Amir Khan: The greatest hits
Highly talented Amir Khan has enjoyed a successful career, holding the IBF and WBA junior welterweight titles and regularly testing himself against the best boxing had to offer across several weight classes.
Khan was born and brought up in Bolton, England and took up boxing at eight years old.
“I was very hyperactive, naughty in school and home,” Khan told The Ring. “I went to the boxing gym and started to burn energy in a positive way. It totally changed my life. I started to behave in school. I never thought I’d get this far and become a champion one day.”
He was a highly decorated amateur, winning a slew of junior titles and captured the British public’s attention as a fresh faced 17-year-old when he claimed silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics.
“I was a big name coming back from the Olympic Games,” he said. “It was hard to cope with that pressure. I managed and am still around. It’s been brilliant the way it’s gone.”
Khan (34-5 with 21 knockouts), who went 101-9 as an amateur, was highly sought after and signed professional contracts with Frank Warren’s Queensberry Promotions. He made his debut in front of his hometown fans, stopping David Bailey in one round. The popular attraction fought around the country as his celebrity grew.
Khan moved through the ranks and won the Commonwealth lightweight title in his 13th contest. However he was stunningly derailed when he was knocked out by big-punching Colombian Breidis Prescott in one round, in September of 2008.
To his immense credit, he got back on track and after two wins, one over old lion Marco Antonio Barrera on cuts, he impressively beat Andriy Kotelnik for the WBA 140-pound title.
The quick-fisted boxer-puncher made five defenses and added the IBF title along the way, then was upset in controversial fashion by Lamont Peterson in December 2011. The two were scheduled to meet in a rematch, in May 2012, that was scuppered when Peterson tested positive for synthetic testosterone.
The WBA returned its title to Khan and he quickly signed to face WBC titleholder Danny Garcia in a unification bout in July 2012. Although Khan started well, he was caught and hurt in the third round. He showed considerable heart but never recovered and was stopped in the next round.
Khan recalibrated with two wins and moved up to welterweight in search of superfights with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao. However neither came to pass and when a deal couldn’t be struck to face domestic rival Kell Brook, Khan rolled the dice and stepped up to face The Ring Magazine/WBC middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez at a catchweight of 155 pounds in May 2016.
“I don’t think a lot of top fighters wanted to fight me,” he said of his welterweight contemporaries. “That’s why I had to move up two weight classes to fight Canelo.”
The Brit’s speed initially gave Canelo trouble; however a single, well-placed overhand right sent Khan to the canvas, ending the argument in definitive fashion in the sixth round.
“He’s a beast; he’s strong,” said Khan. “I was doing well keeping him long but he’s very technical. He’s not slow.
“Every time he hit you, it was like a big thud; you’d feel it, it would push you back. If you hit him, nothing affected him. I hit him with a good right hand and he walked through everything. If I hit someone at my own weight with that shot, it would at least put them on the backfoot but nothing put him on his backfoot.”
After nearly two years, Khan returned with two wins in 2018 and was again in talks to face Brook. However, he decided a fight with pound-for-pound star Terence Crawford was too good to pass up. Crawford was too much for Khan and stopped him in six rounds.
He quickly returned with a stoppage win over former IBF featherweight titlist BIlly Dib in Saudi Arabia and is contemplating his next move which he hinted could be retirement.
“I can’t fight behind closed doors; I’m going to wait and see,” Khan explained regarding the current COVID-19 pandemic. “At the moment, I’m keeping fit, staying in the gym. It’s hard to say but even if I did call it a day, what a career I’ve had. I fought the best; I never ducked a fight.”
There is one potential fight that energizes the 33-year-old: “Manny Pacquiao would be the fight that would definitely bring the hunger back.”
Here’s what he had to say about six of his most memorable nights in the ring:
Date/Venue: July 18, 2009, M.E.N Arena, Manchester, England
Title: WBA junior welterweight
“I was put in a world fight two fights after being defeated by Breidis Prescott. Everyone thought I was finished. Then Kotelnik came to me and I was nervous because I thought I can’t lose again. If I lose again, I’m done. For me to take that fight, there was a lot of pressure on me but I had to do it to show the world where I belong. I went up to 140; that was my first fight and it was for a world title. Going up in weight made me feel a lot stronger. It made me feel a lot healthier, not killing myself making weight.
“When I was fighting him, the only thing on my mind was maybe he’s stronger than me and physically bigger than me but I had to be one step ahead and the way I won it was by being smart and boxing him. It was the best feeling ever; I can’t explain it. That was probably the best celebration of my life. It was like all that pressure of people saying, ‘Are you going to become world champ?’ And then you’ve done it. I remember having a big party with my close friends and loved ones and celebrated it with them.”
Result: Khan UD 12
Date/Venue: May 15, 2010, Madison Square Garden, New York City
Title: WBA junior welterweight
“It was my American debut. There was a lot of pressure there because this was my first fight with Golden Boy [Promotions] after leaving Frank Warren. I didn’t know how it was going to feel. People normally get nervous but I took it all in and enjoyed it. I couldn’t believe it, seeing my name up in lights in Times Square and the love I got from American fans. I’d never fought in America before and to have a big American fan base kind of shocked me. The build-up to that fight was amazing. I was rubbing shoulders with the likes of Oscar De La Hoya. I was a big fan of Oscar; he was now my promoter.
