January 29, 2018
January 29, 2018
Amir khan

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IT says something that an article titled ‘Who is Phil Lo Greco?’ begins with a Google search for ‘Who is Phil Lo Greco?’, but this is the world of the comeback opponent and needs must.

Heading up the results is a link to his Boxrec page, on which you will find details of Phil Lo Greco’s 28-3 professional boxing record as well as an image of the man in question – handsome, tanned, well-oiled, orthodox, seemingly plucked straight from a video game. He’s 33 years of age. He hails from Toronto, Canada. His nickname, by the way, is ‘The Italian Sensation’.

Come out of there, leave Boxrec, and you’ll discover all manner of other Lo Greco-related goodies. You’ll find, for instance, a Wikipedia page, admittedly short on information, as well as an official website with a homepage that informs its visitors the site is ‘currently under construction’. Fear not. For information regarding Phil Lo Greco, contact Gianfranco Lo Greco, presumably a relative, on the number and email address provided (alas, no time for that).

Instead, I hit the back button once more and this time make my way to The Italian Sensation’s Twitter page. It’s a page followed by 7,500 users and features a profile picture of Lo Greco laughing to himself, projecting great joy, with shades covering much of his face and his shirt sufficiently unbuttoned to reveal a crucifix pendant. Religious, happy, he seems a contented man. It could even be said he wears the grin of a man who has just received and signed a contract to fight Amir Khan on April 21 in Liverpool, England.

Oh, yes, the reason for stalking Phil Lo Greco. The reason I stalk Phil Lo Greco is because Phil Lo Greco is indeed the name of Amir Khan’s next opponent, and because today’s (January 29) announcement put an end to speculation linking Khan with better-known names like Josesito Lopez, Antonio DeMarco and Adrian Granados, and answered the question, how low will Khan go?

Now we know. He went Lo. He went Lo Greco.

The Canadian’s pinned tweet – ‘THE FIGHT IS ON’ – is accompanied by an image of Lo Greco looking like a boxer, robe and gloves included, alongside an image of Kim Kardashian, the reality television star to whom Amir Khan has sometimes been compared. It would have been hurtful and amusing, I suppose, had Kell Brook not got there first, but stunts such as this are the reason Lo Greco now goes to the ball and for that, for even giving a damn and trying, he should be commended.

This, lest we forget, is the age of the social media fighter and the social media fight and, in that sense, Lo Greco, goading Khan into a fight and then getting said fight, has played a blinder. He has created an opportunity his record alone does not warrant and now, on April 21, will have the chance to make some decent money and, who knows, perhaps spring a sizeable upset.

In this day and age, there’s no shame in talking your way into a fight. If anything, it’s shrewd. The done thing. Look around: they’re all doing it. What’s more, in the context of Amir Khan coming off a reality television show himself – ITV’s ‘I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!’ – there can be no better opponent than a man who has used the platform of social media to raise awareness, manufacture a rivalry and, ultimately, coax him into a fight. Lo Greco, like the finest reality TV stars, knows how to play the game, is clearly savvy, and has the kind of look that will have people wondering, if only for a moment, “Isn’t that the bloke from Jersey Shore?”

He isn’t, by the way. Phil Lo Greco, in fact, is a 12-year professional boxer who has fought mostly in Canada but also ventured to Germany, Italy and the USA. Many of his wins have come against men for whom fighting is a part-time gig, but he did stop Poland’s Slawomir Ziemlewicz in Italy in 2010, to win the WBC International welterweight title, and he did share a ring with top-tier 147-pounders Shawn Porter and Errol Spence, both of whom had their way with him (Porter dominated him over 10 rounds; Spence stopped him in three).

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He fights like a real fighter, too. Stocky, physical, his gloves are glued to his ears, he’s heavy on the front foot, and he likes to march forward and engage. He even had Porter, a brawler accustomed to walking down opponents, backing off during the early stages of their 2013 encounter.

When close, which is where Lo Greco wants to be, he flurries his hands, working both at the same time, and, although he often punches wide, his work-rate is solid and his intentions are sound. He wants to entertain; he wants to win.

He’s also tough. When repeatedly strung and hurt by Spence, for example, Lo Greco kept ambling forward, looking to exchange punches, throwing wild right hands, and was only stopped in round three due to the compassion of referee Robert Byrd. (The fight, if left up to Lo Greco, would have continued until he was no longer able to punch.)

He’s that kind of opponent. He’s right there, in your face, always in punching range. He’s tough because he has to be tough; to fight the way Lo Greco fights there is no alternative but to be tough.

That’s Phil Lo Greco.

Amir Khan, meanwhile, having not fought for nearly two years, requires an opponent who simplifies boxing to its purest elements – A-B-C – and requires little in the way of game-planning, adjustments, or thought. He requires a Phil Lo Greco, someone who, for all his resilience, is, stylistically, about as complex as a Kardashian. Which, for Khan, a former champion accused of being as shallow as one, is what makes The Italian Sensation so appealing. It’s what makes his outgoing personality and trash talk so welcome. It’s what brings them together on April 21.

Who is Phil Lo Greco? He’s everything Amir Khan looks for in a comeback opponent.