Amir Khan Fight Time – New Camp New Champ?

by Fran on January 3, 2013

It is fairly safe to state that Amir Khan divides the boxing world, with most people seeming to dislike him whilst the rest seem to really dislike him. I for one am not sure why this is. I can understand fight fans from foreign shores not taking him to their hearts, but even British fight fans appear really cold on him. Not at all like the hero worship that was in place for someone like Ricky Hatton.

You see to me, Amir Khan earned one hell of a lot of capital when he was a mere 17-year old boy. He was the sole British medalist at the 2004 Athens Olympics, earning an impressive silver medal having lost out in the final to the Cuban Master of Amateur Boxing Mario Kindelan.  Me being a person who holds amateur boxing and the Olympics very dear, young Amir guaranteed a place in my heart with his awesome show all those years ago.

And then came professional boxing.  Khan’s progress in the professional ranks has been chronicled on the MyBoxingCoach website. This is not because I have a blind admiration for the guy, I don’t.  The reason that I have wrote quite a bit about him is because his progress in boxing offers so many key lessons, and I think that these lessons can be of interest and help to boxers, coaches and fight fans at any level.

Firstly I wrote the post Amir Khan – The Road to Freddie Roach.  In that article I put forward the suggestion that after 10 fights in the professional ring, Amir Khan was a worse fighter than he was at amateur level.  He had developed a range of horrendous habits that ultimately led to his devastating knock out loss to Breidis Prescott (as well as a number of ‘near misses’ in earlier fights).

These bad habits were very basic, but terrible nonetheless.  Leaning the bodyweight forward in the boxing stance, lurching the weight forward behind the jab and dropping his hands when in range.  These were habits that simply could not be sustained at any level of the professional game, let alone the very top level.

After the Prescott loss, Khan moved to the Wild Card gym in Los Angeles under the tutelage of Freddie Roach.  Freddie proceeded in my opinion to resolve the basic flaws that had developed in Khan’s style.  Roach took very simple steps, but for me he guided Khan back onto the right track.  But there was still a problem.

Amir Khan Fight or Flight

In a number of Khan’s fights, it was clear that there remained a key issue.  Khan was absolutely unable to function when at close range.  He provided no threat, preferring instead to be largely ineffectual with clumsy grappling.  For example, when Khan fought Maidana I proposed that the Argentine simply had no respect for Amir’s ability to hurt him on the way in.  And he certainly had no respect for Khan’s infighting, so he felt confident to throw caution to the wind and steamroll his way forward.

In Amir Khan vs Lamont Peterson, Khan lost a disputed decision to the American.  For me though the main headline of the fight for Khan should not have been the decision, the ‘officials’ at ringside or the American’s failed post-fight drugs test.  The headline should have been, yet again, Khan’s absolute inability to fight on the inside.  Here is the closing paragraph that I used in that article:

“… on a final note, I remain absolutely staggered that Amir Khan remains fundamentally weak on the inside. I think the team at the Wild Card gym need to spend some serious time working on his close-range tactics. Khan is in my opinion one of the best movers/shoot-and-scoot specialists in world boxing, but maintaining those tactics for 12 hard rounds of fighting is quite simply the objective of a deluded mind. Team Khan need to earn their corn and get their fighter prepared for the roughhouse world of professional, close-range fighting. If not, then his potential will remain unfulfilled.”

The Dawn of a New Day?

Amir Khan, following his knock out loss to Danny Garcia in July 2012, left the Wild Card gym and Freddie Roach to use the services of Virgil Hunter.  Hunter has guided the wonderfully talented Andre Ward since he was a youngster and therefore has real credentials.  Could he take Khan to that next level by teaching him how to handle himself when up close and personal with opponents?  I was very eager to find out.

In December 2012 Amir Khan had his first contest under the guidance of Hunter.  He was fighting American Carlos Molina for some intermediate WBC super-lightweight title or other.  Now, Molina is not exactly the kind of fighter who is going to put Khan under severe pressure.  However, I was still eager to identify whether Virgil Hunter had begun the process of empowering Khan to use the kind of ‘aggressive-defensive’ style that Ward has used to such great effect, especially up close.

