Amir Khan Goes to Washington
By Gabriel Montoya, MaxBoxing (Dec 7, 2011) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Delane Rouse, Hoganphotos / Golden Boy Promotions)
Amir Khan (L) - Freddie Roach (R)
As boxing’s older guard begins to pass like super-fights in the night, boxing is looking for its next star. Some say we need an American heavyweight who fights like Mike Tyson and acts like Tim Tebow. Others look to the smaller divisions for a fighter who can traverse weight classes, claim belts and move into position for crossover appeal. One such candidate is WBA/IBF light welterweight champion Amir “King” Khan. A good looking, well-spoken 140-pound fighter, Khan looks and acts the part, showing a willingness to get in the ring with anyone near his weight class. But while he wins emphatically over the likes of Zab Judah, Marcos Maidana and Paulie Malignaggi, Khan has failed to excite the general public in the US, translating to not many tickets sold.
And so the Bolton, UK-born Khan, like any good candidate looking to stake his claim, will take his campaign on the road to an even more specific degree this Saturday, heading into Washington, D.C. to face hometown favorite Lamont Peterson in a mandatory defense live on HBO. It’s a dangerous move for Khan, who will be facing a large pro-Peterson Convention Center in our nation’s capital, but it’s necessary to continue building his brand in the U.S. wherever there are paying fight fans. It’s especially necessary for Khan, who is of Pakistani descent at a time when any shade of brown in the U.S. that’s not a California tan is looked at with suspect eyes. Add in that Khan is not known as a knockout puncher but rather a fast moving boxer with blinding hand speed and the sell is even harder.
The fight with Peterson is a dangerous one and Khan understands this. Peterson is no joke, taking WBO junior welterweight champion Tim Bradley the distance and scoring a draw with Victor Ortiz. His experience and hometown crowd is not going to be an easy out.
“I like that. It made me train harder and make me work harder in the fight,” Khan told me and Doug Fischer of, while heading to D.C. for his media day a few weeks ago. “Every fight is a tough fight no matter what. I really think we know exactly what to do and exactly how to beat Lamont Peterson. We've fought some big names and we have fought some tricky opponents in the past and that's going to help me going into this fight. We've fought tough guys, tricky guys, crafty boxers. So I think this fight is going to be more about fighting a guy who is a good boxer but also like to fight inside as well. Lamont Peterson is a ‘box fighter.’ We've been working on ways to beat him. We've got Plan A and Plan B. We know exactly what to do to beat him.”
Khan explained what he meant by “box fighter.”
“Peterson boxes now and then and then he might just change his tactics and might want to start fighting. That's what Lamont Peterson is. He fluctuates from being a boxer and a fighter,” Khan explains, spot on, I might add.
Peterson generally forgets the jab early on, coming in behind his shield defense but midway through a fight, he can suddenly set up combinations, body work and a hard right hand. He is a fighter who is really coming into his own after his recent brutal stoppage of Victor Cayo and is always in it for the long, wear-you-down haul.
“[Peterson]'s a good overall fighter, to be honest with you,” said Khan. “He's a pressure fighter. He's fought southpaws and a mixture of different opponents. With this fight, I think what's going to cause him a lot of problems is my accuracy and speed. I don't think he has fought anyone with accuracy.”
Khan is a fighter who likes to get off first and get out. Peterson tends to wait around a bit before getting started. Khan feels because of his style of speed and movement, Peterson may try and start earlier.
“I think he might know that and that I've got a good engine and that I like to work all the way through the 12 rounds,” said Khan. “We always train for a full distance. Give me the mouthpiece and at the first bell, it's going to be a fight from the first bell.”
As Khan spoke from the Wild Card Boxing Gym in Hollywood, CA, his trainer, Freddie Roach, wrapped his hands. As he did this, Roach placed plastic molds over the back of Khan’s wrist, then secured them in place with gauze and continued the full taping process. Khan explained that devices, which go nowhere near his knuckles but simply above and below the wrist area, help stave off injury throughout camp.
“We wear them in the gym to protect your wrist,” Khan explained. “The amount of punches that we throw, probably 1,000 punches a day, that's like 6,000 a week. It's a long training camp and this supports the wrist and the hands. We move away from them two weeks out from the fight. We only use them for hard pad sessions and hard sparring sessions just so we don't pick up an injury.”
Khan had other options and a hope. Being a big junior welter at 5’10”, Khan could have vacated his title and moved up to 147 or simply waited for another, bigger name opponent to emerge. But he’s a fighter to the core and bent on cleaning up the division before the eventual move up to welterweight.
