Published on Tuesday, 11 December 2007 19:45
by Jody Kohn
In the past couple of years, we as boxing fans have been told that Amir Khan was boxing's next big superstar; the man who would take over once Manny and Floyd had their last fights. His combination of speed, skill and charisma were sure to lift him to superstar status in a sport in need of big names. His fight on Saturday night against Lamont Peterson was to take him once step closer to superstardom and the elite status and rarified air currently occupied by the aforementioned Pacquiao and Mayweather. In fact, a lot of people were claiming Khan was a potential giant killer, thinking he had the tools to beat Floyd should they cross paths.
Well, the number of people thinking this surely dwindled after his performance this weekend. Sure, referee Joe Cooper was pathetic in deducting two points from Khan, potentially costing him the fight. His actions were questionable at best, and possibly even corrupt if you believe Khan and Jim Lampley. But that happening only served to more clearly demonstrate why Khan will most likely never reach the heights many expected.
Early in the fight Khan's dazzling speed and skill seemed to be too much for the durable, if unspectacular Peterson. Midway through the first round I wondered how quickly and spectacularly Khan would wrap up the fight. But Peterson hung on, adjusted, and turned the fight in his favor. Khan made no such adjustments. He seemed to think his combination of speed, pushing, and pulling down Peterson's head would allow him to prevail in the end. It didn't, and in the end Khan lost a controversial split decision.
But it was more than the loss on his record that showed why Khan will never be a true superstar. Losses themselves do not prevent that. In fact, fighters often become bigger after losses. Thomas Hearns, is a prime example. It was his actions both in the ring and in the interview afterwards which will cost him.
Khan has spectacular skills. His speed is great, and I am sure there are very few boxers that look better than him in the gym. But in the ring I saw a guy who tried to rely too much on that skill. When he found an opponent who, even though he was outclassed, found a way to overcome the talent gap, Khan was clueless as to how to respond. Peterson turned it into a fight. Khan, as he would state later, stayed very "clean." So while Peterson roughed up Khan, Amir continued to give us flashy combos which became less and less effective.
In the end, Peterson was awarded the split decision, and Khan was left to whine and complain to Larry Merchant. No matter what question Merchant asked, Khan kept saying how "clean" he fought. No less than a dozen times he told us how "clean" he fought and how undignified Peterson, the referee, and Washington DC were. Whether or not you agree with him, Khan made himself look like a poor loser as a result. It also demonstrated why he will never be a superstar.
During his post fight bitch session, Khan came across as a snooty, obnoxious Brit who was more concerned with how he looked than the result he achieved. The constant references to his "clean" boxing leads me to believe he is too vain to dirty things up when he needs to and grind it out when his initial attack is thwarted. He seems to be be very conscious of appearances. In boxing that is a big issue, in both results and fan support.
He has neither the guts and fighting spirit (or limited talent) of Ricky Hatton to make him a huge fan favorite, nor the over the top showman qualities that made Naseem Hamed so popular (and unpopular). Instead he just comes across as an obnoxious fighter who thinks he is entitled. Without a flashy record, I am not sure people will continue to rally around boxing's "cleanest" fighter.
Sure he has a ton of talent, and will be favored in a rematch with Peterson, but that's a long way from elevating himself to Floyd Mayweather contender status. In fact, for the time being, I think that should be the furthest thing from his mind. Perhaps a match with Floyd protege Jessie Vargas would be more in line.