By: Rahat Haque
2019 is turning out to be a very good year for boxing. Pacquiao showed he is here to stay after his victory over Broner. Keith Thurman made a comeback after a long layoff against Josesito Lopez, but he has shown enough vulnerability where it may convince some of the other top names in the division to get in the ring with him. After his victory over Ocampo, Errol Spence Jr is once again involved in a mega fight that is actually worth watching where no one is writing off the challenger just yet. Canelo, after fighting GGG twice, had accepted a much easier fight last December against the relatively inexperienced Rocky Fielding. But is once again involved in a legitimate scrap against one of the few tests left for him in Daniel Jacobs. But out of all the great fights that are lined up in 2019, the one to watch out for is Terence Crawford vs Amir Khan. Reason being, Khan never fails to entertain. With his style of boxing, he will always dazzle the opponent with a flurry of punches, but also leave his chin exposed and risk being knocked down or knocked out. Both of these occurrences happen in every Khan fight, where he bedazzles with speed, but also risks getting caught.
After all these years of seeing Khan go into fights with a shaky defense and susceptible chin, it is still frustratingly difficult to count him out. The fast hand speed foot speed combo style is tailor made for winning rounds, which he often does. Only time when he does not bag the rounds, is when he is hit flush with a power shot, leaving him vulnerable for further power shots. In the case of the Canelo fight, one left hook is all it took! But that was in 160. In 140 and 147, Khan usually takes the power shots well, but his legs give out, and he is left trying to grab the opponent or push them out using his forearms.
Before his loss against Danny Garcia, he was never perceived to be as much of a weak chinned opponent as he is now. His loss against Peterson was both close and controversial. No one judged him for that, and he was still one of the biggest names in boxing till then. But it was what happened versus Danny when he became the butt of all jokes. It should be noted that with the exception of the Canelo loss, Khan has not lost a fight till then! For a guy who has become the poster boy of weak chins, one would expect him to suffer another loss by now that was in either 140 or 147. The Canelo fight was a strategic low risk high reward fight. His fight against Crawford is Khan’s first major test since the Danny Garcia fight. A rematch with Danny Garcia, who himself has been taken down from his high horse in recent years with back-to-back losses, is also a future possibility. If victorious, it would be redemption for the former Olympic silver medalist.
But has he bitten off more than he can chew in terms of skills in choosing Terence Crawford? He did so versus Canelo, but that was in terms of weight and perhaps also skill, this is in terms of skill only. Certainly, he will not be able to use weight as an excuse this time as he has had five fights at 147 already, compared to Terence’s two. On the flipside, if victorious, nobody can say Terence was an easy opponent for Khan as they might with the Collazo and Alexander bouts, two of his most notable victorious after the Garcia slip up. This victory would put Khan’s name back in the list of an elite 147 fighters, a division which has improved even further despite Mayweather’s retirement! It can be called boxing’s flagship division, a praise once reserved for the heavyweight division.
In the welterweight division, you have three undefeated big names with outstanding resumes in Keith Thurman, Errol Spence Jr, and Terence Crawford. Then you also have the legendary Manny Pacquiao, and the very game Shawn Porter, who like Khan makes every fight entertaining, not with his hand speed but with his dogged work rate. Then you also have the very game Jessie Vargas, whose only two losses to date have been against Pacquiao and now retired Tim Bradley. Thus a victory in this division would mean everything for Khan. But this is a man who was dropped by Julio Diaz and in more recent times, Sammy Vargas. While the knockdown versus Diaz is understandable, as he is a battle-tested veteran with a style known for generating power, the knockdown he suffered versus Vargas was more questionable. Boxing fans all over the world are wondering, if Sammy Vargas was able to do that to Khan, what will Crawford do to him? It is safe to say that Crawford is more technical and ruthless than Vargas, who is still very much a Canadian name, and has not been tested in the world arena yet. We will get a better picture of how good Vargas really is when he takes on experienced Luiz Collazo in his next fight.
One of the reasons this fight is so exciting is that the stakes are so high for both fighters. Only fighter to knock Khan out at 147 was Garcia, and Terence believes his skills are far superior to the Philly man, so he fancies his chances to knock Khan out clean, or in the same fashion as Garcia where the referee will stop the fight after judging Khan’s inability to continue. But if Terence loses, his value as a fighter will take a hit for sure, and Khan would have laid out a blueprint on how to get the better off the Nebraska native. For Khan, it is his first step to redemption if he wins this one. Though many will argue that the Alexander and Collazo victories were redemption enough, the amount of clowning Khan had to face from media and fans alike after the Garcia bout will be in the back of his mind. He was the favorite in that fight, and perhaps was too overconfident. For Khan, this is the chance to erase all those mistakes he made, both mental and physical. As far he is concerned, he is probably treating this as his pathway to avenge his loss against Garcia. If Khan loses, there is no way Danny’s team will risk rematching someone they beat already. If he wins however, his increased value gives them reasons to rematch him on the self-belief that Danny can replicate his strategy and find success again. The excitement is palpable for this one! It is long wait until April 20th. The tension is rising!