Trained by the Best, Amir Khan puts 140-pound Title on the Line

By Bob Velin for Usa Today

The way Amir Khan sees it, he’s spent a lot of time sparring with the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, and is trained by arguably the No. 1 trainer in the world.

So anything that Argentine power puncher Marcos Maidana throws his way Saturday night at the MGM Grand, well, Khan, who puts his 140-pound title on the line (HBO, 9:30 p.m. ET), has already seen it, or will know how to deal with it. You want speed? Few fighters are quicker than Manny Pacquiao, whom Khan sparred with in the Philippines when Pacquiao was training to fight Antonio Margarito in November. Khan says Pacquiao told him, “I’m the fastest guy he’s ever sparred with.”

How about power, Maidana’s forte? We know how Pacquiao re-arranged Margarito’s face that night in Cowboys Stadium last month. Khan’s trainer, Freddie Roach, who is also Pacquiao’s cornerman, says Khan more than held his own against Pacquiao, and, in fact, laid some pretty good licks on the eight-division world champion.

“Yeah, Freddie likes us to spar when we’re both 100%, and when we don’t take it easy on each other,” Khan said by phone last week. “It’s better for me to get that experience and see how far I am from being pound-for-pound the best fighter in the world, which is my ambition. So, yeah, I really did well against Manny, and it was a good, controlled spar. I controlled it when I wanted to control it.”

Maidana says he feels his power can overcome Khan’s speed. “The speed doesn’t bother me because I know I have 12 rounds,” says Maidana. “But I know one thing, when I hit him with one of the my hands, the fight is over.” Khan says Roach has brought out the best in him as a fighter.
“There were times when I used to fight with my heart too much, and I have to use my brains a little bit more,” says Khan. “I’ve got the boxing skills to do that, you know, with the background of the amateurs, and going to the Olympics and everything. Freddie’s taught me to use my brain and think about things more.”

Khan (23-1, 17 KOs) respects the punching power of Maidana (29-1, 27 KOs), but says, “(Maidana’s) a lot slower than me, he’s very predictable and I think somebody’s got to punch him at the right time.” They have one common opponent: Andriy Kotelnik, who handed Maidana his only loss in February 2009, while Khan scored a near shutout victory against Kotelnik in July 2009.

As for Maidana, Khan says he and Roach have worked on the 27-year-old Argentine’s weaknesses and they expect to exploit those weaknesses.
“I think with boxers at that level, they’re always going to (have) their habits. You’re not going to change,” says Khan. “He can try to change his tactics and stuff, but I think his habits are always going to be there. We know exactly what (Maidana) does wrong, and we’ve just got to capitalize on that. We’ve also been working on the stuff I do wrong. I’ll be watching fights with Freddie and I’ll make a lot of mistakes in fights so we’ve been correcting them as well. So (Maidana) can think I make this mistake and that mistake, but he’s going to be fighting a different Amir Khan on the 11th.”

Roach says Khan has changed his style since his shocking first-round knockout by Breidis Prescott as a lightweight in 2008, the only loss of his career, a loss that led some to believe that Khan does not have a strong chin. Roach says he’s a completely different fighter now. “The thing is, he knows how to set things up now,” says Roach. “He just doesn’t go in there and look for a one-punch knockout. He knows how to break a person down and he knows how to work behind his jab and … reach for the body. He’s just become a completely different fighter. We haven’t lost a round since we’ve been together (at the beginning of 2009). I mean, we haven’t lost one round.”

Khan says he expects to stay at 140 pounds for another 12-15 months before he moves up to welterweight. But first there are some outstanding junior welterweights out there he’d like to fight. “You’ve got Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander, there’s a lot of big names in that division,” says Khan, who just turned 24 this week. “Fighting them would be good for boxing, because that’s what people want, people want young fighters to fight (each other). They want explosive fighters instead of fighters past their peak.”

Both Khan and Richard Schaefer, the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, which has Khan under contract, say his next fight will probably be in his native England. There had been talk that a good opponent for Khan to rebuild his popularity in England would be undefeated Brit lightweight John Murray (30-0, 18 KOs). Khan says that won’t happen because he and Murray are not on the same level. “I would get a lot of criticism for that because I’m a world-class fighter and he’s on a domestic level,” says Khan. “I want to fight world-class fighters, and I don’t think he’s in that category.”

Khan says when he moves up to welterweight, there’s no way he’d fight Pacquiao because they have become such good friends, and they share the same trainer. However, “with the strength and power and technique I have, I could fight a Floyd Mayweather,” he says.

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  1. December 19th, 2010

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