Here is the link to the Amir Khan vs Carlos Molina, then below are my 4 main observations.  The fight starts at about 14:30:

http://sosoboxing.com/boxing-video-watch-online/amir-khan-vs-carlos-molina/

1. Long Range – Business as Usual

I’ll not dwell too much on Khan’s long-range boxing.  It’s as good as ever and besides, what I am looking for in this fight is whether there are improvements on the inside.  One thing I will say is that he is a little more stable with his stance.  By that I mean he his holding his ground and is less ‘bouncy’ in drifting onto the back foot.  This allows him to control the advance of Molina by using powerful jabs on the move forward.

The thing to remember is that long-range boxing is Khan’s strength, so the objective for him is to maintain a fight at long-range as much as possible.  What is key is whether when the fight hits short range, how Khan manages the situation.

2.  Getting Comfortable Up Close

At 24:55, a sequence takes place that speaks volumes to me about the work that Hunter seems to have been doing with Khan.  Molina launches a full-blooded attack.  Khan instantly goes into a double arm block and retreats a couple of steps to the ropes. From there Khan fires in 3 superb short right uppercuts followed by a left hook to the body and a left hook to the head.

The key thing for me is that Khan does all of this out of the double arm block and also includes some smartly timed ducking to evade more Molina shots.  He is comfortable on the inside. He is landing hard shots of his own and is limiting the risk of taking shots himself.  He remains in that exchange for 15 seconds or so.  He is fighting sensibly on the inside and not looking to hold.  This is a big step forward.

3.  Consistency the Key

After his treatment on the inside, Molina appeared unsurprisingly less than eager to become too involved again.  Problem, this was the only way he was going to trouble Khan.  It took until 43.34 before Molina assaulted again with any real aggression.  From Khan’s point of view it was important to do the right thing again, to be consistent and to let the opponent know that getting inside and scoring is no picnic.

Again he covers-up well with the double arm block and fires short-range left hooks and short-range right hooks in quick succession to hammer Molina back to long range.  So Khan is consistent with his behavior up close.  He takes very few and lands his own, thereby providing real threat and little opportunity.  It leaves opponents in a real dilemma, whether to take a beating at long range or try to out-perform at short-range, caught between a rock and a hard place.  Creating this dilemma for the opponent is vital for Khan’s successful progression.

4.  It’s a Journey not a Destination

It’s not all good news, very few fights are.  At times in the bout Khan gets caught a few times just because he was rushing the attack.  He occasionally was guilty of holding the head still, chin high at exactly the wrong range and backing away in a straight line with the head held still (that is not ducking or slipping).  These are the kind of oversights that get you in big trouble against the top guys.  So eradicating these issues is the next big step I’d like to see Khan take.

At around 20:47, we see something else a little worrying.  Khan’s close range shot selection is a little questionable.  He goes for a flashy left hook to the body and ends up eating a shot to the head.  For me there he was just a little too open at that range.  The guard really needs to close up and the shots need to be short and direct rather than looping (as described in my 2nd point).  This too happens on more than one occasion.

But the thing is, Khan is just starting out with a new trainer.  He’s on a journey and certainly has lots of work to do to reinforce the positive behaviours when at close range.  But for me the signs are good.  Khan has learned lots off Freddie Roach, now he can move forward with Hunter and I’m sure we’ve got some exciting Amir Khan fights ahead.

There’s a lot to respect Khan for.  His determination to succeed, his willingness to test himself and the way he carries himself outside the ring.  He is in my opinion a respectful young man who is a positive role model, although his conduct after the Peterson fight left a little to be desired it has to be said.  The thing that I most respect though is his willingness to strive to keep learning, to keep improving.  This I’m sure will stand him in good stead as his career develops.

As always your thoughts are very welcome in the comments section below.

