Amir Khan’s Five Career-Defining Moments
Basic Info: Amir Khan is a three-time world champion, in the 140 lbs light welterweight division, unifying the WBA and IBF titles in the summer of 2011. Lamont Peterson would fail a drug test for the rematch which was to be held in May of the following year as the WBA would strip Peterson, causing a linguistic battle of whether Khan was a two-or-three time world champion. Amir Khan was an Olympic silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics, but more so left a lasting impression on the sport with his high business IQ, as being a world champion became second to him being viable main eventer and marquee name in the sport. This being seen as we head into this weekend’s clash between himself and Kell Brook, this Saturday, February 19th, on ESPN+, at 11 AM PST.
I think an interesting parallel is; fight fans loved Prince Naseem Hamed, who was a first generation British citizen whose parent migrated from Yeman to Yorkshire, England – and though Khan was of Pakistani descent, he reminded many fights fans as a remix of the beloved British boxer, especially early on, and along with his Olympic pedigree the legacy of Prince Naseem helped kickstart the beginning of Khan’s career.
Khan was a businessman first as he would not hesitate to change trainers or promoters to best suit his career. Off the top of my head, he has had seven boxing coaches as a professional including Freddie Roach, Vergil Hunter, Brian McIntyre, and Joe Goossen, along with working with every promoter in his era seemingly.
In the end, Khan became one of the most financially successful fighters of his era, and will probably impact boxing for decades to come from the financial fruits of his labor, as well as humanitarian and philanthropic stances throughout the world, especially in the middle east.
If You Could Watch Only One Fight Watch: Amir Khan vs. Marcos Maidana
Fighters He Beat To Win World Titles: Andriy Kotelniy (WBA 140 lbs), Zab Judah (IBF 140), and Lamont Peterson (WBA 140 lbs – stripped) – held the WBA & IBF at the same time.
1) The Run… Beating Malignaggi, Judah and Maidana
Amir Khan had blinding hand speed, and an Olympic medal, but one of the worst losses on the developmental stage ever when getting stopped by Briedis Prescott in a round. Khan would focus his sights on America, training with Freddie Roach, who was at the height of his Freddie Roach power, as this was when Manny Pacquiao was as big as he was ever going to be, and Wild Card Boxing Club was one coolest places to be if you loved boxing.
Amir Khan was seemingly introduced to most American boxing fans, and viewers of HBO Boxing with his win over Paulie Malignaggi, which was spectacular but showed a bigger man with faster hands able to win a fight that he had an advantage in. Not unlike another fighter debuting on HBO around that time Jorge Linares, Khan was an offensive-minded fighter, who you wondered what would happen if got caught with a punch like Linares had or even he had in the Prescott fight. It made the moments in this era so much bigger, as his story was not written yet.
The apex mountain of Khan’s career is the Marcos Maidana fight, as ironically, Khan campaigned his whole career about getting a Floyd Mayweather fight, yet it was Maidana who will forever be historically linked to Mayweather. Khan hurt Maidana early to the body unlike anyone ever had before or after – as the first round body shot showed the power and explosiveness of Khan in his prime.
Khan would defeat Paul McCloskey in Manchester in a U.K. homecoming bout, that saw Khan was just on another level, and would end this run Khan by stopping American boxing legend, Zab Judah, to win his second world title.
After the Judah fight, despite durability issues that arose during Khan’s prime, the hand speed and his aggressive nature, had many excited to see what a fight between himself and either Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao would like. Yet, we never got either.
This run showed everything that made Khan interesting, a cocky and brash media personality, who had a lot of talent, hand speed, and flaws. At his best, you wondered could his good given gifts, talent, and will be enough – evitable it wasn’t, but during this run, like all great fighters he had us wondering, and watching.
2) The Canelo KO
Watching Amir Khan was like watching a car accident happen in slow motion, you might not want to see it occur, but you wanted to see what the result was from the said incident. Khan, reinvented himself, and took a fight two weights higher than his current weight class in 2018, welterweight, and three weight higher the weight class he won his world titles at, 140 lbs, to challenge the best fighter in the world, Canelo Alvarez.
