Virgil Hunter on Khan vs. Pacquiao, Mayweather Jr., Brook
Trainer Virgil Hunter believes Amir Khan is ready for a major welterweight fight against either Manny Pacquiao, Kell Brook or Floyd Mayweather, which is a far cry from where Khan was more than two years ago.
“To be honest, Amir Khan just has to continue to grow in the manner that he’s growing,” said Hunter, who also trains RING super middleweight champion Andre Ward. “If he does that, then he’s going to be a threat to anybody, whether it be Manny, Floyd, Kell Brook or anybody else. “
Khan left trainer Freddie Roach, who also works with Pacquiao, after 10 bouts and an 8-2 mark that includes four stoppage wins. When Hunter began working with Khan, the Englishman of Pakistani descent was coming off a fourth round knockout loss to RING junior welterweight champion Danny Garcia in July 2012 after having lost a disputed split decision to current IBF 140-pound beltholder Lamont Peterson in December of 2011.
Before and after his loss to Garcia, however, Khan had endured lingering questions about his chin as a result of a first-round KO loss to Breidis Prescott in September 2008.
That reputation continued even into Khan’s second fight with Hunter, a unanimous decision victory over former titleholder Julio Diaz in April 2013 during which Khan was dropped in the fourth round. Khan’s first bout under Hunter was a 10th-round stoppage over Carlos Molina in December 2012.
Since facing Diaz, however, it appears that Hunter has breathed new life into the nearly 5-foot-9 Khan, who has delivered near-shutout performances over the course of his past two victories over former beltholders Luis Collazo and Devon Alexander, each of whom is a southpaw.
Khan scored three knockdowns en route to a unanimous decision over Collazo in May, winning by scores of 117-106 on the card of judge Jerry Roth and 119-104 on those of Cathy Leonard and Adalaide Byrd. Khan made his 147-pound debut against a career welterweight in Collazo after having been out of the ring for more than a year.
In his last fight on Dec. 13, Khan unanimously decisioned Alexander, a two-division titleholder who owns victories over Maidana, Kotelnik and RING No. 1-rated 140-pounder Lucas Matthysse, among others. Judges John McKaie, Glenn Feldman and Jerry Roth scored the bout for Khan by scores of 118-110, 119-109, and, 120-108, respectively.
During a Sunday interview with RingTV.com, Hunter examined the notions of Khan against Brook, Pacquiao and Mayweather, holders of the IBF, WBO and WBA/WBC welterweight titles, respectively.
Virgil Hunter on Khan against Pacquiao, who would be the third straight southpaw for Khan and with whom Khan has sparred as a former stablemate:
“I haven’t actually given that thought but that’s a different fight and [Khan] would have to be prepared in a different way. The problem would be finding people who could duplicate Manny’s fighting style.
“I guess that you could say that the playing field would be even because it would be hard to find anybody who could duplicate Amir’s fighting style.
“Then, of course, I would have to take a look at their previous sparring sessions and see how that went. Also, I would look at where he is today and where Manny is today.
“But I would have to say that I would give [Khan] more than a better chance at winning that fight. My personality is not to predict but I’m confident that he would win the fight.”
On Pacquiao’s frenetic style:
“I think when I look at Manny Pacquiao, particularly his last fight, he’s still the same fighter today that he was five years ago. In other words, he still fights in an energetic style. He hasn’t transformed into a more relaxed style, so to speak.
“Most guys who are 34 or 35, they learn how to become masters of what they do in the sense of mastering the style and knowing when and when not to do so.
“I think that one of the advantages that Amir would have in that fight is that Manny would have to work very hard in training camp, which could be detrimental to a fighter of his age.
“Manny still fights at a high-energy style. He has not made that transition. He hasn’t re-invented himself like all fighters in their mid-to-late-30s have to do.”
On facing Roach:
“Listen, just going up against the best trainers in the world is an honor and that’s what you’re here for in this sport and that’s to go up against the very best.
“I’m sure that it would be a fight of significant interest if it were to happen and to come to fruition because of that element. So if it ever comes about, I would just have to put my head to the grindstone and come up with the right game plan to beat Manny Pacquiao.”
“I have watched Kell Brook fight. I know of some of the things that he has said that he would do against Amir if they were ever to fight. But basically what I would tell Kell Brook is not to buy into the hype of some of the past experiences that Amir has had in the ring.
“[Brook] had better not live in that past and he had better bring his mindset up to what has been happened recently. From what I see, is that if he does land a lucky punch and takes Amir out, then so be it. Because from what I see, that’s what it’s going to take. Because I believe that Amir would really, really do a number on Kell Brook. I really believe that he would.”
“I would not disillusion myself and think that it’s going to be some kind of cakewalk fight because Amir is fast. We might have an edge in that department but Floyd definitely has an edge in the boxing IQ and in the processing department.
“My job would be to get Amir into a physical and mental state that would take his youth and his ability to another level that night. In other words, that he takes it to a level that only his youth can take it to and that Floyd can not obtain those levels anymore due to his age.
“Floyd can definitely control a fight. Because of his skill and because of his ability, he can control a fight. Because of his age, however, I don’t think that he can initiate a fight anymore. But controlling a fight can definitely take the sparks out of initiating and initiating can definitely overwhelm control.
“So that makes it a chess match and I think that my advantage would be to get Amir to fight over his head that night. In other words, just take it to that level where he is capable of going.
“If Amir does that, which I believe that he’s capable of doing, then he’s capable of winning the fight, understanding that it’s not going to be an easy fight and that it’s going to be the toughest fight of his life going up against a master.”
On more regarding Mayweather’s attributes:
“Because Floyd has been dedicated to this sport all of his life, what people don’t understand is that Floyd really knows how to process things quicker and much differently than most people in the ring. Through the years of repetition, his body just automatically responds and that’s not an easy thing go up against.
Of course, his dad, Floyd Sr. is one of the best trainers in the world and he has the advantage of being with his dad all the time in the gym, whereas I don’t have that advantage.
“I’m always honest with Amir and what I tell Amir is this: Speed is in the body and quickness is in the mind and that’s right where he is now. But he can not afford to make mistakes and get caught up in the chatter that Floyd can’t hurt you and he’s not a puncher. He has to understand that he’s fought bigger men most of the time and he has to take that under consideration.”