AMIR KHAN has been labelled many things over the course of his 14 years as a professional boxer but ‘quitter’ has never been one of them.
But that is exactly what Terence Crawford branded him about an hour after landing the low blow which brought a controversial sixth-round ending to Khan’s challenge for his WBO welterweight title here in New York on Saturday night.
Crawford had floored Khan in the first round and was winning big on all three cards (50-44 and two scores of 49-45) when he drove an uppercut into the Bolton man’s groin.
The shot drew groans from the crowd and Khan wheeled away in pain.
However, instead of taking the allotted five minutes to recover, Khan along with his trainer decided to retire from the fight, handing Crawford a TKO victory.
It was unclear whether it was Khan who requested to stop or Virgil Hunter who gave referee David Fields the signal to wave it off. Either way, the Madison Square Garden crowd booed mercilessly.
But, in the bowels of the famous old venue at around 1am on Sunday morning, Khan was forced to defend his reputation in the wake of such a bizarre ending.
“I would never quit,” he said. “I would rather be knocked out. I’m one of those fighters. I have been knocked out because I’ve tried to win fights.
“Virgil said I could not continue, he asked how I felt and I could feel it in my stomach, I was caught with good shots but did not recover from that last one.
“I take nothing away from Terence he is a great fighter, now I have spent time with him he is a very good fighter.”
If anything, Khan has often been accused of being too brave for his own good during a career which included three brutal knockout defeats before tonight.
But Crawford, sat across the stage from Khan, replied: “You didn’t quit? Tell the truth.
“So what happened? I’m asking you what happened. You quit with a shot in your leg.”
In response, Khan said: “If you guys think I quit, no problem. I’d never quit from a fight.
“He beat me tonight and we have to move on from here. I didn’t quit, man – I don’t quit.”
Whether or not that’s the case, the nature of the stoppage did deny Crawford a fitting ending to what had been a superb performance.
He burst out of the blocks and dropped Khan midway through the first round and the challenger did well to make it to the bell.
Crawford said: “We made sure all camp we were going to start fast, I always started slow previously.
“But Khan is a fast starter so we didn’t want to give him any confidence. I got a good sweat on before the fight and started strong.
“I always knew in my heart that I could outbox him, we both said we had never been outboxed but now we know the truth.
“I was picking up the intensity and he was looking for a way out, I hit him on the leg and his coach wanted to pull him out.
“I did not feel anything from him, I felt physically stronger and I punch harder, people in this division think they will be bigger and stronger than me but I have stopped every welterweight and been stronger.
“People always think I am little until they get in the ring with me.”