Despite outboxing Canelo for large portions of the fight, Canelo would land a big right hand tha would knockout Khan. A brutal well-timed shot that will be on Canelo’s highlight package for the rest of time.
3) Back-To-Back Losses To Peterson and Garcia
At the height of Amir Khan’s powers as he was on the verge of moving up to welterweight to go against world champions like sparring partner Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, Khan would suffer brutal back-to-back losses that seemingly changed the trajectory and conversation of his career.
As Khan held two world titles, and was undefeated in America, he opted to go to Lamont Peterson hometown of Washington D.C., a decision in hindsight he probably regrets, as Khan would lose the fight on some very questionable referee calls. Khan would lose two points for pushing Peterson a rule, rarely enforced, and quite possibly a knockdown for Khan wasn’t called. A fight of the year-type bout, saw a hard-luck fighter edge Khan, who had become both beloved and hated in America, in the same breathe.
Despite losing, Khan won over a lot of critics in the Peterson fight as he showed toughness, heart, courage and conviction, starting fast as he always did – but then not folding late in the fight as some questioned. Khan was looking to be a bonafide superstar in the making.
Then he fought Danny Garcia…
Against a fighter who was not regarded as a star in WBC 140 lbs champ Danny Garcia, who beat Erik Morarles to win his world title, and was looked at as nothing more than another belt for Khan to win, as no major media outlets picked Danny Garcia prior to the bout – and then witnessed Garcia knockout Amir Khan. The image of the left hook landing on Khan, was an image that I think shut the door on Khan as a true A-side no doubt hall-of-famer, and entered him into his final act of his career, a bit sooner than most would’ve thought.
Most saw Garcia as an untalented slugger, and left thinking less of Khan, it took years for Danny Garcia to truly get his respect. Khan’s amateur habits of starting fast and jumping in with fast punches, were perfect for Garcia to land a big shot and put him out, as Garcia had a great timing in this era. Khan never had the aura he once had after being knocked out by Danny Garcia.
In one night, and after his rematch with Lamont Peterson was off due to Peterson’s failed drug test, seemingly unknown Danny Garcia, took back all the goodwill Khan had earned in the Peterson fight, and made people question, how good Khan truly was once again.
At a moment in which Khan looked to be the guy, Danny Garcia came along and basically took everything Khan had worked for and took his position in the sport. Something Khan never truly recovered from.
4) Career Revival With Vergil Hunter
After losing to Danny Garcia, Amir Khan would hold training camps in Hayward, California, and no longer train at Wild Card Boxing Gym with Freddie Roach. The switch meant working with Vergil Hunter, the famed coach of hall-of-famer Andre Ward, and a legend in his own right.
Hunter helped preserve Khan’s career for as long as he could as Khan would always have bad moments in fights like Julio Diaz and Samuel Vargas, in which he greatly underperformed, but Khan’s performance against Devon Alexander and especially Luis Collazo could be argued as the best performance of his career, but just didn’t happen at time when people had a child-like innocent about Khan’s career. Khan beat Collazo, who had just knocked out Victor Ortiz on television and was boxing’s Cinderella story of that year.
Yet, after losing to Danny Garcia, we had fixed views on Khan, and during these fights from Devon Alexander all the way to a very close win over Chris Algieri, Khan was the most defensively responsible and mature he had every showed in the ring.
The catch is people didn’t care as much about his career, and the pay off to this run was a catchweight bout against Canelo Alvarez that offered the knockout of the year for that year, and highlight reel fodder for generations to come. In boxing we often judge a body of work based on the end result – and for Khan, that end result was one that was often thought of him – a brutal KO loss, which played to the belief he had a bad chin.
5) Breidis Prescott KO Loss
Coming out of the amateurs, Amir Khan was one of the most exciting pros out of Great Brittan, and you could make a case that he had traits of Prince Naseem as well. Yet a brutal first-round KO loss to Breidis Prescott in a developmental bout set the tone for Khan’s career.
Khan is a fast starter, someone who commits to his punches, if timed can go down, and often times has a heart bigger than maybe anyone else, as he would get up faster than his body was ready for.