Cheers

Fran

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmailby feather

{ 23 comments… read them below or add one }

Darth March 14, 2014 at 2:41 pm

Great analysis articles.

Subject: In side fighting.

Is it a dying?

Reply

Fran March 17, 2014 at 7:22 pm

Interesting proposition Darth. My view is that all pro boxers simply have to be capable at infighting. In fact, with the recent rule changes in the amateurs it’s just as important there as well. It needs a longer article, but for me infighting will always be a key part of the boxer’s capability.

Reply

Rubben February 5, 2013 at 7:32 am

HI, FRAN IM 17 AND A AMATEUR . I AM A SOUTPAW BUT MY FRIENDS AND COACH SAYS THAT MY STANCE WAS HIGHLY VULNERABLE FOR ATTACKING. I HOLD MY LEFT LEAD ON MY CHIN LEVEL AND RIGHT ON MY WAIST LEVEL. ITS A BIT LIKE PAUL MALINAGGI. IM STILL A GOOD BOXER AND BETTER THAN ANYONE IN MY ACADEMY BUT JUST TO MAKE SURE IS IT OKAY TO BE IN THIS STANCE. HELP ME PLEASE.

Reply

Fran February 8, 2013 at 7:52 pm

Hi Rubben

Thanks for the question. On this occasion I must agree with your coach. When out of range then fine, drop your hand. But when you move into punching range that lead hand being low will be a vulnerability, especially against an orthodox left hook. This said, if you were an orthodox it would be a greater risk because the lead hand being low against another orthodox would leave you vulnerable to the powerful right hand. The way to reduce your risk is to a) feint a lot and b) keep firing out that lead hand and moving to your right. This at least will help keep you in a ‘safe zone’. Hope this helps.

Reply

Anonymous February 9, 2013 at 5:29 pm

HI FRAN, THANKS VERY MUCH .ITS TRUE IVE BEEN CAUGHT BY RIGHT HAND FEW TIMES .YEAH I HAVE DONE A LOT OF FEINTING IN EVERY SINGLE BOUTS AND SPARRING SESSIONS BUT IM NOT THAT GOOD AT IT.IF YOU HELP ME IN THE IN AND OUT STUFF ,IT WILL BE REALLY HELPFUL TO ME.

THANKS AGAIN FRAN.

RUBBEN.

Reply

Fran February 12, 2013 at 8:40 pm

No problem Rubben. Thanks.

Reply

Fran January 14, 2013 at 9:12 pm

Good stuff Ivan, great analysis with some very adept observations. The question is can fighters improve their punching power to that extent? Maybe, being a coach you’ve always got to believe. In the past I’ve mentioned that Tommy Hearns may not have been the greatest infighter about, but the World never noticed because they were mesmerised by his blinding handspeed and nuclear punching power. Be interesting to see if Khan can get to that type of place.

I think all of your observations in points 1 to 8 are right on the money. The only contention would be on the infighting strategy of holding/grappling. Sure it should play a part, he definitely needs to do it in certain circumstances, but having the option to be relaxed up close with a couple of hard shots then off to long range again is achievable I think.

Great post mate, really enjoyed getting into the detail of it. Thanks.

Reply

Ivan January 15, 2013 at 6:58 am

Hi Fran,
I hope I’m not getting preoccupied with details that the casual fan may find cumbersome. But it seems your site has developed some highly specialized material especially in the fighter analysis sections, so I’ll venture one or two more details.

Punch power can’t be trained, it’s a very reliable thing – opponents won’t punch harder next year. In Khan’s case, I don’t think he uses his full potential to hit hard, he let’s haste get in the way of power. In fact he has built his game on speed alone and has discarded a lot of fundamentals. Speed is power, but without the sound elements it turns into haste, restlessness and uncontrolled chaos. He seems to be in a position to throw a hay-maker all the time, but he’s too much in a hurry to score. If Khan commits to punching hard and sets his mind to it, he may appear more organized and purposeful and might beat Garcia. And it’ll give second thoughts to people before they walk into his flurries and take one or two in order to land their own big hook.

