Amir “King” Khan is in vogue this week. He easily beat Devon Alexander last Saturday in a performance which convinced some he’s the man to beat Floyd Mayweather. Is he? Should cruising past a limited fighter like Alexander foster the conviction he’s good enough to defeat boxing’s best welterweight? I don’t think so, and I’m baffled by the belief Khan’s speed will bedevil Floyd. Amir is still flawed, however much he’s improved. I doubt that what he does best, which is punch really fast, is enough to neutralize the erstwhile “Pretty Boy.”
It’s true that none of Floyd’s recent, or even distant, opponents are analogous to Khan, who is extraordinarily fast. But while speed impresses it doesn’t always kill. Put another way, Khan doesn’t punch hard enough to hurt Mayweather. Unlike Marcos Maidana, he isn’t strong or aggressive enough to push Floyd back against the ropes and rain blows on ‘TBE.’ And we have never seen Floyd troubled by a boxer. He’s been most confounded by the awkward aggression of Jose Luis Castillo, Marcos Maidana, and to a lesser extent, Miguel Cotto. Against true boxers, like Juan Manuel Marquez, for example, Floyd has dominated.
‘Wait, you moron! Khan is twice as fast as Marquez!’ you might say, staring at your computer screen as you try to disguise the fact you’re reading about boxing in your cubicle rather than actually working. This is true, and Khan’s degree of speed, which is a special gift that sets him apart, is something Floyd hasn’t seen. On Saturday’s broadcast Showtime commentator Pauli Malignaggi, who was stopped by Khan in 2010, said that Amir is a difficult guy to time, unlike a similarly fast but predictably-rhythmic fighter like Gary Russell. Is Amir so difficult to figure out? Memorably, Danny Garcia managed to:
‘Hold on, you idiot! Floyd doesn’t counterpunch with his left hook,’ you might say, staring at your phone in the elevator to avoid conversation with co-workers. This is true, and while Floyd does have a decent left hook, his best punch is the counter-right. Is that enough to break Khan down and smash his brittle jaw? By itself, no. Mayweather won’t knock out Khan with one shot but he can and certainly will hurt him, and in doing so disrupt the flashy combinations that make Amir such a spectacular talent when conditions are favorable.
Khan looks like the world’s best boxer when he’s fighting someone incapable of threatening him, like Devon Alexander. If his opponent can’t equal him in speed or power, Khan appears matchless. But when they adjust to his speed and fight back, as Breidis Prescott, Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia did, “King Khan” gets into trouble.
If they ever fight, I don’t think Floyd will just walk through Khan, but I think positioning him as a more worthy opponent than Manny Pacquiao is completely baseless. Floyd’s defensive brilliance is less susceptible to boxing than it is to brawling. It will not be overwhelmed by speed. Khan may land at times, but his pressure and pedestrian power won’t be enough to dissuade Floyd from boxing offensively, as Maidana’s aggression sometimes did. The most likely scenario is Floyd neutralizing Khan’s speed by staying out of range, rolling away from punches, and by boxing at a measured pace which rewards short, snappy combinations, rather than flurries. In doing so, Floyd will win a clear decision by not allowing Khan any forward momentum, landing cleaner shots and likely hurting Amir more than once down the stretch.
Do I want Khan vs Mayweather? It’d take it, because seeing two talented welterweights is reliable entertainment. Still, I’d much rather see Pacquiao vs Mayweather.
“For fuck’s sake, you dink, don’t you understand that fight will never happen?” you say between sets at the gym while while secretly ogling the Lululemon-moulded backside of a girl who’d prefer you didn’t speak to her. Maybe you’re right: Mayweather-Pacquiao may or may not happen. We can only wait, and we may be disappointed, but that doesn’t change the fact that Manny Pacquiao is, by virtue of his accomplishments, ability, and potential to create a record-breaking bout, a far more worthy candidate to face Floyd Mayweather. Plus, this week Floyd derided Khan for not being a draw.
“You’re right,” you say, before putting down your phone and clumsily asking to work in with the girl you’re admiring. You try and press for more conversation but you’re so overcome by nerves, your face goes slack and your mouth immobilizes. Turned off by your baritone mumbling, she leaves. Ironically, Amir Khan fan, it’s your jaw that’s betrayed you. — Eliott McCormick