“After I beat Malignaggi, a lot of people thought he was done but he came back and won another world title when he beat [Vyacheslav] Senchenko, the guy who beat Ricky Hatton. It was massive for me. I’m quite glad it went to the 11th round because that way I was able to showcase my skills.”
Result: Khan TKO 11
Date/Venue: December 11, 2010, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas
Title: WBA junior welterweight
“I remember the first time I saw Maidana fight was when he was fighting Victor Ortiz. I was getting ready to fight Kotelnik and I got invited to the fight. I wasn’t with Golden Boy at the time; I was with Frank Warren and [former Golden Boy CEO] Richard Schaefer said to me, ‘If you win your fight against Kotelnik, your mandatory will be Maidana or Victor Ortiz,’ but everybody thought Victor Ortiz was going to smash him. I remember I sat there [watching]; Victor Ortiz puts Maidana down and Richard Schaefer looking back at me and smiling. I smiled back and Schaefer said, ‘He’s the man; you’ll fight him if you beat Kotelnik,’ so when I saw Maidana knock him out, I was like, ‘Wow,’ and then when I was told after winning my title I had to fight my mandatory, which was Maidana, I thought, ‘Shit,’ but I wasn’t one of those fighters to say I’m not fighting him because I want to fight him but I knew it was going to be tough and I had to prove myself after getting knocked out by Prescott and fight another big puncher and I thought if I don’t do it now, everyone is going to doubt me. I had to get it over with before moving forward. I can fight other people and be a world champion but if I’m not fighting and overcoming my fears and the vulnerabilities, I’m not moving forward in life.
“I wished the fight had stopped with that body shot because once I put him down, I thought, ‘He’s gone.’ I didn’t think he was going to get up; it was such a peach of a shot. When he got up, I thought, ‘This guy is coming to fight.’ I have to say, God was on my side in that fight, fighting such a tough, big puncher and I then went on and beat Maidana. I was hurt in the 10th round but came through it, bit down on my gumshield and fought through the fight. I don’t really remember anything but I know the way I think. I was not going to give up. I’ve come so far. I’m close to winning the fight. I’m not giving up. I know the way I am as a person. I don’t like giving up and in that fight, I showed that. I was hurt so badly, the fight could have got stopped but I came through it.”
Result: Khan UD 12
Date/Venue: July 23, 2011, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas
Titles: IBF/WBA junior welterweight
“Two titles on the line. Judah was a legend of the sport. He gave Mayweather a tough fight and I thought I’m going to do a better job on him. Judah was one of the biggest names in the sport. He was experienced and more technical and fought big names.
“He had the late Pernell Whitaker in his corner, another legend; I got to meet him. At the weigh-in he was taking the micky out of my six-pack, saying there’s nothing there, where he had an eight-pack. He was in great shape. It wasn’t an easy fight; he came to win. With Pernell on his side, that gave him the extra confidence but I went in there and was smarter than him. Beating him put me at the top of the division. I remember every shot was hitting him clean and I could see he was deteriorating and breaking down and I think that body shot was a way out.
“I remember after the fight, Pernell came up to me in the changing room and said I was the fastest fighter he’s ever seen fight throw a punch, ‘In this fight, the way you fought, you’d beat anybody.’ He even said, ‘If you fought Mayweather that night, [you]’d have beat him.'”
Result: Khan KO 5
Date/Venue: May 3, 2014, MGM Grand, Las Vegas
“The Mayweather fight was signed; everything was done. It’s my fault for announcing it. I was young and I got excited and announced it and Mayweather doesn’t like stuff like that and spat his dummy and said, ‘I’m not fighting you.’ I would have fought Mayweather instead of Collazo but [Mayweather] picked Maidana.
“When that fight came up, I knew it was another hard fight because he knocked out Victor Ortiz and he’s going to want to knock me out. That was my first fight at 147. I boxed really well. It was on a Mayweather undercard. I was the chief support; I kind of showcased my skills for the first time on American pay-per-view. There was always talk about me fighting Mayweather. I think this fight sealed it because people could see it was a good fight. I had proved myself at 147.”
Result: Khan UD 12
Date/Venue: December 13, 2014, MGM Grand, Las Vegas
“Stylistically I was just a better fighter. I was just so skilful; speed won me that fight. I think that must have been the fight where I was at the peak of my career. On that night, I think I could have beaten anybody they put me in with.
“That was a time when even Kell Brook avoided fighting Devon Alexander; he pulled out twice. It was a well-fought fight. I had to be smart because he’s a very good technical fighter. He thought he was quicker and better than me so I had to be that one step ahead. I thought after that fight, I’d get the Mayweather fight.
“I was always trying to get that big pay-per-view fight against Mayweather but it never happened. I still have it in me; don’t get me wrong but then I feel I was untouchable.”
Result: Khan UD 12
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