BAGUIO CITY, Philippines – The seclusion of training camp in the mountain town of Baguio City is a welcome retreat for Amir Khan.
Khan, a native of Bolton, Lancashire in the United Kingdom, has been on the other side of the world for four weeks as he prepares for his rematch with Lamont Peterson, the man who upset him to take his IBF/WBA junior welterweight titles, on May 19 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev.
Outside of his uncle Taz Khan, sparring partner Max Maxwell and a British television crew from the SKY network that spent a week covering his camp for an episode of Ringside, there are few reminders of back home. To quell the home sickness, Khan video chats with his fiancee’ back in his room at the Cooyeesan Hotel.
There are some local amenities that make the transition easier in this, his third training camp in the Philippines, such as the fresh coconut water that a vendor sells from his truck every morning.
“We don’t really get that in L.A. or England, the papayas, many of the other fruits,” said Khan (26-2, 18 knockouts) as he relaxed following a massage. “It’s great to come up here and train, there’s no distractions. I’m isolated.”
At approximately 5,000 feet above sea level, Baguio City provides a challenging environment conducive to strong cardiovascular conditioning. Khan is expected to spar one last day – Tuesday in the Philippines – against the trio of Maxwell (15-11-3, 3 KOs), of Birmingham, England, Francisco Santana (12-3-1, 6 KOs), of Santa Barbara, Calif., and Adones Cabalquinto (11-0, 8 KOs), of Davao del Norte, Philippines, before taking the six-hour drive back to Manila.
Trainer Freddie Roach says that Khan will then leave to Los Angeles to finish up camp at the Wild Card Boxing club. Roach said that Khan will report to the gym next Monday, allowing him ample time to get used to the nine-hour time difference between Las Vegas and the Philippines.
Khan says that the styles of his sparring partners have meshed well to that of the aggressive Peterson (30-1-1, 15 KOs), of Washington, D.C., who upset Khan by split decision in their first meeting in December.
“(They have) quite similar styles to Lamont Peterson, pressure fighters who like to fight in close so it helps me to work on the inside and work on my technique better,” said Khan.
“They’ve been working on coming forward, just like Lamont Peterson, they’re exactly the same. Maybe one guy is a lot more quicker and maybe one guy is a lot more stronger. These guys are coming heavy; I know they’re big punchers. We’ve been sparring heavy, doing 10 to 12 rounds with them.”
Cabalquinto, who is recognized as the Philippines’ junior welterweight champ, has been in camp with Khan for the last week and lauded the power in Khan’s uppercut and physical strength, which he says has improved since he first sparred Khan a year ago.
Santana, who was recommended by frequent Pacquiao sparring partner David Rodela after Rodela couldn’t make the commitment, says that he scored the first fight a draw and would have had Khan winning if not for the two point deductions for pushing that Khan sustained.
“I think he’s hungry to prove to the world that it was a fluke that night,” said Santana, 25. “I think Peterson might fight the same fight coming forward. If he tries to box, Amir will pick him apart.”
When asked how he felt Khan could improve in the rematch, Santana said Khan could stay off the ropes more and “start off quicker from the beginning and finish strong at the end.”
Khan was recently joined by strength and conditioning coach Ruben Tabares, who replaces Alex Ariza after Ariza left to work with WBC middleweight titleholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. According to Tabares’ website, he has worked with former cruiserweight/heavyweight titleholder David Haye, as well as actor Mickey Rourke.
Overall, Khan says he is far more pleased with this training camp than he was with preparations for the first bout, due in large part to a familiarity with his opponent.
“We didn’t know what to expect from Lamont Peterson (in the first fight) and we didn’t know what type of style he’d bring to the table,” said Khan. “Now we know he’s a strong fighter, comes forward, he can also box on his back foot. We’re working on different techniques because we know what to expect. That’s why we work differently with different sparring partners and we push ourselves even harder because we know in the fight we will have to dig deep. There are going to come times in the fight where we’re going to have to go all the way and fight out of our skin like we did the last fight.”
Photo / Ed Mulholland
Ryan Songalia is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and contributes to GMA News and the Filipino Reporter newspaper in New York City. He is also a member of The Ring ratings panel. He can be reached at [email protected]. An archive of his work can be found at www.ryansongalia.com. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.