Amir Khan wins, but is it enough?: Weekend Review
Amir Khan: I’ve thought for some time that Khan could give Floyd Mayweather Jr. some trouble if they were ever to meet, particularly because of his impressive hand speed. I’m not so sure anymore after Friday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The Briton was expected to dominate Chris Algieri, a solid boxer with little power who went down six times against Manny Pacquiao in November and twice against Ruslan Provodnikov the previous June. Instead, Khan, perhaps surprised by Algieri’s aggression, was never in full command during a competitive fight that ended with Khan winning a unanimous decision: 115-113, 117-111 and 117-111. I scored it 116-112 for Khan. It wasn’t the kind of performance he needed to sell himself as a legitimate opponent for Mayweather, who presumably is screening potential foes for September. To be fair, as I said, I believe Khan deserved a clear decision. He didn’t truly dominate Algieri but, aside from a few stinging punches he absorbed, he never seemed to be in serious danger of losing the fight. And, in spite of Khan’s pre-fight denials, he might’ve been looking past Algieri at bigger and better things. Sometimes it’s difficult to get up for “easy” fights. Khan should’ve done more, though. He is supposed to be a class above Algieri. He really didn’t fight like it.
BIGGEST WINNERS II
Lee Selby and Kell Brook: Khan’s performance was far from the best among Britons fighting this weekend. Selby (21-1, 8 KOs) gave a terrific performance against tough Evgeny Gradovich (19-1-1, 9 KOs) to win a unanimous decision and the IBF featherweight title Saturday in London. The Welshman picked the Russian apart from the opening bell to the moment the fight was stopped after the eighth round because of a cut over Gradovich’s right eye, giving a masterclass boxing demonstration to neutralize Gradovich’s aggression and win all but one round on two cards. Selby deserves all accolades. The problem for him going forward could be that he fights in an extremely tough division, which features such stars Nicolas Walters, Vasyl Lomachenko and Gary Russell Jr. Can Selby beat these beasts? I don’t know. He certainly has the skills but I believe his relative lack of punching power could hinder his chances against any of the above. We’ll see. Brook (35-0, 24 KOs) had an easy time against countryman Frankie Gavin (22-2, 13 KOs) on the Selby-Gradovich card, winning by a sixth-round knockout to retain his IBF welterweight title and demonstrating that he – not Khan – probably is the best 147-pounder from Britain. Maybe he’s the one who should fight Mayweather.
I suspect that Algieri’s victory over Provodnikov will be his finest hour when all is said and done but he deserves credit for his performance on Saturday. I questioned whether he even deserved the fight because of the debacle against Pacquiao but he proved he was worthy. He not only gave Khan a tougher-than-expected fight but did it using an attacking style that doesn’t come naturally to him. He earned another high-profile fight. Javier Fortuna (28-0-1, 20 KOs) outboxed and outbanged talented Bryan Vasquez (34-2, 18 KOs) to win a unanimous decision in a 12-round junior lightweight bout on the Khan-Algieri card. Vasquez never stopped attacking but the quick-handed Fortuna was effective both on the outside and on the inside, where he did considerable damage. I think the Dominican is a legitimate threat to anyone in the division. Jorge Linares (39-3, 26 KOs) is finally on an extended roll after several stops and starts in his career. The Venezuelan survived a knockdown to stop Kevin Mitchell (39-3, 29 KOs) in 10 rounds on the Selby-Gradovich card. Linares, who successfully defended his WBC lightweight title, has now won eight in a row after back-to-back losses to Antonio DeMarco and Sergio Thompson in 2011 and 2012.
British heavyweight Anthony Joshua had no trouble with veteran Kevin Johnson (29-7-1, 14 KOs), stopping him in two rounds on the deep Selby-Gradovich card. Johnson had lost his three previous fights and four of five, meaning he wasn’t a serious threat, but he’d never been knocked out in his 12-year career. Joshua (13-0, 13 KOs) has stopped each of his opponents within three rounds. I think Nathan Cleverly’s 24-second knockout of Tomas Man (13-9-1, 8 KOs) on the Selby-Gradovich card means next to nothing but, damn, the left to the body that ended the fight was painful to watch. Cleverly (29-2, 15 KOs) moved back down to light heavyweight after his split-decision loss to Tony Bellew at cruiserweight in November. Lightweight contender Ray Beltran’s career is in jeopardy. The lightweight contender stopped Takahiro Ao in two rounds on May 1 but couldn’t claim the vacant WBO title because he failed to make weight. Now comes news that he failed a drug test after the fight, scuttling his fight against Humberto Soto on the Tim Bradley–Jessie Vargas card June 27. Beltran could face suspension by the authorities in Nevada, where the Ao fight took place. Let’s hope Beltran can get his act together.