Photos by Sumio Yamada
DANNY GARCIA TKO4 AMIR KHAN
It will be difficult for Amir Khan to come back from his shocking defeat against Danny Garcia in last Saturday’s junior welter title fight at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas — difficult but not impossible. As Khan points out, great fighters throughout ring history have overcome devastating setbacks. Khan’s problem, however, isn’t just that his durability is in doubt but that he simply seems to fall apart after getting hurt.
Khan does one of three things when he gets badly buzzed: He stands in front of his opponent with gloves in front of his face, he tries to move or he gamely fires back.
None of these things worked against Garcia. When Khan covered up, Garcia smashed right hands around the side of Khan’s guard. Khan’s legs were too far gone for him to be able to move out of danger. This left the last option, which was to try to punch his way out of trouble, and he just didn’t have the power to pull this off. Khan bravely fired punches back at Garcia in that fourth-round shootout, but Garcia was the puncher in the fight and Khan had been weakened by his opponent’s heavy blows to the extent that he simply had no chance of prevailing in give-and-take exchanges.
Oh, yes, there is something else he does — he instinctively tries to push his opponent away from him.
Khan doesn’t seem to know how to tie an opponent up, or maybe he is too proud to do so. Thomas Hearns wasn’t too proud to hang on to James Kinchen after a big right hand dropped the Detroit Hit man in the fourth round of their fight in Las Vegas. “I held him like he was my woman,” Hearns told the post-fight press conference.
If Khan had similarly held onto Garcia, even at the risk of losing a point, he just might have survived, although somehow I doubt it because Khan’s nervous system seemed to have been short-circuited.
Khan has now been stopped twice. Breidis Prescott caught him cold in a one-round stunner. First-round knockouts can be misleading — a boxer can get caught before he is ready to get hit. Against Garcia, though, Khan was warmed up and winning the fight when Garcia’s big left hook smashed him to the canvas in the third round. It was the sort of knockdown from which there can be no recovery.
There was a worrying knockdown early in Khan’s career against the Scottish lightweight Willie Limond, and he barely survived Marcos Maidana’s big 10th-round onslaught. Some outstanding fighters have been stopped and gone on to achieve glory, but the big concern about Khan is that extreme vulnerability he exhibits when he takes a direct hit anywhere above the top of the shoulders.
As Emanuel Steward pointed out in the HBO commentary, Khan didn’t do anything wrong as such. Fighters can get the worst of it when they get involved in what Steward called “flash exchanges”. Should Khan have been getting into exchanges in the first place, though? Max Kellerman recognised the danger signals, a note of alarm in his voice as he informed HBO viewers in the second round that Khan was “giving Garcia some chances”.
Khan seemed too intent on doing damage. Garcia was looking to land something big, and he was coming uncomfortably close. Garcia told me in a phone interview for Boxing Monthly before the fight that he believed his timing would beat Khan’s speed. With Khan coming closer, and staying in punching range a little longer, Garcia was able to get off with the left hook that turned the fight around. It was, as Khan said, a blind shot in that Garcia had his head turned away when he threw the hook. Blind shot or not, when it landed it blew Khan right out of the fight.
So, how does Khan come back? I think that a rematch with Garcia is the way to go. Garcia is agreeable and has let it be known that he would be willing to go to the U.K. for the fight.
With the right sort of strategy, Khan can get his revenge over Garcia. I think, though, that, if the fight happens, Khan will need to be focused for every second of every round. He will need to use his length and his speed, and he will need to employ his left jab far more than he did last weekend. Khan’s tactics, I believe, should be centred on self-preservation and stealing points, even if the fans get restless.
Terry Norris boxed a safety-first but highly effective fight when outscoring Simon Brown after Brown had knocked him out in the initial meeting. Norris’s manager, Joe Sayatovich, told me that, in the preparation for the rematch, it was drilled into Norris that he must at all costs avoid firefights. In sparring sessions, rounds would be stopped and started all over again if Norris started to mix it up with his sparring partners. If Khan can “do a Terry Norris”, he can box his way to victory should a rematch with Garcia be made, but Khan must, I feel, forget all about getting a knockout — getting the win should be all that matters.