By: Eric Lunger
This Saturday, at the Echo Arena in Liverpool, UK, former unified super lightweight champion Amir Khan (31-4, 19 KOs) returns to the ring after an almost two-year hiatus from the sport. His opponent is Phil Lo Greco (28-3, 15 KOs) of Toronto, Canada. The bout will stream exclusively in the US at 5:30 ET as part of the Top Rank on ESPN series.
Photo Credit: Amir Khan Twitter Account
Khan, 32, is a Bolton, Lancashire native, but Saturday marks his first appearance in the UK in almost five years. A star since his break-out year in 2009 when he won his first world title, Khan has racked up wins over Marco Antonio Barrera, Paulie Malignaggi, Marcos Maidana, and Zan Judah. In 2011, Khan suffered a tough, split-decision loss to Lamont Peterson, followed seven months later by a TKO loss to Danny Garcia. None daunted, Khan returned to the ring in December of 2012 and rang off a series of five wins over the likes of Carlos Molina, Luis Collazo, Devon Alexander, and Chris Algieri.
This string of impressive victories set up a WBC world welterweight title fight against Saul “Canelo” Alvarez. Giving away a serious weight advantage (made all the more frightening by Canelo’s recent clenbuterol controversy), Khan took one-too-many left jabs to the body. When Alvarez feinted another left jab and Khan dropped his hands, Alvarez delivered a crushing straight right to Khan’s chin, dropping the British fighter and silencing the T-Mobile Arena crowd.
Phil Lo Greco has fought almost all of his professional career at super welterweight, though he generally weighs in around 150 lbs. Fighting almost exclusively in Canada and Europe early in his career, Lo Greco has two big-name fights on his resumé. In 2013, he dropped a twelve-round unanimous decision to Shawn Porter on wide cards, and in 2015 he lost to rising star Errol Spence, Jr., by third-round TKO. Since then, Lo Greco has gone 2-1 against second-tier opposition.
Nonetheless, Lo Greco feels confident and prepared. Noting that he had an extensive eleven-week camp, he told Sky Sports: “I’m physically and mentally ready, I’ve lost a lot of weight.” The Canadian fighter gave Khan his due, saying, “He has done great [things] for British boxing, but his time is past. Athletes always thing they have one more in them.”
For Khan, he must put the ghost of the Alvarez knockout behind him. It would be easy to walk away from the sport after such a scary loss, but Khan is a warrior – just check out the Maidana fight. While Khan’s ring movement and hand speed can be dazzling one wonders how much his skills have rusted during the almost two-year break. Finally, there are the intangibles, like hunger, focus, and mental preparation, all of which are crucial for success at the top level of the sport. Khan can be an impulsive and emotional fighter, letting his will to tangle get himself in trouble.
“I am one of those fighters with a huge heart, I like to get into tear-ups,” Khan told ESPN, “and I like to mix it up.” Coming home to the UK, will Khan want to put on a show for his home fans? Most definitely, but he will have to minimize his risk-taking if he wants to keep Lo Greco from landing a fortuitous power-shot.
Streaming live at 5:30 ET on Saturday evening, fans can stream ESPN+ on the ESPN app on mobile and TV-connected devices, or on ESPN.com. ESPN+ is a new, direct to consumer streaming service from the Walt Disney Company, in partnership with ESPN.