Photos by Sumio Yamada
AMIR KHAN vs DANNY GARCIA
Reinstated as WBA 140-pound champion after Lamont Peterson’s positive drugs, Amir Khan is back on HBO tonight to face unbeaten champion Danny Garcia, who defends the WBC belt in this meeting of champions at the Mandalay Bay casino resort in Las Vegas.
Khan is the favourite but Garcia has to be respected, an improved fighter who can box and punch and possesses self-belief.
Derogatory words by Garcia’s trainer and father, Angel Garcia, seem to have angered Khan but Khan’s trainer, Freddie Roach, has counselled his man to box a smart fight.
Garcia has made it clear that he would like Khan to be in front of him tonight and not moving all around the ring in a hit-and-get-away style. Garcia sees himself as very much the puncher in the fight, and he believes Khan’s lack of durability has been exposed in several fights. Whatever style Khan uses, though, Garcia seems absolutely sure that he will have the answer.
“He’s fast, but timing and a good jab beats speed and I have the timing and the jab,” Garcia told me in a phone conversation.
Khan is the higher-profile fighter and he has the superior amateur pedigree, but Garcia has demonstrated that he has punching power, especially in the left hook.
“He has a dangerous style,” Khan admitted at the press conference to announce the fight, “but he has never faced anyone like me.” Garcia would no doubt argue that Khan has never faced anyone like Danny Garcia.
Khan at times looked vulnerable under pressure in his very close and debatable loss against Peterson but we now know that his opponent in effect had an unfair advantage due to use of a performance-enhancing substance — Khan has said in post-fight comments that Peterson’s physical strength and punch-resistance that night were astonishing to him. “If he wasn’t on anything I think I would have knocked him out in that fight,” Khan said.
The Khan-Peterson rematch would presumably have answered all questions, but it won’t happen — at least not for now. The replacement fight is a good one, though. Garcia doesn’t have Khan’s speed and he isn’t as flashy or as versatile as the Olympic silver medallist, but the WBC champion from Philadelphia is a solid, steady type of fighter with sound technical ability and KO power in his left hook.
I believe that Garcia hits harder than suggested by his record of 14 KOs in 23 consecutive wins. If he catches Khan flush, he can drop him and perhaps even stop him.
A slight concern about Khan is that he had already been through a long training camp for the aborted Peterson rematch and in a sense has had to start all over again for the new date against a different opponent, but he says he was already in great shape and simply had to maintain his fitness level. He is, he says, “strong and ready”.
I believe that the oddsmakers have it right and that Khan will win this fight. I see him as the faster, more talented boxer.
Garcia is a better fighter now than he was when he barely defeated Ashley Theophane a couple of years ago, but the ageing — although still capable — Erik Morales bloodied his nose with jabs and caught him with right hands. Garcia won’t have the advantage in youth that he had in the Morales fight, and if Morales was able to hit him and do a bit of damage it seems highly likely that Khan will be able to do so, too.
Khan has had more experience on the big stage and even though he has had just three more professional bouts than Garcia (26 wins and two losses, with 18 opponents stopped) he just seems the more seasoned boxer and he has a clear advantage in speed.
I don’t buy into Khan’s assertion that he will win by KO, because I see him doing the smart thing and boxing an elusive, points-scoring type of fight, but I do expect Khan to win, most likely by a clear margin on all three judges’ scorecards.