Amir Khan Versus Marcos Maidana – The Roach Approach?

by Fran on November 11, 2010

On December 11th, Amir Khan enters the ring in defense of his WBA Light Welterweight title.  Khan’s opponent will be the tough and redoubtable Argentinian Marcos Rene Maidana (El Chino), holder of an impressive record of 29-1-0 with 27 KOs.  I think most observers agree that this bout has the potential to be the toughest test since Khan enlisted the services of the Midas-like Freddie Roach.  This feels like a major step up in risk for Khan as he has been quite carefully managed of late.  Maidana hits hard, throws lots of punches and has solid endurance meaning that the shots he throws in the last will carry as much destructive power as those thrown in the first.  In short, Amir has not faced anything like this since Bredis Prescott.  None of Khan’s recent opponents could be described as a knockout artist (Malignaggi, Salita, Kotelnik…need I say more), Maidana on the other hand most definitely is.

In a previous article (Amir Khan – The Road to Roach), I described what I think were the technical issues identified by Freddie Roach in Khan’s style and how these issues have been addressed by Roach.  I won’t go through those issues again here, but it’s worth having a refresh of that article before getting onto the ‘meat’ of this article.  In this article, I want to take the natural next step and, using video footage, assess what kind of thought processes Freddie Roach might have gone through in devising a strategy and tactics for Khan to use against Maidana.  We will examine any strengths in Maidana’s style and what counter-measures may be devised by Roach.  We will also examine any potential weaknesses in Maidana’s style and consider how Roach might advise Khan to capitalize on these weaknesses.  Ultimately we’ll end up with what might be (and I use the word ‘might’) the Khan/Roach fight plan to overcome Marcos Maidana and retain the cherished light welterweight crown.

For the purposes of the analysis, we’ll look at two of Maidana’s recent fights, firstly his war with Victor Ortiz which ended in a 6th round TKO for El Chino.  It’s an all-action fight, so check out the video and then read on.

We can see during Maidana’s see-saw match-up against Victor Ortiz that there are a number of observable factors on both sides that lead to the final result:

  • Maidana, when at long range/edge of range, holds a high guard but does not burden himself with the task of feinting to create an opening.  In fact, he seems to go from standing still to all out, kamikaze-style attack without any middle bit.  Now, if the opponent decides to meet fire with fire then this inevitably leads to a real crowd-pleasing fight.  On the flip side though, it does mean that predicting Maidana’s modus operandi becomes fairly straightforward.  In many ways, Ortiz is the architect of his own defeat.  Rather than giving ground and using his more polished boxing skills to outscore his on-rushing opponent, he decides to go to war.  What is the likelihood of Freddie Roach advising Khan to go gunning for this guy in the same way as Ortiz?  No more than he would advise Khan to go running through a minefield wearing clown shoes.
  • Maidana is very much at ease when chasing a retreating opponent down.  Again, Ortiz is in many ways his own worst enemy as he alternates from attacking in an all-out assault to backing off without exacting any kind of price from Maidana for the ground conceded.  For large periods, Ortiz backpedals without landing any kind of worthwhile shots.  He basically gives the impetus to Maidana and psychologically the fight ebbs away from him.  Would Roach advocate this kind of approach?  I very much doubt this.  Khan will likely be told to use his boxing skills to pivot away from and side-step trouble whilst still maintaining a degree of control over Maidana by landing meaningful punches.

So, from the Ortiz fight my guess is that Freddie Roach will identify at least two key points.  Firstly, Amir Khan should not launch an all out attack on Maidana, even if he feels that Maidana is ‘hurt.’  Maidana is a very concussive puncher and even after taking shots solid enough to floor him, he very rarely has looked dazed.  Secondly, Khan cannot afford to run from Maidana.  Instead of running, he could undertake a true fighting retreat allowing Maidana to become reckless and taking advantage of this recklessness with effective scoring shots.  I’m sure that Roach will consider the best of all worlds being a long range contest, but I’m sure he’ll be realistic in deciding that staying at long range for 12 rounds will be next to impossible.  Which all brings us neatly on to our next video, Maidana’s hotly disputed points defeat to Andreas Kotelnik.

