title back in 2009, when he defeated Andriy Kotelnik in a 12 round unanimous decision.

But even as it was an early Sunday morning for me, I was still stunned by what I saw as the fight began.

In Round 1, Khan scored the well-timed knockdown with a beautiful body shot to the liver that sent Maidana to the canvas. Maidana was saved by the bell. But then, Maidana kept fighting. And he kept fighting. Maidana, noticeably hurt from the 1st round, refused to go away. More importantly, he refused to go away in the championship rounds. Khan did earn a unanimous decision victory, but instead of being certain of his ability, I was only left with a shadow of doubt that the champion Khan still has a few things to discover about his boxing ability.

Before the bout, HBO showed Khan’s evolution, the “watershed” moment he needed to switch gears and take training seriously in order to be a contender and future titleholder. In 2008, Khan went up against Colombia’s Breidis Prescott and suffered a KO that had me rocking.

Khan had a dazed look, wobbly knees, and overall looked stunned that two Prescott punches connected so solidly. Even boxrec.com showed a headline indicating Khan’s propensity to be “chinny” and for a boxer, it can be the end if the chin gets hit solidly more than once. After this loss, Khan set out to get Freddie Roach as his trainer and has been signed by Golden Boy.

In his bout against Paul Malignaggi, Khan showed just how he can dominate a fighter. He showed a solid connection rate with a good jab cross combination that compliments his obvious hand speed. Against Malignaggi, Khan earned the 11th round TKO rather convincingly.

But again, Maidana, the hard hitting Argentine, showed he can give his opponents problems, even an opponent with Khan’s abilities.

But as Khan won the bout against Maidana, he also showed his vulnerabilities and tendencies. Khan still has to learn to pace his fights and should he get the knockdown as he did against Maidana in the 1st round, he needs to develop the finishing off instinct that all champion boxers have.

The Maidana bout went on 11 rounds too long.

As the bout continued, Khan started to feel the effects of Maidana’s fight to continue going forward and applying pressure. Maidana kept attacking and in the 10th, 11th, and even 12th rounds as Khan started to look weary taking punches. Khan clearly won over the course of 12 rounds since he set the tone from Round 1. However, the final rounds, the championship rounds when the winning boxer starts to get tired, a little less alert, a little more tentative, the losing boxer will suddenly swing and throw with nothing to lose. Maidana did exactly that and he hurt Khan with an excellent uppercut that left Khan looking like he did against Prescott.

With his 3rd title defense, what can possibly be on the horizon for Khan? With his win, Khan currently ranks #2 in the light welterweight division. As Timothy Bradley, 26-0, 11 KO’s, ranked #1 will fight #3 ranked Devon Alexander, 21-0, 13 KO’s, in January 2011.

Both Bradley and Alexander have decided to put their titles (WBO & WBC) on the line, however, it’s been noted that should Bradley win the bout, the WBC belt will then be vacant. Once the Bradley – Alexander bout concludes, the winner and Khan should definitely consider a fight to put two belts on the line. The light welterweight division definitely has some competitive movement for the better.

Prior to Khan’s bout, light welterweight contender Victor Ortiz, 28-2, 22 KO’s, also fought to a draw against Lamont Peterson, 28-1, 14 KO’s. Over the course of 10 rounds, the up and coming Ortiz, as he is now ranked #5, showed he can box. I had the pleasure of seeing Ortiz KO his last opponent, Vivian Harris back in September.

But again, much like his Golden Boy counterpart, Ortiz needs to work a few more bouts in order to develop the boxer certainty and swagger the moment he enters the ring. Meanwhile, among the light welterweights, there is also the comeback of Zab Judah, 40-6, 27 KO’s. Judah would make for a great fight against both Khan and Ortiz. The veteran Judah would certainly give both Khan and Ortiz a challenge.

However, there is also the possibility that Khan may decide to move up in weight. But I don’t necessarily think that would be a good move on his part. Right now, I don’t think he necessarily has the power or endurance to take the welterweight fight just yet.

Again, as Khan has shown excellent hand speed and the glimmer of a cultivated jab, he needs to put it all together into becoming a more complete fighter and boxer. Also, he needs to take out his “chinny” factor. If it was obvious to me how his chin can be his Achilles’ heel, he can definitely be assured that his future opponents will be keeping an eye on him and figuring out a way to defeat him.

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