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.
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.