Head to Head: Kotelnik vs. Khan
ANDREAS KOTELNIK vs. AMIR KHAN
When: Saturday, July 18
Where: MEN Arena, Manchester, England
TV: None in U.S.
Weight: Junior welterweight (140 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: Kotelnik’s WBA junior welterweight
Also on the card: Enzo Maccarinelli vs. Denis Lebedev, 12 rounds, cruiserweights; Matthew Hall vs. Anthony Small, 12 rounds.
Hometown: Hamburg, Germany (from Lvov, Ukraine)
Turned pro: 2000
Record: 31-2-1 (13 knockouts)
Trainer: Michael Timm
The Ring rating: No. 4 junior welterweight
Titles: WBA junior welterweight, 2008-current (stopped Gavin Rees).
Biggest victories: Gavin Rees, March 22, 2008, TKO 12; Norio Kimura, Sept. 13, 2008, UD 12 (retained title); Marcos Maidana, Feb. 7, 2009, UD 12 (retained title).
Losses and draw: Souleymane M'baye, Oct 21, 2004, SD 12 (title eliminator); Junior Witter, July 9, 2005, UD 12; M'baye, March 10, 2007, D 12 (failed to win title);
Height / reach: 5-10
Hometown: Bolton, Lancashire, England
Turned pro: 1990
Record: 20-1 (15 knockouts)
Trainer: Freddie Roach
The Ring rating: No. 9 lightweight
Biggest victories: Oisin Fagan, Dec. 6, 2008, TKO 2; Marco Antonio Barrera, March 14, 2009, TD 5.
Loss: Breidis Prescott, Sept. 6, 2008, KO 1.
Skills: Khan and Kotelnik are both skilled boxers but for different reasons. Khan is usually able to hit and not get hit in return because of his terrific athletic reflexes and hand-eye coordination, while Kotelnik gets the better of his opposition using excellent technique. Khan is the more offense-minded of the two but his fast feet make for an adequate defense. Kotelnik opts to block incoming shots with his high guard but also avoids them with subtle in-and-out footwork. Both are good combination punchers. Khan’s fast and fluid delivery is backed by a solid foundation that was forged during his extensive amateur career, but he still has a number of technical flaws that new trainer Freddie Roach is working on correcting. Khan shoots an arrow-straight jab and right hand but occasionally over-commits to the right cross and lunges forward when throwing this punch. It’s just one of the many things Roach is polishing up as Khan is far from a finished project. Kotelnik, on the other hand, delivers every punch with textbook form. He’s an accurate, economical puncher who doesn’t waste motion or energy. Although he’s slow of foot, he’s adept at carefully cutting the ring off on an elusive opponent. The calculating technician has good timing, accurate counter-punching ability, and he knows how to set his power shots up well .
Power: Kotelnik has better power than his poor KO ratio would suggest. He hit hard enough to keep Marcos Maidana in check for 12 rounds, and iron-chinned Junior Witter says Kotelnik has respectable power. However, the Ukrainian lacks the speed and athleticism that allows Khan to explode with dynamic results when the young man lets his hands go. Khan is not a knockout puncher by any stretch of the imagination, but the combination of his rangy frame, punching technique, phenomenal speed and accuracy make for hard, damaging shots that can separate the most durable fighters from their senses if they are caught blind.
Speed and athletic ability: No contest. Khan absolutely trumps Kotelnik in this department. Kotelnik has average reflexes and athleticism, and slightly above-average hand speed. Now that Manny Pacquiao has left the 135-pound division to reign as the junior welterweight champ, Roach has no problem saying that Khan is the fastest and most-athletic lightweight in the world.
Defense: Khan’s reflexes and lateral movement can keep him safe against average or aging opponents, but he can be timed and caught by fellow talents and world-class vets like Kotelnik, who always keeps his chin tucked and hands up.
Experience: No contest. Kotelnik’s biggest advantage is his battle-tested background. The titleholder has gone the 12-round distance with current RING-rated contenders Junior Witter and Marcos Maidana, as well as former world-class boxers Souleymane M'baye (twice), Mohamad Abdulaev, and Gavin Rees. Khan has victories over a shopworn Marco Antonio Barrera and 130-pound veterans Gairy St. Clair and Michael Gomez, but the young man has never faced an opponent who was RING-rated at the time.
Chin: The veteran clearly has the better whiskers. Khan has not only suffered a first-round KO, he’s been dropped by a light-hitting regional prospect (Willie Limond) and a past-prime former 130-pound contender (Gomez). Kotelnik went 12 rounds with Maidana. ‘Nuff said.
Conditioning: Both fighters are known for their work ethic in the gym, but Kotelnik’s endurance has been tested and proven more than Khan’s conditioning. Khan has gone the 12-round distance once (against St. Clair) but he wasn’t in with a threatening opponent. Kotelnik has gone the 12-round distance nine times, and he closed hard against heavy hitters like Maidana and Witter.
Wear and tear: The draw back to Kotelnik’s experience is the punishment he’s put his body through. His tight defense and technique has prevented him from being drawn into pier-six brawls, but he’s absorbed his share of big punches over the years. The Maidana fight, which took place in February, was particularly grueling. Some insiders believe Kotelnik’s tooth infection, which forced postponement this fight, is the result of damage he sustained to his jaw during the Maidana bout. Aside from the two or three hard shots he took against Prescott, Khan has never taken a sustained beating in the ring.
Corner: Kotelnik is in good hands with Michael Timm, the former East German amateur standout who became Universum’s No. 2 house trainer under Fritz Sdunek. Over the years, Timm has proven his expertise while training former world titleholders such as Juan Carlos Gomez, Ruslan Chagaev and Wladimir Sidorenko, as well as current middleweight beltholders Felix Sturm and Sergei Dzindziruk. However, Khan’s coach is almost without peer. There’s no need to list Roach’s numerous world titleholders and accomplishments. The future hall of famer is hands down the best trainer in the game right now, and he seems to have a healthy rapport with Khan, who has improved dramatically under Roach’s guidance and learned from many hard-knock sparring sessions at the Wild Card Boxing Club.
Outcome: Khan and Kotelnik’s clash of youthful talent vs. experienced technique should be a close one. Khan’s blinding speed and fluid lateral movement should carry the early rounds while Kotelnik concentrates more on not getting caught with flush shots than delivering punches of his own. However, as the fight moves to the middle rounds Kotelnik will begin to time Khan’s in-and-out attacks with counter punches and gradually work his way into the fight with subtle pressure. The two junior welterweights should go tit for tat mid-way through the bout. However, in the late rounds of the fight, the veteran titleholder will undoubtedly be more at home than the challenger and he’ll show it by letting his hands go in combination. Khan will boldly fight back but he will also get caught with flush shots and he may have to survive some rocky moments. However, Khan’s heart and footwork will see him to the final bell, upon which the young man will throw his hands up in victory, confident that his speed, power and flashy combinations over the first half of the bout won more rounds than Kotelnik’s late-fight surge.
Prediction: Khan by close decision.