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Ring Ratings Update

20
Jul

Newly crowned 140-pound beltholder Amir Khan has a couple of key decisions to make in the next month or two — one concerns his career in the ring, the other pertains to who will help guide his path outside the squared circle.

Less than a year removed from a first-round KO loss to Breidis Prescott, Khan (21-1, 15 knockouts) completed his rebound from that devastating setback by soundly defeating junior welterweight titleholder Andreas Kotelnik in Manchester, England on Saturday, scoring a near-shutout unanimous decision over the seasoned veteran.

Now Khan, who was world-rated at lightweight before stepping up to 140 pounds to challenge Kotelnik, must not only decide which weight class to campaign in but also which promoter can best assist him in advancing to the next level of his once-again promising career.

Khan’s trainer, Freddie Roach, who is given much of the credit for the 22-year-old boxer’s rebirth, says the Bolton, England native is a free agent as of this week.

“The Kotelnik fight was Khan’s last with Frank Warren,” Roach told RingTV.com from his Wild Card Boxing Club on Monday.

The veteran trainer said Khan will field offers from Warren, Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank over the next two weeks, so it appears the young titleholder and his inner circle have some thinking to do.

Warren, Britain’s premiere promoter, has represented Khan since the fighter’s final amateur bout and has promoted all of his professional bouts. Warren developed Khan into a bona fide attraction in Britain (primarily in Manchester and London) and he has the connections — with UK networks and major venues — to continue to build Khan regardless of whom the budding star fights.

However, the fighter who can make for the biggest British boxing event in many years — Ricky Hatton — does not have a cozy relationship with Warren, who promoted the popular Manchester native before their acrimonious split in late 2005.

The best way to ensure a Hatton showdown would be for Khan to sign with Golden Boy Promotions, the Los Angeles-based promotional company which represents “The Hitman,” and also brings valuable connections to U.S. cable giant HBO.

And then there is Top Rank, Bob Arum’s Las Vegas-based company that promotes a number of top lightweights and junior welterweights, most notably the 140-pound champ and current pound-for-pound king and Roach-trained Manny Pacquiao.

Despite some promising sparring sessions between the two Wild Card stablemates, Roach says Khan is not ready for his prize pupil.

However, Roach believes Khan has improved enough this year to confidently defend his new WBA belt against world-class fighters in the 140-pound division, where he would like to see the Briton stay.

“I think Khan is better at junior welterweight than he was at lightweight,” Roach said. “He takes a better punch, he’s stronger and has more endurance at 140 pounds.

“He can still make 135 pounds but with his height and frame there’s a drying out process with making lightweight that he doesn’t have to do at 140 pounds.”

Roach said Khan is willing to drop back down to lightweight, but only for certain fights.

Lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez, who is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, is the most attractive 135-pound bout for Khan.

“If Marquez drops back down to lightweight after he fights (Floyd) Mayweather, and he’s willing to fight Amir, that would obviously be worth it for us to return to 135 (pounds),” Roach said. “It would have to be name fighters, the legends. I hear Erik Morales is coming back. We’d fight him, too.”

However, Roach acknowledges that most fans want to see Khan test himself against fellow young junior welterweights.

Beyond Hatton, there’s THE RING’s No. 1-rated junior welterweight, Timothy Bradley, who fights former lightweight titleholder Nate Campbell on Aug. 1, IBF titleholder Juan Urango, and former beltholders Kendall Holt and Ricardo Torres.

“It’s a stacked division right now,” Roach said.

So where does Khan rank among them according to THE RING’s latest ratings?

Khan crashes THE RING’s 140-pound ratings at No. 4, taking the place of the man he just beat, Kotelnik, who dropped to No. 7.

Not far below Kotelnik, at No. 9, is a hard-punching contender that the Ukrainian narrowly outpointed earlier this year, Marcos Maidana. The once-beaten slugger from Argentina made a name for himself by knocking out highly touted prospect Victor Ortiz in six wild rounds last month in L.A.

Maidana picked up the WBA’s “interim” belt with the Ortiz victory, a title that supposedly guarantees its holder a shot at the full belt holder within six months, according to the WBA guidelines. Many fans and some members of the boxing media believe if the WBA were to enforce its rules (which they don’t always do) Khan would abdicate his newly won title rather than face Maidana.

Not so, says Roach, who admits that Maidana is a tough hombre, but adds that he believes Khan can beat the Argentine — especially with the form he showed against Kotelnik.

“I think Khan and Maidana is a good fight,” Roach said. “Khan’s still young, and he has to learn how to fight guys who put on a lot of pressure like Maidana, but he’ll be ready for Maidana sooner than people think.

“Kotelnik was more aggressive than I saw of him on tapes. He put a lot of pressure on Amir, but Amir handled it because he stuck to our game plan. He landed combinations and got out of the way. I felt Amir won every round, but it was still a tough fight, one that he grew from. It was a one-sided, competitive fight.”

Khan was brilliant in scoring a shutout (120-108) on one card and scores of 118-111 on the other two, but the bout was not seen by most American fight fans because it wasn’t televised in the U.S. It’s a sure bet that his next fight will be.

“Khan wants to fight on U.S. television,” Roach said. “I think Khan-Maidana could be a big TV fight in L.A. or Las Vegas, but it needs to be built up. Maidana needs to fight one or two times more in the States. Maybe he and Amir could co-headline a card, and then they can get it on.”

The Ring Ratings Update

JUNIOR WELTERWEIGHT:

Khan debuts at No. 4 on the strength of his unanimous decision over Kotelnik, who descends from No. 4 to No. 7. Khan’s entrance also pushes down Kendall Holt from No. 7 to No. 8, Marcos Maidana from No. 8 to No. 9, and Ricardo Torres from No. 9 to No. 10. Herman Ngoudjo (No. 10 last week) exits.

LIGHTWEIGHT:

Khan (No. 9 last week) departs to campaign at 140 pounds, and Bredidis Prescott (No. 7 last week) also exits following his defeat to Miguel Vazquez, who replaces Prescott at No. 7. The shakeup also advances Paulus Moses from No. 10 to No. 9, and makes room for Urbano Antillon to debut at No. 10.

FEATHERWEIGHT:

Takahiro Aoh (No. 9 last week) departs following his loss to Elio Rojas, who is now in the No. 9 position. Also gone is Hiroyuki Enoki (No. 6 last week), who lost to Ryol Li Lee. Lee debuts at No. 8.

The realignment at 126 pounds also advances Mario Santiago from No. 7 to No. 6, and Martin Honorio from No. 8 to No. 7.

“There was some consideration given to retaining Hiroyuki Enoki somewhere in the top 10 based on his earlier record,” said THE RING editor Nigel Collins, “but the fact that he is 1-2-1 in his last four starts weighed heavily against him, even though three of those bouts were against top opposition.”

STRAWEIGHT:

Roman Gonzalez retained his No. 1 contender position thanks to a 12-round unanimous decision over Katsunari Takayama, who dropped from No. 6 to No. 10. Everybody rated 7, 8, 9 and 10 last week climbs one rung.

Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]

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