By Tyson Bruce
Much to the dismay of boxing fans, especially those from Great Britain, Bolton Welterweight Amir “King” Khan rejected a potential mega-fight with domestic rival Kell Brook in favour of a match-up with former junior welterweight titlist Chris Algieri. The bout will take place May 30th and will be televised by Spike TV as part of Al Haymon’s new PBC boxing series.
Khan justified his decision to fight Algieri by stating that he is a “class A fighter” with “decent power” and that a win over an “A-class opponent” would pave the way to a bout with Mayweather or Pacquaio. That assessment comes across as somewhat questionable, given that Algieri is coming off an absolute thrashing at the hands of Pacquiao, where he probably didn’t win a single round, and has just eight career knockouts.
Khan has become almost singularly obsessed with getting into the ring with one of the two pound for pound stars in the last several years, even while coming off a pair of devastating defeats in 2011 and 2012.
Khan must be given credit in his career for being able to overcome devastating losses and never losing to the self-belief that is required to be a world-class fighter. Very few fighters recover from a knockout loss like Khan suffered to Danny Garcia and continue to function on a world-class level. After a dismal stretch of losses and poor performances from 2011-2013, Khan rebounded with one of best years of his boxing career in 2014, including a dominant performance over top-ten rated Devon Alexander.
That being said, boxing is meritocracy and Khan simply has not earned the right to publically call out for a Mayweather fight and then whine about it on Twitter when it doesn’t happen. Khan has just two meaningful wins in almost four years—a seventh round stoppage of Zab Judah in 2014 and the points win over Alexander last year—yet seems puzzled that his crusade for ‘pound for glory’ is often met with ridicule and scorn.
Khan is certainly one of the best welterweights in the world and may possess the fastest hands in the entire sport, one of the most crucial assets for dominance at the world level, but he still hasn’t convinced people he has overcame his most dramatic flaw: his chin.
In a recent work-out presser interview, when former opponent Danny Garcia was asked about the possibility of Khan fighting Miguel Cotto at a catch weight, he responded simply by commenting, “Khan doesn’t do well when he fights punchers”.
While Khan won over many skeptics just in the sheer dominance of his victory over Alexander, the fight fit into a pattern of how Khan’s career has always gone.
If you put a boxer or a speedster in the ring with Khan he will win big nearly every time because his hand and foot speed is that superior. His best victories, aside from his brush with death against Marcos Maidana, have come over pure boxers like Paul Malignaggi, Andriy Kotelnik, and Zab Judah. Khan has problems when things get physical, because his lack of punch resistance causes him to get frantic and desperate. Even Lamont Peterson, who is nobody’s idea of Ernie Shavers, was able to rattle Khan just by being physically assertive.
Khan’s most recent comeback, the post-Garcia period if you will, has been a carefully managed strategy of selecting opponents that play to Khan’s strengths without exposing him to real danger. Luis Callazo was considered a worthy opponent because he had recently KO’d Victor Ortiz, which belied the fact that Callazo hasn’t been a world-class fighter for years. As good as Devon Alexander has proven himself to be, his styl–a pure boxer with limited punching power–was tailor-made for Khan.
In order to justify a match against Pacquiao or Mayweather, Khan needs to beat a welterweight with a big punch to prove that he has found a way to adapt.
A fight against Brook would certainly achieve that, and would also earn the Briton many more millions and be a much higher profile event than the half sold out arena in America that will meet him for Algieri.
However, Khan has always seemed offended and annoyed that he is being pressured to fight another British fighter. His territory is being threatened and he’s defending it not by fighting, but by degrading Brook’s accomplishments and merit, a PR tactic in boxing that has killed or delayed more big fights that most of us would like to admit.
Brook derided Khan on a recent BBC 5 interview, stating, “If someone said to me you can get five million quid, a world title, fight at Wembley with a fight that every fan wants to see, it’s a no-brainer for me.
“I’m world champion, I’m calling him out, we want the fight, there’s a world title and a bagful of money and it doesn’t make sense that he’s fighting this guy [Algieri] who’s bringing nothing to the table.”
A fight against the likes of a Tim Bradley, another proposed bout recently turned down by Khan, would be ideal, because Bradley is a modest puncher and it would allow the public to directly compare his performance to that of Pacquiao’s. If he won the bout more convincingly, it would be a legitimate bargaining token for Khan, something he doesn’t have now.
In contrast, it’s basically impossible for Khan to do better than the 120-102 routing Pacquiao gave Algieri, who proved, if anything, that Algieri is not on the elite level.
Khan’s refusal to stop insulting Brook, who hasn’t really slung any mud other than demanding a fight, is quickly turning him from hero to heel.
Nothing ticks off fans more than guys not taking fights that make all the sense in the world. Brook is a title-holder, a more accomplished welterweight than Khan, with an almost equal fan base, and would likely accept less money to make the fight a reality.
It’s hard to imagine better terms for Khan. But then again, if fighting Algieri instead of a killer like Brook got you to the exact same spot, as it almost surely will for Khan, wouldn’t you take it?