Khan can afford to exchange up-close with people like Molina, but big hitters would love to go head to head with him. He needs to be familiar with in-fighting and know his limitations. The focus on his close range sparring sessions should be defense, when I mentioned survival mode I meant he should know he has that option, he’ll need it if he is to return at high level.

Reply

Fran January 17, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Firstly Ivan, the detail is absolutely welcome and I’m sure that even the casual fan can get the point because it’s written with great clarity.

I have to agree on the flurries, he would do himself no end of good if he set himself a little more option. As you said previously, 2 or 3 solid shots and away. And as for the defence on the inside that again is spot on. When Andre Ward got up close with Chad Dawson, we saw his stance widen to allow sharper foot movement and his short range shots provided great defensive cover. If Khan can take just a little of that from Hunter (and Ward) then it will be interesting.

Khan should always seek to box at long range because that is his forte. But the strategies for up close must work better; a mix of the threat of the ability to hurt and the ability to slow things down with safe grappling. Should he actively seek up close fighting with the Garcias of this World? Definitely not. It’s a nice fight to look forward to in a year or so that’s for sure.

By the way, here’s a link to the Lomachenko fight last week in the Ukraine v GB WSB card. The lad just gets better and better. He fights a boy from my home city, really good kid, but no match for Vasyl. Then again, is anyone? I might do an analysis, I like the concept of the WSB. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Us2FxsfQDCQ

Thanks Ivan

Reply

Maurice January 7, 2013 at 12:24 am

Hi Fran,

I was recently talking about this article and your analysis while watching a replay of Brandon Rios V. Mike Alvarado. It seems that only a few pounds separates Rios from Khan.

Notwithstanding Khan’s long range boxing skills, can you compare and contrast Rios’ and Khan’s short range boxing skills and make a prediction in what would be an intriguing match up?

Thanks.

Reply

Fran January 8, 2013 at 8:38 pm

I’ll look into that one Maurice, nice suggestion. Thanks

Reply

Paul Smith January 5, 2013 at 1:26 pm

As per usual Fran, you’ve given us an eye opening, thought provoking and educational understanding and analysis, of both the obvious and subtler nuances needed to be an exceptionally fine boxer.

Thanks Coach!

Reply

Fran January 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Glad you like it Paul. They are always nice to put together. Thanks

Reply

Dave Waterman January 4, 2013 at 9:49 am

Nice, insightful fight analysis as usual, Fran. We must look forward to seeing how Virgil Hunter’s techniques develop Khan’s defence and ability to fight on the inside. I made my thoughts clear in a comment on the previous thread regarding Khan’s future. I stand by that but with the caveat that, if Khan makes great advances in these two key areas AND he can keep his chin clear of the stopper, he will be the force that he seeks to be.

Regarding your initial comment about Khan failing to develop the dedicated following of Hatton, and why it would appear he’s disliked so, I’ve thought about this and I believe there are a number of reasons for this.

Firstly it’s to do with race and culture. We need not look too far back in history to hear talk of the Great White Hope (initially James J. Jeffries in 1910 but more recently Jerry Quarry in the late 60s/early 70s) to understand how race has been an underlying factor in boxing, and how in the UK, in terms of developing popularity, boxers with an indigenous heritage have a head start on those without.

It might be argued that my idea falls flat when the undoubted popularity among white Britain of Nigel Benn and Chris Eubank are considered, but the important thing here is that both are of Afro-Caribbean heritage and are representative of an ethnic group that has assimilated into British culture more readily than an Asian one. Indeed, look at how Nigel Benn’s service with the British Army was celebrated during his ring walks and how Chris Eubank played the role of English gentry in his clothing and speech.

I think that Naseem Hamed suffered a similar level of dislike among the British public, although in Hamed’s case it had as much to do with his arrogance and lack of respect as it had with his ethnicity; but I think his public demonstrations of his faith while in the ring was found objectionable by certain sectors of the boxing fraternity.

