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 RingTV.com,
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
“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
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
“No, because we…he should speak
up then,” replied Khan. “I didn't know about that. Even HBO tried to get him to
“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
“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 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
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,
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