By Lance Pugmire for The LA Times
Amir Khan stood on his greatest American stage Saturday, and the fact that he remained standing is why he retained his World Boxing Assn. junior-welterweight world title against Marcos Maidana.
Withstanding a brutal 10th-round assault by the tough, hard-hitting Argentine, England’s Khan convincingly answered allegations that he has no chin and otherwise produced a sensational display of speed and flurry punching to win a unanimous decision by scores of 114-111 (judges Jerry Roth and C.J. Ross) and 113-112 (Glenn Trowbridge).
“I’m a boxer, I know I’m going to get hit.” Khan, 24, said in the Mandalay Bay ring. “He’s a strong puncher. I took everything he gave me.”
Khan (24-1) knocked down Maidana in the opening round, unleashing a quick flurry that closed with a hard left to the body that brought an obvious groan of pain from the challenger.
Maidana (29-2), who had knocked out 27 opponents, couldn’t match Khan’s punching or foot speed, but he did catch the Briton of Pakistani heritage often, like in the second round, when he erupted with uppercuts and rights.
Maidana threw 767 punches to Khan’s 603, but landed only 156 to Khan’s 273. Khan won four of the first five rounds on the judges’ scorecards.
Maidana’s response was pressure that backed up Khan in the sixth and seventh rounds, and dimmed some of the champion’s earlier shine.
The eighth and ninth rounds went Khan’s way and he appeared en route to quieting the critics who still bark about his first-round knockout loss in 2008, producing a resilient, entertaining style that the sport has needed from a young star who previously fought in Europe and first came to the U.S. earlier this year.
This was more than that polite introduction; it was an all-out brawl that produced the epic 10th round in which Maidana appeared poised for a knockout in the first minute.
Maidana staggered the champion to the point he was grasping for support from anywhere — a ring rope, referee Joe Cortez, Maidana — to stay upright.
At one point, it appeared tears were coming from Khan’s eyes as Maidana battered him without abandon. All three judges scored the round 10-8 for Maidana, astounding given that Khan was not knocked down.
The sense afterward was that Khan was more thrilled by his display of toughness than his defensive lapses.
“I’m sure everyone watching my fight knows I’ve made mistakes,” Khan said. “But I worked hard and came back stronger than ever. He’s a strong fighter and punches hard. My chin was tested and I proved today I’ve got a chin.”
Maidana couldn’t get Khan in the 11th round, either, and the champion rallied late in the 12th round with impressive combinations, walking with his arms raised into the embrace of trainer Freddie Roach at the bell.