Does “King Khan” Think He’s King Kong?

Reports have suggested that Amir Khan’s recent success and subsequent revenue potential could draw the interest of Floyd Mayweather Jr. who previously claimed Khan didn’t have the star power to warrant the opportunity.  Having coasted through an easy win against the once well-respected Zab Judah, Khan is attracting media attention and getting a lot of praise.   So we’re supposed to think Khan is an up and comer who keeps getting better every fight and has enough size and speed to challenge Mayweather.  Some of these factors, however, are much more significant in changing Mayweather’s opinion than Khan might want boxing fans to believe.

  • For one, Mayweather was right about Khan’s popularity not being at the elite level, at least previous to the win over Judah.  It makes sense that a somewhat arbitrary elevation of status is attractive to Mayweather.  More money and glory, less sweat.
  • Here’s a big reason the fight looks good for Mayweather: not only is Khan trained by Freddie Roach, who also trains Manny Pacquiao, but observers have often commented that Khan’s style resembles Pacquiao’s in some ways.  This means the “tune-up” tag can be plastered all over the publicity campaign for the fight even more effectively than in every other Mayweather fight from the past two years.  Yeah, Khan does fight a little bit like Pacquiao.
  • But let’s be serious: Manny Pacquiao’s strength is not his immaculate technique or his polished fundamentals.  His signature advantages come from his ability to attack from unusual angles with multi-punch combinations, fueled by his foot speed, to overwhelm opponents.  As boxing fans know, many of those assets will diminish with age.  Therefore, when analysts compare Khan’s style to that of Pacquiao it’s not really such a compliment.  In fact, King Khan has looked increasingly sloppy since his more timid days when he lost to Breidis Prescott, using what seemed to be a more calculated, technical style.  As his ego gets bigger, I suspect, so will his tendency to attempt the reckless abandon he emulates in Pacquiao.  Most boxing fans agree, Khan is no Pacquiao, and he can’t really pull it off.
  • Similarly – Judah is no Mayweather.  Zab Judah’s impressive speed, slick style and adept defense made his 2006 clash with Mayweather one to remember, but that was more than five years ago.  Since then Judah has been less impressive in each fight, his raw athleticism gradually eroding with age to the shadow of himself he now resembles.  Judah looked his best against heavy-handed plodders like Micky Ward who, when unproductive, seemed to be overwhelmed by Judah’s speed and ability.  Mayweather, we can guess, would have been even more impressive than Khan at this stage.  In Judah, Amir Khan beat an opponent who, even by generous description, would be called a “shot fighter.”  This brings up what might be the biggest attraction for Mayweather.  Khan beat Judah, but he didn’t even look that good doing it! The fight was ugly and unrefined, featuring frantic combinations that often accumulated points while only grazing Judah.  Judah did go down and maybe it wasn’t a low blow, but it did look a little low.  Then again, this is Zab Judah we’re talking about, possibly the only active fighter more notorious than Bernard Hopkins for strategically feigning injury.  So it probably wasn’t low, but Khan also conducted a nasty fight through other tactics: shots to the back of the head, hitting while holding and other miscellaneous roughhousing.  I have rarely seen a boxer-puncher who kept his elbows as wide as Khan did against Judah.  With nothing coming back, Khan got away with this strategy, but Mayweather knows better than anybody that it wouldn’t protect Khan from him.

Zab Judah might have imparted his last bit of name value to Khan’s legacy, but “King Khan” and Freddie Roach better start being realistic about the results of that fight.  I suppose if their plan is to set the stage for Pacquiao, it makes more sense to do it that way than through some other opponents, but I think it’s clear that King Kong has not been reincarnated.  If this fight is made, expect a one-sided lottery ticket win for Mayweather.

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