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Column: Time for Amir Khan to retire and do something else with his life

10
May

Canelo Alvarez vs Amir Khan KO fukuda

In the wake of Amir Khan’s frightening loss to Canelo Alvarez on Saturday, it was clear that while Khan’s senses had been rearranged by a right hand, his ambition and confidence hadn’t been touched.

Hours after he was discharged from a local hospital, Khan discussed dropping down to 147 pounds to resume his career; he spoke of hopefully facing Miguel Cotto or Manny Pacquiao back home in England; he expressed a desire to avenge a knockout loss to Danny Garcia. The word ‘retirement’ never left his mouth or seemed to enter his mind.

It was good to hear Khan doing so well and eager for the future. But his optimism seemed wildly misplaced. Had he forgotten what took place the night before? Weren’t his spirits dampened just a little? Khan didn’t just lose. He suffered the type of knockout fighters don’t easily walk away from.

In the moments after the knockout, I thought of Joey Gamache’s loss to Arturo Gatti on Feb. 26 of 2000. The smaller Gamache was rendered unconscious by a three-punch combination in the second round that left him with brain damage, migraines and depression. The fight permanently changed him.

But Khan behaved as though Canelo’s right hand was a mere hiccup in his grand plan to be the future face of the sport. “It’s just boxing,” has been his response to what happened. One of the qualities that makes Khan so endearing is his persistent optimism. The former junior welterweight titleholder believes he’s capable of doing anything. He thought he would beat Alvarez despite never fighting above 147 pounds.

Khan was boxing beautifully when he was clipped by a straight right hand with 30 seconds left in the sixth round. And that was it. Khan’s knees buckled and turned inward. He launched himself backward, his head slapping violently off the canvas, his arms grotesquely stretched at his sides. His eyes were open and unblinking. The sight was so upsetting that Alvarez returned from a neutral corner and knelt down to make sure Khan was okay.

Now, I will try to do something similar.

It’s time for someone close to Khan to pull him aside and in a quiet moment, suggest to him that it’s over. It’s time for someone to save Khan, one of the toughest and proudest fighters of his generation, from himself. It’s time for someone to convince him it’s in his best interest to leave this brutal sport behind. It’s not for him anymore. It’s time for him to retire.

Khan and his fans will of course disagree with that assessment. They will claim that Khan was undone by fighting at middleweight (a catch-weight of 155 pounds) and that he’s still young (29) with enough skill to give most fighters trouble. And they will be absolutely right.

They will argue that Khan remains one of the most exciting fighters in the sport because of his willingness to mix it up with anyone. They will say his valor is refreshing given that most fighters don’t like to take risks. Khan’s defenders will be right again. They will further say that Khan is one of the few bankable stars left in boxing, and I will agree and pat them on the back once again.

I can’t argue any of these points. If he wants to, Khan could probably revive his career and maybe even win another title. I just know that at some point Khan will bite off more than he can chew. He will take on a challenge he can’t surmount because it’s in his nature. He can’t help himself.

And what we saw on Saturday is going to happen again. Maybe next time he doesn’t get up. I hope I’m wrong but even the staunchest Khan defender would have to admit their hero is more susceptible to this kind of outcome than others. I guess I don’t want to see Khan getting knocked out anymore. I’m afraid for him.

This is the second time in his 11-year career he lost because he was physically unable to get up. Breidis Prescott was the other to put him down. It’s the third time that Khan has lost by knockout. He was also stopped by Danny Garcia. Khan has now been down eight times in his 35 fights, according to Boxrec. He’s been hurt and staggered more times than that. He’s shown a weak chin in the past and his ability to take a punch has probably gotten worse.

He doesn’t have to do this anymore. Khan is a smart guy. He’s well spoken. He’s charming and engaging. He seems to be well off and financially secure. Khan, who is a devout Muslim of Pakistani descent, is a role model and unofficial spokesman for those who follow his religion through his message of acceptance. He is also an example to others through his charitable efforts.

The Amir Khan Foundation is currently building an “orphan village” equipped with a clinic and community center in the small West African country of The Gambia, according to his website. He volunteers his time and resources all over the world. This is a guy who rubs shoulders with royalty in England. He seems destined for great things. I just think it’s time for Khan to focus on doing those things outside the ring for now on. I think it’s time for Khan to say goodbye to a sport that will likely hurt him and let him down again.

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