Last night at the Mandalay Bay of Las Vegas, Amir “King” Khan and Danny “Swift” Garcia met inside the ring for a light welterweight battle that would see the winner take home the WBC and WBA title belts. But the real reason fans attended or tuned in was to see if Khan really is as good as he keeps saying he is, or whether the fight would be as easy for Garcia as his father and trainer Angel Garcia said it would be.
In round one both fighters showed their hand speed, but Amir Khan clearly had the edge. He usually threw first, jumping in to close the distance and throwing flashy combinations, while Danny tried to time him, launching his right hand and landing it successfully on a few occasions. There were several neat exchanges in which punches landed cleanly, but Garcia’s were the harder shots. By the end of the round he realized he didn’t need to be as fast as Khan to land his shots, he just needed to time him adequately and make each punch count. It was enough to make the round a close one to score.
In round two—and for most of the third—Khan dominated the action, using his speed and footwork more efficiently, staying active and scoring often on Garcia. “Swift” didn’t seem particularly bothered by Khan’s power, but he refused to retaliate as often as he did during the first round. This enabled Khan to win round two.
However, towards the end of the third, in the beginning of a quick exchange, Khan left himself wide open to a Garcia left counter. It was a perfectly timed sweeping left hook that landed explosively on the upper right side of Amir’s neck, in the vicinity of his ear. Khan lost control of all his limbs as his body fell backwards. He got up quickly, but he danced and wobbled as he desperately tried to find something to lean on while referee Kenny Bayless gave him the eight count. The fight would resume with a few seconds left in the round, with Garcia moving in for the kill, but the clock ran out before he could take Khan out.
Amir never fully recovered from that shot, as evidenced by his flailing legs throughout the portion of the fourth round that transpired before Bayless stopped the action. Khan went down a couple more times before the stoppage, once after getting tagged in Hearns-esque fashion as he ran away from Garcia; the last time he went down from a glancing blow, but he clearly remained wobbly and not in good shape after he made it back up. This is when Bayless stopped the action, despite Khan’s willingness to keep fighting.
And this is how Garcia improved his record to 24-0, while Khan’s fell to 26-3. The most important part of “Swift” Danny’s victory last night is that his stock has risen tremendously after that kind of performance. He is a talented, undefeated fighter with decent punching power who now holds a knockout win over the fighter many regarded as one of the best two in the weight class. At 24 years old, there is a chance Garcia will move to welterweight at some point, but whether he stays at 140 pounds or not, big fights with big name opponents seem all but inevitable in his near future.
Where Khan goes from here is unclear. While the questions about his chin seemed to have been answered positively in his fights against hard-hitting Marcos Maidana and an enhanced Lamont Peterson, the ghost of his first-round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott back in 2008 has returned to haunt him. It is important to give Khan credit for getting up from the canvas three times last night after being rocked more than Van Halen’s cradle, but this vulnerability of his seems particularly daunting. No matter how much heart Khan shows in fighting through adversity, hard-punchers will always hold an edge over him. It may prove a ceiling too tough to crack, unlike his own chin.