AMIR KHAN moved closer to his dream of a Floyd Mayweather fight by defeating Chris Algieri last weekend. But has he done enough to deserve such a chance, with all the riches it would bring? That’s another story.
The good news is that Khan got out of Brooklyn with the victory, after having some problems with the unusually aggressive Algieri over the first half of the 12-rounder. The bad news is that Khan showed enough flaws to suggest he would stand little chance of toppling the supreme boxing talent that is Floyd Mayweather Jnr.
No shame there, because just about everybody else on the planet is in the same position as the Bolton man. But all the recent talk about a Mayweather-Khan fight centred on the idea that Amir possessed the hand speed to trouble Floyd – that Khan could bring to the table a quality lacking in many recent Mayweather challengers. (OK, Manny Pacquiao has blazing speed but he was hampered by a shoulder injury, although I doubt he would have done much better if fully fit).
Yet what’s so great about being able to let your punches go quickly, if your defence isn’t good enough to stop the blows coming your way? And if your chin isn’t good enough to withstand the shots at top level, then you might as well have slower hands than Eric Clapton.
Watching ringside at the splendid Barclays Center, I realised just how much Khan’s career has benefitted greatly from careful matchmaking. He takes risks to land his punches, exposing his chin more than necessary; and he just doesn’t hold a shot well enough to step into the ring with confidence against the real bangers at 147lbs. Seeing Chris Algieri, a known non-puncher, find Khan’s chin with solid right hands made me wince at the thought of the damage that might be done by Keith Thurman or Kell Brook.
That’s not to say Amir is a bad fighter; after all, every boxer has his strengths and weaknesses. It’s just that the modern structure of the sport permits a fighter – or rather his handlers – to pick and choose opponents so as to avoid the dangerous ones and tackle the more accommodating ones. That’s happened throughout boxing history, but the proliferation of titles (and promoters signing exclusive deals with TV stations) has made it easier than ever before.
It’s by no means certain that Khan will get the Mayweather gig in September, although the fact that Thurman has a July 11 fight, while light-welter champ Danny Garcia and Brook may be in action at the end of August, certainly clears the way for Amir. And I wouldn’t begrudge the former Olympic silver medallist his chance, and the money that comes with it. I just wish that it was a fight he had a greater chance of winning than he appears to have at the moment.