Khan Answers The Questions, Defeats Maidana

by Kieran Mulvaney

Two years and three months ago, Amir Khan's career seemed in tatters as he crumbled under the first round onslaught of unheralded Colombian Breidis Prescott. Even as he built an unbeaten career, there had always been questions about his chin, and the rapidity and totality of the Prescott loss seemed to confirm those questions with authority.

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Two years and three months later, Khan has answered those questions just as emphatically with a hard-won unanimous decision against Marcos Maidana.

Maidana entered Saturday's fight with 27 KOs in his 29 wins. He had recovered from three knockdowns to force Victor Ortiz into submission. The man can punch.

And he landed punches on Amir Khan, 156 of them in total, many thrown with the worst of intentions and landing with concussive power.

Early in the very first round, it looked as if the Mandalay Bay crowd may be about to witness Breidis Prescott redux, as Maidana's right hands hurt the WBA super lightweight champion. But it was Maidana who found himself on the canvas, courtesy of a crushing left hand to the body that had him wincing in agony.

But the challenger toughed it out, and again and again he tested Khan's chin, his heart, and his resolve. In the tenth round, he landed bomb after bomb that had Khan reeling around the ring. But the champion didn't go down, even though doing so voluntarily might have been a wise choice.

Instead, having withstood the worst crisis of his career since that night in September 2008, he survived the round, and the fight, and it was he, not Maidana, who was throwing punches at the final bell.

Amir Khan showed on Saturday night that he is more than a boxer. He proved what some had doubted, that he is also a fighter, and a damn good one.

And because of that, the last big fight of 2010 may also have been the best fight of 2010.

(For more coverage, go to HBO.com)

Khan Hoping For A Repeat Birthday Present

by Peter Owen Nelson

To commemorate Amir Khan's turning 24 yesterday December 8, before his final training session at the IBA gym in Las Vegas, the fighter's mother presented her son with a massive cake, which itself appeared to outweigh a junior welterweight. While well-intentioned, it seemed a cruel gesture for a boxer unable to indulge his sweet tooth 48 hours before his weigh-in. 

As Khan continues to shed his final few pounds to make his 140-lb upper limit, his birthday began with a gift from strength coach Alex Ariza: a chill desert run at dawn. Khan's jogging mates have gradually rotated throughout his camp from Manny Pacquiao, Julio Cesar Chavez, and now an invasion of British press, easily found during the day endlessly shooting B-roll of the "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign south of the strip. After his run, Khan returned to his hotel to rest.

While the fighters and media are staying at the host hotel Mandalay Bay, Khan is staying in a deluxe suite at Planet Hollywood that includes a billiards tables, a 60-inch flatscreen, and, according to an unconfirmed report, a stripper pole in the shower. Khan and Planet Hollywood founder Robert Earl bonded in Las Vegas not long ago, just after Manny Pacquiao knocked out Ricky Hatton in May 2009. Security guards at Mandalay Bay let Khan into the after-party and prevented Earl's entry, not recognizing him. Khan helped facilitate Earl's admittance, but not before Earl could tell the guard, "I'm going to come back here... buy this place, and shut it down."

After the light workout with trainer Freddie Roach before the media, Team Khan briefly met with Kevin Spacey for a photo-op before the Las Vegas premiere of his new film. Back in Khan's suite, the WBA titlist wound down over games of pool with his friends, as the movie 'Inception' blared in the background and his advisers dealt with the standard litany of last-minute ticket requests from friends of friends of friends. The mood was upbeat, but festivities muted.

For each of the past five years, the month of Amir Khan's birth has proven ripe for victory: apart from a ten-round unanimous decision win, Khan has knocked out the other four opponents all within two rounds. The beatings have all been meted out either a few days before or after (and even once on) Khan's birthday. On Saturday, Marcos Maidana will hope to upend any celebration and give Khan a gift he's never received: his first loss in the United States.

A Slice Of The Fight Week Cake

by Kieran Mulvaney

Lamont Peterson was first into the ring at yesterday's open workout, and the former world title challenger -- hoping to put his career on track with a victory over Victor Ortiz in the co-main event of Saturday's card -- is not actually expected to do so. He is the B side of the support bout, and although he announced each punch as loudly when hitting the mitts as he does when throwing bombs in a fight ("I may need to wear my headphones ringside on Saturday," muttered one scribe) not too many of the largely British press contingent were paying attention. They weren't there for Peterson.

Victor Ortiz hits the speed bag on December 8, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada during a media workout in preparation for his December 11, 2010 fight against super lightweight contender Lamont Peterson Photo: Gene Blevins - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions

As Lamont finished, Marcos Maidana arrived, an appearance that caused greater commotion among the Her Majesty's press. Maidana is fighting their man on Saturday, and before he worked out, he found himself engulfed in a crowd of amply-proportioned inquisitors. Maidana, speaking through an interpreter, said little, the kind of man who, as they say, prefers to let his fists do the talking.

The power of Maidana's punches was evident last year when they handed defeat to Victor Ortiz, who showed up while Maidana was going through his routine and who, as always, had smiles, handshakes and hugs for those he knew. Professional boxers by nature as a rule have impressive physiques, but Ortiz took obvious pride in stripping off to the waist when he stepped into the ring, showing a shockingly thin waist tapering upward into an immensely strong upper body that he torqued as he ripped punches into his trainer's mitt.

"Been working out much?" cracked an HBO blogger.
"Nah," deadpanned Ortiz. "Hanging out on the couch, eating popcorn, watching Harry Potter."

He laughed, leaped exuberantly down from the ring apron, and for a fraction of a second there was mild panic as the mat on the floor gave way and he almost lost his footing. The thought flashed through the mind of his big night being derailed by a sprained ankle or worse, but he recovered his balance and laughed at the anxious faces, before departing the gym and leaving the stage to the big star.

Amir Khan's trainer Freddie Roach wrapped the fighter's hands, and the throng watched reverently.The relative quiet was broken by the presentation of a cake for the fighter's 24th birthday, a cake that he of course will not be able to eat. Khan and Roach climbed into the ring, and a difference was immediately apparent: Whereas other fighters tend to go through the motions during open workouts, Roach was using this as a teachable moment, encouraging Khan to practice stepping to one side, outside Maidana's left, and throwing a three-punch combination to the jaw. Over and over they worked on that move and others, until Roach, satisfied with the work, allowed his pupil to climb back out through the ropes.


Khan's Crucible

by Nat Gottlieb

Power-punching Marcos Maidana may be the most dangerous fighter in the stacked 140-pound division, but Bob Papa calls him the "perfect" opponent for Amir Khan.

Gene Blevins - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions

Every person's chin sits in the lower part of their face, below the lower lip. But if Amir Khan's critics are to be believed, his lies on top of his head like a glass tiara waiting to get knocked off. It is a vast simplification of the multi-faceted boxer, yet not totally unwarranted given the brutal first round beat down he suffered at the hands of another heavy-fisted fighter, Breidis Prescott in 2008.


Since then, Khan has won five straight fights and collected a championship belt along the way, but none of that has changed the perception among many that the Brit has a weak chin. You certainly don't shed that kind of label fighting light-hitting punchers like Dimitriy Salita and Paulie Malignaggi. Maidana (29-1, 27 KOs) is whole different animal.

Read more of Nat Gottlieb's overview on HBO.com