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Amir Khan Not Damaged, Not ‘Back,’ and That’s Just Fine.

by Mike Samuels

Amir Khan was seeking vindication going into his fight with Carlos Molina.

If you go by the end result – a 10th round TKO – it clearly appears Khan, armed with the new teachings of head trainer Virgil Hunter, is one step closer to solidifying his claim as one of the best young fighters in the sport.

Photo: Hogan Photos/Golden Boy

Khan looked the part against Molina. His body was ripped. His combinations were lightening quick and on point. He fought at a controlled pace. He broke down the smaller and less experienced Molina over the course of the fight and said all the right things afterwards in his post-fight interview with Jim Gray.

The Amir Khan project looks stronger now than it did in back-to-back losses against Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia just last year.

Khan’s win should do plenty to boost his confidence – and Amir Khan back in the mix is exactly what the sport needs – but after rewatching the fight following the initial live telecast, two words come to mind.

Buyer Beware.

Paulie Malignaggi, doing a tremendous job in the broadcast booth as always, was quick to point out how patient and calm Khan fought from the onset. Khan threw his combinations from a safe distance and when enticed to exchange from the pocket with Molina, would do so with enough tact to get his shots off and get out of the storm without fear of getting clipped back by anything substantial from the obviously out-manned challenger.

It was total domination. But it was also Carlos Molina.

The reason for holding off on catapulting Khan to the top of the throne off of an impressive comeback victory became evident as the fight wore on. Carlos Molina had too many moments. His face was bleeding. His eyes were closing. And through it all he was finding ways to land accurate shots on the inside when Khan allowed it.

The flaws by Kahn are not something that Virgil Hunter can change. The best fighters in the world rarely allow an opponent to get an upper hand at any facet of a fight. Amir Khan is one of the most physically talented fighters in the sport.

He proved it against Molina.

From a mental toughness standpoint, Khan proved very little, though.

And perhaps Freddie Roach, who appeared bitter at the news of being heavily criticized and dismissed as Khan’s trainer following his knockout loss to Danny Garcia, is somewhat correct in his belief that Khan is what he is – and that Hunter, a great trainer by any means, simply will not be able to make significant enough changes to keep Khan from suffering another setback, most likely by knockout, at the hands of a higher caliber fighter.

Molina did not come equipped with the tools to force Khan to face adversity. He was as tough and game as he could be, and for that he deserves praise. The dangerous aspect of such a dominating win for Khan is the idea that it could parlay into a false sense of confidence going forward.

Then again, maybe dangerous is the wrong word.

Every time Khan has lost a fight, even going back to the vicious knockout at the hands of Breidis Prescott, the consensus belief is that Khan needs to change something about his fighting style. The echoes of media members and as Doug Fischer likes to call them, “message board mutants,” scorning at the idea Khan can be a championship level fighter with his current style have damaged Khan in a way that leaves Virgil Hunter his toughest task.

For being a guy with so many gaping holes, Amir Khan has had a pretty successful career. Nobody can ever say he has ducked another fighter. He is constantly seeking out the best challenges and in doing so, has engaged in typically entertaining and drama filled fights.

Isn’t that what every boxing fan wants?

Virgil Hunter’s task is to convince Amir Khan that he is not damaged goods. He needs to find a bonding point that allows him to show Khan that he needs to embrace how he fights and take the good that comes with it as well as the bad.

There’s no magic potion that turns sand into water, and there’s nothing out there – no training technique, or magical undetected PED – that will suddenly give Amir Khan the ability to think under pressure the way James Toney, Bernard Hopkins or Floyd Mayweather have done during their illustrious careers.

The only thing damaged about Amir Khan is the idea that he needs to fight like someone he’s not.

QUICK HITS: Farewell to Larry Merchant. He will be missed more than his biggest critics will ever admit. Max Kellerman is a suitable replacement but he will have some big shoes to fill. The loss of Emmanuel Stewart and now Larry Merchant will prove to be challenging for Jim Lampley heading into 2013. It should be interesting to watch.

The rumblings of return fights for Shane Mosley and Bernard Hopkins are making my stomach churn. Both guys are hall-of-famers, but it is high time these guys fade off into the sunset. Boxing needs to be rejuvenated with youth and the way to do that is not to showcase great fighters with a selling point on their past accomplishments.

Boxing proved to be a success on CBS – minor, major or in-between, a win is a win. Time will tell if the sport is giving a chance to truly thrive on network television. Barring a death in the ring or showcasing a Klitschko fight (nice gratuitous shot — ed.), success should be evident rather quickly.

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