By Kieran Mulvaney
Two months later than planned, and against a different opponent than originally anticipated, Amir Khan will climb into the ring at the Mandalay Bay on Saturday night for his first fight since losing two junior welterweight belts to Lamont Peterson in Washington, DC last December.
Despite that loss, the WBA -- one of the sanctioning bodies whose titles he surrendered in a controversial split decision loss to Peterson -- has agreed to wrap one of its belts around him again even before he steps between the ropes on Saturday. The reason offered by the WBA for its move is that “no boxer [who] has tested positively for prohibited substances can … retain a title” – a reference to the fact that on May 8, eleven days before he was scheduled to fight a rematch with Khan, Peterson was revealed to have tested positive for synthetic testosterone.
The likelihood of Nevada granting Peterson a boxing license in light of that kind of news was about as high as Mike Tyson returning to the ring and fighting at welterweight; and so the fight was canceled. But Khan was not without an opponent for long, as into the breach stepped young Danny Garcia, himself the holder of a 140-pound trinket (this one bestowed by the WBC) that he secured by way of a hard-fought victory over veteran Erik Morales in Houston in March.
For Khan, the changes meant a switch of focus away from the white whale who had disturbed his sleep ever since that eventful night in the nation’s capital. It also meant an additional two months of work and preparation.
The change of course had undoubtedly interrupted a long-planned shot at revenge that he and trainer Freddie Roach had been plotting in detail, he conceded.
“I had to go back to the drawing board and think about what I was going to do, and how we were going to come back and knock out Lamont Peterson,” he said recently. “And that’s what we were aiming for. We made the fight, and then after I trained out of my skin – I’ve never trained so hard in my life – ten days before the fight I get the call that he had failed the test.”
But despite that, he sees similarities between Peterson’s style and Garcia’s, similarities that made it that much easier to pick up where he had left off when his preparations for a Peterson rematch had been so rudely interrupted.
“You have to remember that Lamont Peterson threw a lot of body shots in our fight,” he pointed out. “Danny Garcia throws a lot of body shots. Garcia’s an orthodox fighter; Lamont Peterson is orthodox. Peterson likes coming forward, Garcia likes to come forward. So technically, tactically, all we have to do is tinker with a few little things. We know what to do. That’s not really a problem.”
Whatever does happen, this may be the final time we see the Briton at this particular fighting weight. He has been around so long already – he won silver at the Olympic Games eight years ago – that it is a shock to realize he is still only 25, a young and growing man. As a result, larger challenges lie ahead.
“It’s getting harder to make the weight. I’m filling out. I’m getting bigger, and older and more mature, so it’s probably the best time to move up, and hopefully win another world title at welterweight,” he revealed. “That’s my ambition.”