Amir Khan is not American. He’s British. Haha. I know that’s corny but here’s a serious note: Amir Iqbal Khan is dangerous. At the age of 17, he grabbed a silver medal at the Athens Olympics. Five years later, he became one of Great Britain’s youngest ever world champions. Now 30, he sports a 31-4 record with some notable wins against Marco Antonio Barrera, Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah. He came off a five-fight winning streak prior to his brutal sixth round KO loss last May to Canelo Alvarez.
That’s the past. Come April 23, it’s sparring partner vs. sparring partner — two buddies previously under the tutelage of Freddie Roach. The story is told of their first meeting. It was October 2008 at the Wild Card Gym and Khan had just suffered his first loss after 18 wins. Against Breidis Prescott, he lasted a mere 54 seconds in the first round. One month after that shocking KO loss and on his first day back, guess who Roach asked him to spar with, as if he were a sacrificial lamb?
“People in the gym asked me if I was doing the right thing,” Roach said, after asking Khan to face then-world’s best Manny Pacquiao. “I was doing the only thing; I needed to know if Amir still wanted to be a boxer. I found out he did.”
That was eight years ago. Exactly 55 days from today, the two won’t face each other in the private confines of a Los Angeles gym but inside a massive (yet still-unannounced) stadium in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Now the consummate internet tactician, Pacquiao created a Twitter poll asking his 118,000 followers who among the four (Khan, Jeff Horn, Terence Crawford and Kell Brook) they wanted him to fight. The response was overwhelming. The well-known Briton with Pakistani origins emerged victorious.
Pacquiao-Khan. Pacquiao can? Can the senator log his 60th win at the ripe age of 38? I sought the commentary of two of the country’s brightest experts — Philboxing.com’s founder Dong Secuya and my former UP Cebu seatmate (and top boxing judge and writer) Salven Lagumbay — and here’s their take:
DONG SECUYA: “It will be an exciting fight while it lasts. Both are familiar with each other’s style as they had many rounds of sparring. The element of surprise may have been taken out. Amir had expected this fight to happen from way back so he had probably psyched himself how to defeat Manny which may turn to his advantage. But the problem with Amir is he commits many mistakes inside the ring and with his weak jaw, a puncher like Manny would be very risky for the Brit.
“Both have speed but I think the result would depend on how Amir approaches the fight. If Amir doesn’t mix up and fight from a distance, he will have a chance to win by close point decison. If Amir fights inside, Manny will catch and knock him out. But in the end, whether Amir fights inside or outside, his propensity to have lapses inside the ring will be his undoing. One error and Manny will catch him. Just like Prescott, Garcia and the much slower
Canelo did to him. I’ve personally watched Amir spar but not with Manny but I haven’t talked to him. He seems to be a nice guy.”
SALVEN LAGUMBAY: “Stylistically this makes for an entertaining fight. I’ve watched both Pacquiao and Khan while they were still both training under Freddie Roach. Khan has the tools to match Pacquiao in terms of speed. Plus he is younger. Definitely hungry. In terms of power Pacquiao might prove a bit too much, plus the Filipino’s all-out, unorthodox style might give Khan some trouble. True, they have both sparred against each other in the past. Khan can claim he edged the Pacman in those sparring sessions. But as you know, sparring is not real fight. Oceans apart. This will be a tremendous match up, a year or two late, but still any boxing pundit’s delight. Still one of the biggest match ups available in boxing.”