Opinion: Khan deserves bouquets not brickbats

Haroon Ahmed
27/10/2018 12:39pm

Haroon Ahmed argues that Amir Khan should be given the credit he deserves for a career that many fighters would be proud to have had...

Amir Khan should be more appreciated.

At 17 years of age, he won an Olympic silver medal which virtually nobody expected him to win. Prior to that, he had won a host of amateur honours.

Five years after his Olympic success, he progressed to become a world champion, one of Britain’s youngest titlists in history. At 24 years of age, he part unified the 140lbs division.

Yes he has been knocked out and hurt in the past but Khan has always shown heart. I would much rather support a fighter who doesn’t have the best chin, but shows heart, rather than someone with no heart who is able to take a shot.

No matter how tough it gets, you will never see Khan quit. He would rather be knocked out cold than quit in a fight.

In a career spanning 37 professional fights, Khan has been stopped three times. Is this enough to warrant the ridiculous title of a ‘glass jaw’?

To put it into perspective, Nigel Benn, Manny Pacquiao and Ricky Hatton have been stopped the same amount of times (or in Benn's case one more time than Khan), yet these fighters are classed as legends of the game, and are hardly ever mentioned as having a ‘glass jaw’.

Yes, Khan has lost four fights, but it is important to analyse those losses.

His first reverse came against Breidis Prescott, a fight everyone expected Khan to win. In retrospect this was a poor match-up for such a young man. At that stage of Khan’s career, he shouldn’t have fought such a dangerous puncher, particularly one who was unbeaten in 19 fights with 17 KOs.

Losses are a part of boxing. Anyone can lose, but it is how you come back from losses that counts.

And this is what makes Khan special. Just two fights after his first defeat, he won his first world title, beating the experienced and tough Andriy Kotelnik via a wide unanimous decision to lift the WBA super lightweight title.

After a run of spectacular wins, headlining in New York and Las Vegas, Khan’s second career loss came to Lamont Peterson in 2011.

Credit must be given to Khan for even taking this fight. Prior to the contest, Washington D.C. had rarely seen championship boxing, yet Khan (as the unified champion) decided to travel to his opponent's back yard. The decision proved to be a mistake, and the split decision points loss controversial. Khan was deducted two points for pushing - ridiculously so in my view. Despite this handicap many experts still had him winning on the scorecards.

A few months later it was discovered that Peterson had tested positive for a banned substance. Given this development, I believe there was a strong case for the bout to be retrospectively classed as a 'no contest', although this did not happen.

Khan's next loss came against 23-0 WBC champion Danny Garcia. Originally slated to rematch Peterson, this fight fell through due to Peterson’s drugs test issues and Garcia stepped forward.

Throughout his training camp, it was said that Khan hardly had the attention of his trainer Freddie Roach as he was busy working with Manny Pacquiao. However, this isn’t really an excuse. Garcia won fair and square. Khan started the fight well using his speed and movement, but Garcia came back with a mighty punch that probably would have knocked out anyone in the division. Khan once again showed heart and continued to fight on, but was eventually stopped on his feet.

Khan's next loss, and his final one to date, was against lineal middleweight champion Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez in May 2016.

Khan lost the fight, yes, but hardly anyone gave him a chance - he was stepping up two weight classes to fight one of the best fighters in the world. Nevertheless, most observers felt Khan was winning on the scorecards going into round six, when Canelo's size and power finally caught up with him and he was KO'd by a massive shot that would have hurt any middleweight, never mind a welterweight.

It was said that Canelo weighed close to 180lbs on the night of the fight and you have to give credit to Khan for showing the courage to take such a dangerous fight.

In the recent past we’ve seen two high-profile fights in which a fighter has gone up two weight classes to fight. The first was Kell Brook vs Gennady Golovkin. The second was Guillermo Rigondeaux against Vasyl Lomachenko. On both occasions, the fighter going up in weight was retired by their corner (or 'quit', depending on your point of view) which puts into perspective how brave Khan was against Canelo - as I mentioned earlier, he would rather be knocked out clean than ever quit.

Another thing you can never say about Khan is that he has avoided tough fights. Lest we forget, he fought the dangerous Marcos Maidana when Maidana had 29 wins with 27 KOs and was massively avoided. We all know how good a fight that was.

Nevertheless, Khan has received a lot of criticism for apparently ‘ducking’ Kell Brook. However until Brook faced Shawn Porter in his 33rd pro fight, the level of opposition he had faced was nowhere near as impressive as the names on Khan's ledger. Although Brook beat Porter it was a close fight which some scored for the American, while one of the three judges made it a draw.

Since then, Brook has fought the likes of GGG and Errol Spence, which has seen his popularity rise tremendously, meaning it is now the perfect time for the Khan vs Brook fight to happen. Khan has brought the fight closer by signing to the same promotional company as Brook, therefore it's ridiculous to suggest he has been ‘ducking’ Brook.

Now that Brook’s name holds value, I believe the fight will happen. In the past it wouldn’t have drawn as much interest from around the globe as it will now, meaning it was a smart move by Khan.

What shocks me the most is how much criticism Khan received for wanting to fight Floyd Mayweather. People criticise boxers for not taking tough fights, and ‘protecting their 0’ yet here you had Khan wanting to fight the best.

In my view, Mayweather clearly avoided Khan. It was clear he had a style that would trouble Mayweather.

Mayweather even mounted an online poll to ask his fans who he should fight next. The two options were Khan and Maidana.  Khan won the poll, yet Mayweather ignored this and fought Maidana, a guy Khan had already beaten.

As well as this, Amir Khan was Floyd’s WBC number one challenger for a while, yet a showdown was never mandated. In Mayweather's 49th fight, the two options he had were Andre Berto or Khan. Once again, Mayweather ignored Khan and went for Berto. At this point Berto was coming off a run of three losses in six fights, while Khan was on a five-fight winning streak.

Similarly, in 2017 Manny Pacquiao put out a poll and asked his fan who he should fight next. Khan won by a landslide, yet PacMan chose to fight someone else. Two of the best P4P boxers of this generation have clearly avoided Khan.

A lot of British fans criticise Khan, but Britain needs to get behind their fighter. He’s done great things for the country. On numerous times he has headlined in the likes of Las Vegas and New York, and almost every time he has worn the British flag on his shorts.

Khan's last two victories prove that he still has something to offer. If the fight with Brook is finally agreed he'll be looking to get past the Sheffield man and then fight for the chance to become a three-time champion of the world.

Perhaps then he will get the respect he deserves.