If there is one piece of business Khan has left at 140 should he win on Saturday night, it’s with Tim Bradley. A proposed fight between the two was slated for earlier this year but Bradley’s promotional issues kept the fight from happening. The failed meeting left a bitter rift between the two men. For the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III broadcast, Khan got his first crack at commentating for the UK TV feed. Bradley, now signed with Top Rank, was the co-feature following a nine-month layoff. His opponent, the ancient Joel Casamayor, did Bradley no favors in the exciting comeback fight department. Consequently, Khan was unimpressed by the man he feels is ducking him.
“He didn't impress me. I know why he didn't want to fight me now. It makes sense, everyone who was there and saw the fight,” said Khan. “Casamayor, he should have got him out of there in four or five rounds but [Bradley] dragged it. Casamayor was catching him with shots that he should have never got caught with. He'd been out of the ring a long time and he's a good fighter but it's just he needs to man up  a little bit and take the big fights.”
Khan managed to get in a verbal shot at Bradley following the weigh-in for the fight.
“We were stuck at the weigh-in and [Bradley] had just weighed in and we were by the elevator,” explained Khan. “He walked right past me. I told him, “You gonna grow some balls?” He stayed quiet. His trainer was with him. I was on my own and I thought he might have said something but I think he knows himself that I have offered him the fight twice and he refused to take the fight. But this is boxing and the best have to fight the best. Bradley is not doing that.”
The latter comeback fight notwithstanding is simply not true. Bradley beat Devon Alexander, who many considered the other top man at 140, in January, delivering Alexander’s first loss. Beyond that, Khan made me wonder if he believed his own talk based on Bradley’s silence over his legal dealings with former promoter Gary Shaw, who filed injunctions attempting to stop his Top Rank debut.
“To be fair to Bradley,” I ventured to Khan, “He is now no longer with Gary Shaw. As I understood things, there was not a problem with the contract offer from you. Bradley did not want to take another fight with Shaw because there was further options on the contract that would in effect. It wasn’t that he was afraid of you. In fact, Bradley told me recently he is not afraid of you and would love to take the fight.”
“No, because we…he should speak up then,” replied Khan. “I didn't know about that. Even HBO tried to get him to fight me.”
“That was another thing he mentioned,” I told Khan. “He felt HBO was really pushing your fight before it was ready. Really, it was about the promotional contract he was getting out of.”  
“Well, so maybe now that he is not with Gary Shaw, maybe he might consider taking the fight,” said Khan.
“That said, if you beat Peterson, do you stay at 140 to make the Bradley fight or do you head up in weight to 147?”
“It depends how I feel after this fight,” said Khan. “I will sit down with my team first and see what the options are and then move up to 147. I'd like to move up to 147 and take the next fight at 147 but we'll just see how it is and who is around at that time. If there is an ideal opponent that I want to face and he is around at 147, I'd do that straight away.”
Khan expressed displeasure with the fact that when he and Bradley were first discussing a fight, they both had all four belts between them. Now, Bradley only has one. Erik Morales has the belt Bradley was wrongly stripped of- but Khan reiterated he would like to face Bradley.  
“Bradley was only guy left to face at the 140 division. I beat Maidana and totally cleaned up. What upset me was when [Bradley] was the titleholder in the division and I held two titles, it would have been a big, big fight in the 140-pound division. All the titles at one time but what is next?  But he's knows how much I want the fight and if he wants it, I am ready to take it any time.”
Khan briefly looked ahead to 147 and described how he thinks his power will translate at the higher weight.
“I think I will be a lot better and a lot stronger because when you lose weight, you lose power by losing that four or five pounds,” Khan explained. “When I am at 147, I will be naturally bigger. I can keep a lot more muscle as well- and I will be a lot bigger, stronger.”
For the meantime, Khan has a dangerous contender in front of him.
“Lamont Peterson is the next guy we have to focus on,” said Khan. “He’s tough, tricky, strong. We have just have to be smart in this fight and not make mistakes and not look too far ahead because there's so many fights out there that people are putting towards.”
Khan added his prediction, which was neither flashy nor brash but simply a hope for the future.
“Just go in there and fight,” he said. “Hopefully, a unanimous decision win or late stoppage.”
The super-fights will undoubtedly come for Khan but first things first, he has to win in Washington.

More of Gabriel's recent work:
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Brandon Rios Loses Title on the Scales Gabriel Montoya
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How Do You Sell a Product like “Canelo”? Gabriel Montoya
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You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him on each Monday’s episode of “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 PM PST. Gabriel is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

* Special Thanks To MaxBoxing.

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