In a nutshell Ricky Hatton looks and sounds like you and I Fran; he’s white, working class, drinks beer and speaks with an indigenous regional accent. Amir Khan doesn’t, and for those reasons, at this time in the UK, he won’t create a sizeable dedicated following which, like it or not, must include less enlightened individuals.

Secondly, I think that Amir Khan has made a few ill considered choices during his career that fail to engender any great affection in the wider boxing fraternity. There have been examples of his looking past opponents to a bigger pay day and then being dealt both a metaphorical and literal warning blow. The knock down against Michael Gomez being the first example and the KO against Danny Garcia being the most recent. There was also his team’s petulant display with Sky TV before the McCloskey fight and his foot stamping demand that Freddie Roach drop Pacquiao and Chavez Jr after the Garcia loss.

None of these examples paint a picture of a humble man of the people, and that too is a reason for his failure to be liked by the British public and/or boxing fraternity. What he is, however, is a fanatically driven sportsman with a huge level of skill and desire. He’s also shown that he can stand and have it and put on an excellent display of heart and courage (Marcos Maidana). So I think Khan will always have a core following of boxing enthusiasts who celebrate his achievements for what they are, and can see past the issues I’ve discussed above, but that core will never become the following that Ricky Hatton achieved.

Reply

Paul Smith January 5, 2013 at 1:20 pm

That’s some Real talk there, Dave. Well said!

Reply

Fran January 6, 2013 at 9:47 pm

Indeed Paul.

Reply

Fran January 6, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Superb comment Dave, brilliantly phrased.

Funny, I think that there are also parallels with Audley Harrison (or ‘Audrey’ if you are Marvelous Marvin). It possibly adds an exception to the Afro-Caribbean point that you made above, but I agree totally that the cultural and race aspect plays a major role.

I suppose in the case of Audley it echoes your final point regarding humility. The British are known for being understated, humble in success, or at least we may believe that we are the only nation on earth that values this particular quality. Audley had the public eating out of his hand following Sydney, but as his pro career ‘occurred’ the public became largely apathetic and in many ways hostile. No harm in bragging, you’ve just got to deliver along the way. Audley never did, maybe Amir feels that he has delivered handsomely so far but the British public (and even the boxing public if certain forums and pay per view audiences are to be taken into account) are in total disagreement.

I don’t know for sure mate but I certainly have a better view of the wider considerations following your comment. I feel like I need to enrol on a social sciences degree course now Dave, what have you done!!!!

Thanks pal. Have a great week.

Reply

Damir January 4, 2013 at 6:56 am

Hi Coach ,

Great analysis as always.

Regards from Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Reply

Fran January 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm

Thank you Damir!

Reply

Pug January 4, 2013 at 12:13 am

Hey Coach,
Once again I find myself agreeing with your every point. I felt the same, that there has been an overall improvement in Khan’s performance. I sensed a complete restoration of self confidence in Khan. I was also impressed with his speed and quickness. Again, stemming from a renewed self confidence in my view. In which case, kudos to Virgil Hunter. But I also give Khan credit in that he said he would be back (after his losses). He believes in himself and it showed against Molina. I am reminded on one of Yogi Berra’s famous quotes, “half the game is 99% mental”. I think Khan and Hunter may be just what the doctor ordered and great things are yet to come for Khan under Hunter’s tutelage.

Reply

Fran January 6, 2013 at 6:27 pm

I agree Ric. It will be really interesting to see how Hunter moulds Khan. Amir is very receptive I think, but time will tell.

Thanks Ric

Reply

Kenny January 3, 2013 at 10:49 pm

Hi Fran,

Great insight. I know what to look out for next time.

The impression I was left with was that Khan had done to second tier lightweight Molina what Pacquiao did to first rate light middleweight Antonio Margarito. Is that fair?

Reply

Fran January 3, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Definitely Kenny.

Pacquiao in that fight was pure class against truly dangerous opposition. With Khan the real tests are yet to come, but I felt that the positives outweighed the negatives. Never a dull moment with Amir.

Thanks Ken

Reply

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: