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Khan mans up

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Ben Dirs | 20:13 UK time, Wednesday, 13 April 2011

If Amir Khan entered the ring against Marcos Maidana last December a boy and left it a man, then Britain's WBA light-welterweight champion is fast discovering being a fully-fledged grown-up in the ruthless world of boxing has plenty of downsides.

The 24-year-old from Bolton is set to defend his crown for a fourth time against European champion Paul McCloskey in Manchester on Saturday - but not on Sky as planned. Irked by a series of withdrawals on the undercard, Sky decided the bill was not worthy of pay-per-view and switched it to one of its regular channels. Camp Khan, stung by a reported £1m pay cut, jumped ship to fringe cable outfit Primetime.

While the actions of Khan and Hatton Promotions are understandable - they cannot be blamed for accepting a higher bid from a rival channel in the hope of breaking even, although some reports suggest Khan will get next to nothing - one has to wonder whether they have all fallen victim to short-termism, perhaps the sport's most debilitating disease.

Many will applaud Sky for its stance. David Haye's tragicomic fight against Audley Harrison last November has clearly made it wary of short-changing fans, especially in these straitened times. If a fight is to be deemed worthy of pay-per-view from now on, it has to be worthwhile viewing.

Amir Khan (left) and Paul McCloskey

Khan (left) expects McCloskey to be awkward but says he has his number. Photo: Getty

And many will see a bigger picture. Khan fighting McCloskey on a free-to-air channel would have been the perfect way to sell the Englishman's planned unification bout against American Tim Bradley in Las Vegas this summer.

The last-minute wrangling is hardly the best preparation for what Khan hoped would be a glorious homecoming. But the Olympic silver medalist at the 2004 Games in Athens has learned that success in the ring, like success in any field, does not necessarily make life any less complicated.

Take recent tabloid speculation linking Khan to glamour model Katie Price. While the tabloid newspapers seem convinced the pair are an item - the tale of a Muslim boxer and a woman famous for getting her kit off was always going to work them into a lather, whether true or not - Khan insists the relationship is purely platonic.

"To be honest, it was more about my friend and Katie. My name was just being used because my friend was involved in the story," Khan tells BBC Sport. "It's frustrating but I knew it was going to come. If you win a medal at the Olympics, keep winning fights and make a name for yourself, people are going to want to know your business.

"That's what it's like, people want to know exactly what I get up to, people get the wrong end of the stick and little things get blown up. But I'll walk out of the situation as the cleaner person and it will be proved I had to nothing to do with it all along."

Amir Khan (left) and Marcos Maidana

Khan (left) suffered plenty of punishment against the hard-hitting Maidana. Photo: Getty

Khan, who is trained by the venerable Freddie Roach, spent some of the build-up to Saturday's fight working with the planet's best pound-for-pound fighter, Manny Pacquiao, in Baguio City in the Philippines. It was the perfect way to escape his celebrity while getting a hands-on lesson in the pitfalls of fame.

"It was crazy," says Khan. "Wherever Manny goes, he gets hounded. It's kind of difficult for him and it's a bit like my situation when I'm in England. I don't think I could ever train back home now I've got used to training abroad, where people don't know me as much."

While Khan is nowhere near Pacquiao in the fame stakes - the Philippine was voted one of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2009 by Time magazine - his victory over Maidana, and the nature of it, certainly moved him up a couple of notches. It also dismayed those - and there were many - who had gleefully foretold his downfall.

"It showed I can be a big name in boxing," says Khan, whose career almost came undone when he was knocked out by Colombian Breidis Prescott in 2008. "A lot of people were down on me before that fight and I proved a lot of critics wrong.

"Maidana is such a big hitter and lots of people were saying he was going to knock me out. But I showed I could take a good shot, stand there and fight back. It was all about shutting the critics up and proving to everyone how good I was. And I won a lot more fans because I showed how exciting I can be that night."

McCloskey is a very different fighter to Maidana. An unorthodox southpaw in the mould of the mercurial Herol Graham, the Dungiven man carries his hands low, throws shots from funky angles and, like Graham, brings knockout power. But he will not have faced a fighter of Khan's class before and could be in for a very uncomfortable night.

However, Khan is confident he has McCloskey's number: "I know he is very awkward," he says, "but we've been working with a lot of awkward opponents, I'm with the best trainer in the world and I don't think anything can go wrong."

Khan is man enough now to know things can, and always do, go wrong in boxing. Some of these things he has little or no control over, such as scuppered TV deals and tabloid stings. But the signs are he is on his way to mastering the vicissitudes of the ring.

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  • Comment number 1.

    Khan is a good fighter but I honestly think he is a couple of steps from the big time. Yes he can take a bit of punishment, but McCloskey is a class fighter and will really be a test for Khan.

  • Comment number 2.

    McCloskey will have to rely upon all his boxing knowledge and skills to weather the early storm, keep moving the head and if possible try and drag Khan into a war. I don’t expect McCloskey, although a good boxer in his own right, to outbox Khan, he simply can’t match him for speed.

  • Comment number 3.

    Maidana is not the big hitter everyone seems to think he is as proven by his fight with Morales. In fact, Maidana was shown to be a pretty one dimensional slugger by the great Mexican, Morales just didn't have the legs for the final rounds I think. I still think Khan gets hit too much to ever be the top dog. He certainly has the skills and bangs pretty hard but he'll have to tighten up if he wants to win multiple belts.
    Saying all that, he will beat McCloskey, probably on points as McCloskey is a lot tougher then people seem to think. Dudey's only real chance is to land that big right upper cut. Not out of the question but not that likely either. Still tempted to put €20 on him just in case.

  • Comment number 4.

    First up I think they have missed a trick in going to Primetime but I very much doubt BBC or ITV should any interest, which reflects badly on them. That audience would have been ideal to cash in on his improved status in boxing and to remind casual fans of his talents, ahead of any potential unification fight this summer. Feel a bit for Khan but he does seem to have a lot of meddlers behind the scenes.
    One thing on the Maidana fight, the plan was never to have the chin tested in any war... Predictions of bossing every round came from the Khan camp.
    Regarding the actual contest if McCloskey can weather the early storm, I feel he can make things uncomfortable for Khan who is looking to put on a show and may get frustrated. I have Khan to win by stoppage betweens rounds 6-9, possibly having been shocked or even dropped as McCloskey grows in confidence.

  • Comment number 5.

    I think Sky should take some flack for originally putting this fight on Box Office and then changing it at the last minute, but the Khan camp could and should have cut there loses and seen it as an opportunity to gain maximum exposure for Amir.

    I know the BBC have turned there back on boxing, but I would be interested to know if they even inquired about picking this up at a cut price? I presume not.

    I still think this will be all over in the early rounds, and then Khan loses to Bradley on points in the summer.

  • Comment number 6.

    I can't see any outcome other than a routine Khan win to be honest. McCloskey's no fool and domestically he's really good but I wouldn't fancy his chances against Maidana or Kotelnik, let alone Khan.

    I think that Khan needs to ditch his management and go with someone who knows boxing and knows business instead - perhaps even a non-exclusive deal with Warren. It's clear that his management insisting on the PPV deal is more about their ego and control than it is about marketing or profit. Imagine how much more money they'd make in the long run if Amir was on a domestic channel or Sky Sports 1, with millions watching instead of thousands. It's only a year or so ago that Carl Froch was unfairly ridiculed for selling small numbers on Primetime (in his defence it was due to Setanta collapsing and Sky having a full schedule). Let's hope that it's a one-off for Amir and that he gets people managing his affairs as well outside the ring as the venerable Freddie Roach manages him in the ring.

  • Comment number 7.

    William (comment 3) has a point, Maidana was exposed as a one dimensional brawler by 'el terrible' and people will have to start re-assessing just how hard his punch is. He couldn't put Amir away after clubbing him with his best shots for 2-3 rounds, and other than closing EM's left eye by the 2nd round he wasn't able to KO a 35 yr old who had spent the majority of his career fighting at over 20lbs lighter on the scale.

    Having said that Amir won over a lot of skeptics here in the US after showing the heart to go toe to toe with Maidana, so it's a little sad that McCloskey is viewed so poorly here as they're expecting Amir to walk it.

    McCloskey is no mug and his form demands more respect than he's getting but perception is everything, and the end result is that Amir is having to fight a dangerous boxer for free and is unlikely to gain any credibility for doing so.

    One small bonus is that HBO are gonna air it on tape delay as a warm up for the Berto/Ortiz fight that night. But, it's gonna prove to be a lost opportunity in the UK.
    700,000 viewers watching that fight on Sky 3 (as was proposed) would've gone some way to proving McCloskey's worthiness, and would've acted as a great marketing tool for the Bradley fight. But 7,000 on Primetime won't cut it.

    Good luck Amir you've got the quality to steer your way out of the cul-de-sac that your management have built for you.

  • Comment number 8.

    I'm interested in the fight and would have watched it on Sky Sports but it isn't a PPV fight in my opinion - especially without a strong undercard.

    Khan's camp have let their ego's get the better of them and misjudged public perception on this one. Its this sort of arrogance that leads to a lot of people finding it difficult to take a liking to him.

    Does anyone else get the feeling that Khan has been swept away by his own hype, feeling that we should all by idolising him and then complaining when we don't?

    He's a classy, exciting fighter and i hope to see him in a number of top draw exciting fights in the coming years - i just think he and his camp have lost touch with reality a little.

  • Comment number 9.

    7. At 18:27pm 14th Apr 2011, rightroyalkneesup wrote:
    William (comment 3) has a point, Maidana was exposed as a one dimensional brawler by 'el terrible'

    Morales exposed him by losing? OK. Maidana has world class power, it's a fact. Just because he couldn't knock out two world class opponents doesn't mean his power isn't all it's cracked up to be.

    Agree with some comments here re Khan's handlers. The split with Ariza and now the move to primetime make me think there are some ego issues. Also agree with el_nino_81, Khan does seem to expect us to idolise him and acts a bit spolit if things don't go his way. Still, I really like Khan and think he will beat McCloskey, and also beat Bradley later this year.

  • Comment number 10.

    Does anyone else get the feeling that Khan has been swept away by his own hype, feeling that we should all by idolising him and then complaining when we don't?


    I tend to agree. His quote in this piece about not being able to train in the UK because he thinks he is too well-known over here would point towards that too.

    And I bet he would be a much more down-to-earth guy if he wasn't surrounded by people telling him how great he is all the time.

    Nature of the beast I suppose.

  • Comment number 11.

    Khan is so overrated, he has actually seen the dark side of the moon.

    People say he has power, the only fighters he has KOd have been bums. He didn't KO Malignaggi. Maidana quickly recovered from a body shot. Whether or not he KOs McCloskey remains to be seen, but he definitely won't KO Tim 'Glasgow Kiss' Bradley.

    Can't wait to see Khan sparked out again tbh. Let's see how many people pay for your Primetime PPV PMSL.

  • Comment number 12.

    "Maidana has world class power"

    Sorry Dedwood85 but this just isn't backed up by the record. Apart from Ortiz Maidana has not beaten anyone of real note and Ortiz wasn't knocked out he was just roughed up. Maidana lost to Kotelnik and could only manage to beat two over the hill fighters, in Corley and Morales, on points (and only just in the case of Morales). Anyone pointing to the Maidana win and then making conclusions about Khan's chin are deluding themselves. Khan needs to tighten up and not get hit because he will run into trouble against a real big hitter otherwise.

  • Comment number 13.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 14.

    #11 - You know he stopped Malignaggi right? I seem to remember Malignaggi's corner throwing the towel in in the 11th. "PMSL".

    Maidana "quickly recovered"? Maidana was saved by the bell in the first and you know it, he only recovered because he had a minute to sit down.

  • Comment number 15.

    Maidana is the biggest puncher in the division, and the biggest puncher Khan could have faced. Anyone thinking otherwise is deluding themselves and failing to give credit (to both fighters) where it's due. (also you mention the Kotelnik Maidana fight, watch the fight, it was a proper robbery).

    I certainly haven't made any assumptions about Khan's chin from the Maidana fight (other than he doesn't have a world class one) and I agree he'll get KO'd eventually unless he can focus for the full 12 rounds against a puncher.

  • Comment number 16.

    Seriously hope this problem with Sky makes Khan take a look at himself & his worth in the ring.
    Yes he is a champion, but he is not a Ricky Hatton, Nigel Benn or Chris Eubank. They showed they were champions both in & out of the ring. Khan has yet to show that at a top level.

  • Comment number 17.

    forget this fight, i think khan will outbox the next guy, but the big tests comes in bradley, if he can beat him, i think it is going to be very close, but if he does than where does he go next? does he stay on the 154 pound or move up if he does move up his got big fights coming than we will know for sureif he is good enough

  • Comment number 18.

    Nobody really cares about Khan. He was a good role model for youngsters after the olympics, but that's about it. Without the publicity and opportunites he's been handed on a plate (for commercial reasons), he'd be just another boxer

  • Comment number 19.


    who's your money on?

    How's your training going?

  • Comment number 20.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 21.

    Should I be surprised that the people saying Maidana is overrated are the same ones who said he would blow Khan away?

  • Comment number 22.

    Khan mans up? Hes been a professional for six years now and never been the underdog going into a fight. Hes had opportunities provided to him that other boxers, like David Haye and Carl Froch were never given.

    His performance vs Maidana was good, but the Argentinian had already been outpointed by Kotelnik. His bout vs Ortiz demonstrated his heart, but also his lack of boxing ringcraft - hes a straight ahead slugger. Recently, even a faded Erik Morales has taken him the distance.

    This is just another mis-match, which was designed to help Khan's bank balance but thats evaporated now as a light bulb went on in somebody's head over at Sky. These sort of uncompetitive bouts should'nt be pay-per-view, we are in a recession and the sport doesn't need another black eye, after the predictable Haye-Harrison farce.

    I'll never order any of Khan's fights unless hes the underdog going into a fight. At this rate, I will never see him live. But thats no problem, i'll just look forward even more to Carl Froch's forthcoming bouts - hes fights anybody and doesnt care.

  • Comment number 23.

    Really striking how ungracious Khan was in victory this evening.

    Even if you won by a convincing knockout his comments would be classless, but after a frankly dubious cut decision his attitude came across as pretty odious.

    Suppose it should come as no surprise, given the attitude of his family. Upbringing & all that. Very poor show Amir.

  • Comment number 24.

    I agree with G_K @23.

    However that aside i was not convinced Khan was going to be victorious in any case - hence his classless display in "victory". I believe he knew, as I saw happening, as the fight progressed it was going to get pretty awkward for him. He was simply relieved and yet another fight Khan got away with. One question if it was the other way round would the doctor have stopped the fight (would he even have been called!)

    Anyway that is my first ever entry - so hello to everyone.

  • Comment number 25.

    Khan was silly with some of his comments and if it was me i probebly would not even celebrate it. Never a stoppage and agree with Barry Hearns ref was a disgrace. However khan was clearly the winner. McCloskey hit him with one shot and was very good in his movement and avoiding too much damage. It was all Khan though and i could only see one winner and it was not McCloskey. Khan is at another level to McCloskey depsite his arrogance at times, don't let your dislike for him cloud your judgement. He won the fight fair and square he does not call the stoppages. Good luck to him in his attempts to unify the title.


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