Does Amir Khan Have A Chance to Defeat Floyd Mayweather? Does it Even Matter?

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix has reported that an agreement has been reached for a May 3, 2013 pay per view fight between reigning welterweight and junior middleweight champion Floyd Mayweather (45-0) and former junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan (28-3).  Mannix also reported that an official announcement will be made in the next few days.  Indeed, the (unreliable) BoxRec schedule already includes the fight.

As is the case with any Mayweather fight, there are two major questions surrounding the fight: does Mayweather’s opponent have a realistic shot at defeating the pound for pound king; and how successful will the pay per view be?  The questions are related.

At first glance, Khan appears to be exactly the kind of opponent that many would tab to defeat the man known as “Money.”  The fighter from Bolton, England is 26 years old and has been a professional for eight years.  Prior to turning professional, Khan had an outstanding amateur career which was highlighted by winning a silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.  His loss in the finals of those games was to Cuban two time gold medalist Mario Kindelan and was avenged in Khan’s last amateur bout.  It should also be noted that Khan’s amateur career also includes a second round stoppage victory over Victor Ortiz.  In addition to a stellar amateur career, Khan has showed in the professional ranks that he has tremendous hand speed and excellent athleticism.  Further, Khan has worked under noted trainers such as Dean Powell, Jorge Rubio, Freddie Roach and, his current trainer, Virgil Hunter.  Khan’s work under Roach including sparring sessions with Manny Pacquiao.

With all of those great attributes, there is one glaring question: who is the best fighter Khan has beaten as a professional?  In the abstract, the answer would seem to be Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera.  However, the bout occurred in March, 2009, two years after Barrera’s loses to Juan Manuel Marquez and Pacquiao (in the rematch) and only 5 weeks after Barrera suffered a deep cut in a tune-up bout (a cut which re-opened early in the Khan fight and caused a premature technical decision win for the Brit); and at 135 pounds, a weight well above Barrera’s best which was 122 and 126 pounds.  In reality, the answer is either Paulie Malignaggi (a dominating 11th round stoppage victory in 2010), Marcos Maidana (a 12 round decision in the Boxing Writers’ 2010 Fight of the Year where Khan dropped Maidana with a body shot but had to run for his life in the championship rounds after Maidana had him on Queer Street in the 10th round) or Zab Judah (a 5th round knock out victory on a body shot in 2011).  While these are all quality wins, they are not a list of hall-of-famers.

On the other hand, Khan has had some puzzling losses and bad performances in victories.  While everyone marveled at his athleticism and talent, there were questions about his chin as he was an undefeated prospect and rising star.  In 2008, those questions were answered when he was knocked out in 98 seconds by the unknown Bredis Prescott.  The loss lead to the hiring of Roach and the victories mentioned above.  Then, in 2011, Khan lost a controversial split-decision to Lamont Peterson.  Although the bout occurred in Peterson’s hometown and he later tested positive for a banned substance, Khan showed in the fight an alarming inability to deal with Peterson’s pressure and inside fighting.  Khan followed that up by facing Danny Garcia who was a massive underdog.  To the surprise of many, Garcia survived a rocky 1st and 2nd round to land big punches and eventually knockout Khan in the fourth round. 

To rebound from those losses, Khan unceremoniously dumped Roach and hired Andre Ward’s trainer, Virgil Hunter.  To say that there is a contrast between Roach and Hunter is an understatement… Roach teaches an offensive style while Hunter is known for defense and teaching fighters to pot-shot and then initiate clinches to avoid counter-punches.  Their first fight together was a dominant Khan win over the much smaller and not-world-rated prospect Carlos Molina (not the current 154 pound titlist).  Their second fight together, against the veteran Julio Diaz, was a near disaster.  It was Khan’s first bout above 140 pounds (at a 143 pound catchweight) and Diaz had never shown any success above 135 pounds where he was a former two-time titlist.  Regardless, Diaz survived the early rounds, dropped Khan in the 4th round and repeatedly rocked Khan throughout the middle and late rounds. Khan survived to win a close decision. 

This bears repeating… in possibly his last fight before facing the pound-for-pound king at welterweight, Khan was hurt, knocked down and lost 4 or 5 rounds to JULIO DIAZ.  To make matters worse, should the fight come off on May 3, 2014, Khan will be coming off of an 11 month layoff, the longest of his career.  He will also be competing in his first bout at the 147 pound weight limit. 

The man known as “Money” must be licking his chops.  Despite Khan’s hand speed and athleticism, attributes Mayweather has in abundance as well, Mayweather holds advantages over Khan in every other major category you can think of.  That includes punching power as Khan’s blows, especially under Hunter’s tutelage, are more amateur style point scoring punches than hard blows with leverage behind them.  Throw in Khan’s chin issues and we are looking at Mayweather’s first knockout victory since the Ricky Hatton obliteration in 2009.

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