By Ivan G. Goldman
Amir Khan, last seen getting knocked around the ring by then-unheralded Danny Garcia, is pondering his relationship with L.A. trainer Freddie Roach, the British media reported. Well, so much for that team.
When everything’s going wrong it’s time to change something, and clearly Khan is not ready to hang up his gloves at the tender age of 25, as advised by his rock-chinned countryman Carl Froch. So it looks like sayonara Freddie, who’s been with Khan since 2008. What comes next? It’s got to be somebody who enables the dead to walk — or at least claims he can, a zombie creator extraordinaire. Emanuel Steward maybe?
But before we get into a frenzy dancing on the corpse of Khan’s career, let’s step back and give him credit for the things he’s done right. He got kayoed by Garcia in the fourth round not because he was backing up. Far from it. Instead of using his superior speed and athleticism, Khan was easily drawn into a war. Stupid choice, but also an entertaining.
“The plan was to counter punch, use the jab,” Roach said, “but Mr. Garcia got under his skin, and his heart got in the way.” Danny’s father Angel, though a racist jerk, did what he wanted to do, which was to draw Khan away from his strong points and get him to fight Danny on Danny’s rougher turf, out there behind the sand traps where anything can happen. So Khan’s doing something wrong turned out right for the fans, who were awarded with a brawl instead of a chess game.
And Khan has done plenty of other things right. The man is not now and never has been a “Khan job,” as my esteemed colleague Charles Jay opined on this site. It’s a sharp phrase but misapplied. For starters, Khan won a silver medal in the Athens Games at age 17. They don’t give those things away in Crackerjack boxes. Especially to Brits.
Khan kayoed Paul Malignaggi in Madison Square Garden, which is like beating up a Chavez in Mexico City. He stupidly fought Lamont Peterson in Washington, D.C. when he didn’t have to. And paid a price, getting robbed by officials and very likely facing someone who got himself a banned testosterone boost.
Khan kayoed Zab Judah. Enough said. And he decisioned fearsome Marcos Maidana after the murderous Maidana had already made Victor Ortiz quit and had only one loss on his record. I guarantee you not a lot of light welters were taking Maidana’s calls at that point. They still aren’t.
Khan could have made plenty of money hanging around Britain, but like his countryman Ricky Hatton, he wanted to prove himself against the best in the Land of the Free. They got their heads handed to them eventually, but you have to respect them for making the trip.
In fact, Khan has notably faced much tougher opposition than he had to. He and Ortiz have been two of the least protected major fighters out there. Yes, it looks like Khan will never be great, but even if he’s demoted to stepping stone, he’s still fun to watch, a quick, powerful, offensive-minded fighter with a dubious chin.
Now back to Freddie. Across the pond they’re all quoting Khan’s comments to the Daily Mirror: “I want someone who is with me all the way through, like my conditioner Ruben Tabares is. It’s hard when you’re with Manny and have to be the number two.”
So at last he noticed what everybody knows. Freddie’s other fighters must always get in line behind Manny Pacquiao. They know that up front, but reality confronts them when they’re lying on the canvas staring up at the TV lights. In fact, everyone who trains at Freddie’s Wild Card Gym in L.A. has to get in line behind Manny. Freddie kicks them out before a Pacquiao super-fight so his Numero Uno can train in private. That’s part of the membership deal. If you don’t like it, take your business down the street. Freddie even built Pacquiao a private gym next to the Wild Card so he could keep the gym open, but superstitious Manny refused to use it.
“There are a few things I have to change to benefit me,” Khan was reported saying in The Mirror. “Maybe we have to see if I’m doing the right training and have the right sparring. Now is the best time to sort these things out and my team will talk things over with Freddie.”
Are you there, Manny Steward? Pick up.
Ivan G. Goldman’s latest novel Isaac: A Modern Fable came out in April 2012 from Permanent Press. Information HERE