I don’t want to get too involved in the decision on this fight and whether it was right or wrong.  I’ve not watched and scored the entire fight, and I’m not surprised that a hometown decision could take place in Germany (see Sven Ottke!)  I’ve selected this video to pick out the technical issues that may become relevant during the Khan v Maidana fight.

Some observations on the Kotelnik fight then:

  • For an attack-minded fighter, Maidana is not as effective during inside fighting than maybe he should be.  His shots tend to loop quite a lot and often land harmlessly on Kotelnik’s blocking arms.  Check out 2.23, 2.35, 2.48, 05.20, 05.35, 6.43.  Jumping ahead 8.55 through to 9.01; these shots are simply not scoring and are not having any real impact on Kotelnik.  OK, Maidana is an intense fighter, but his looping shots up close mean that Kotelnik is regularly able to fire short shots out of cover without risking taking any incoming shots.  Some Roach advice to Khan?  When up close, cover up tight, throw 2 or 3 short fast hooks/uppercuts, then roll away to long range whilst keeping the guard intact.  This could be a mechanism for Khan to maintain the range and could prove vital during a long fight.
  • Maidana starts off quite slowly, but normal service is resumed as he barrels forward paying scant regard to his own defense.  Kotelnik is not the kind of puncher that can take advantage of this, and Maidana knows this.  The question is, can Khan use his greater punching prowess (and yes, Khan does hit harder than Kotelnik) to use Maidana’s own bodyweight and forward momentum against him?  I’ll bet that Freddie Roach thinks so!

So, taking into account some of the things we’ve covered so far, I’m going to go through what kind of approach that we might see from Khan/Roach:

  • Under no circumstances will Khan chase Maidana around the ring, even if Maidana is hurt.  Let us make no mistake here, Marcos Maidana would have put the pre-Roach version of Amir Khan to sleep in a similar style as did Prescott.  Khan will seek to maintain distance and will employ a more conservative approach to the fight.
  • Freddie Roach could very well feel that Marcos Maidana is in actual fact tailor-made for Amir Khan.  Sure he’s a big hitter and his record is very compelling, but he is raw and is quite conventional in his approach.  Even so, Roach will insist that Khan maintain 100% concentration and discipline at all times because if he switches off, even for a second, the bone-crunching right hand that El Chino wields could very well hit home.  If that happens, who knows how Khan will react!
  • Following on from the previous points, I don’t see any circumstances under which Freddie Roach will advise Khan to become involved in a toe-to-toe battle with Maidana.  The risks are far too high and the reality is that Roach will be preparing Khan for a distance fight of sensible, considered boxing.  After all, that is Khan’s new found understanding since being with Freddie Roach.  Freddie Roach will encourage Amir Khan to be what he is, a boxer first and a fighter second.

Finally, what kind of result will be delivered on the 11th December?  To my mind, I’m expecting to see one of two outcomes:

1.  A points decision in favour of Khan, and I feel that we are going to see a very wide margin of victory as Khan uses precise shots and smart foot movement to leave Maidana frustrated.

2.  Khan stops Maidana, more likely on the 3 knockdown rule rather than any other type of stoppage.  Khan can hit, but Maidana is teak tough so a clean KO is very unlikely.  Maidana can be floored, but does get up again and doesn’t look overly concerned/confused following a knockdown.

I’m sure though that Messrs Khan and Roach are taking nothing for granted, Marcos Maidana is a very dangerous opponent!  I’ll post a review following the fight and see if any of these observations had any impact.  As always, please leave a comment with your views.

PS – Check out the article on what actually happened in the Khan/Maidana fight: Khan Versus Maidana Fight Analysis – The Post Mortem.



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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

skanksta December 8, 2010 at 12:29 am

An excellent read, well done.
Not sure everyone else sees only two outcomes tho’ !


Fran December 8, 2010 at 8:45 pm

Thanks! I suppose that one of the big appeals of boxing is that styles make fights, so even though it’s a two-horse race the potential for a surprise is always there!


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