Did Amir Khan talk his way out of the Mayweather sweepstakes and now the welterweight picture?
By ”Showtime” Stephen Lynch
Former world champion Amir Khan is back in the UK this week and is likely to announce his next opponent within days. The identity of Khan’s dance partner remains unclear, with names such as Luis Collazo, Adrien Broner, Kell Brook and Danny Garcia circulating recently. There are various permutations of where Khan goes next following his 11 month layoff since a forgettable points win over Julio Diaz and a frustrating period trying to get Floyd Mayweather into the ring.
“King Khan” suffered a setback when the P4P King chose Argentinean slugger Marcos Maidana, and has since claimed that Mayweather went for the path of least resistance and took “the easy route” in opting to fight Maidana. Perhaps it’s churlish to suggest this easier route involves fighting someone possessing an 88% knockout ratio and someone whose record at welterweight is knocking out three people in a row and taking Adrien Broner’s undefeated record. Although given the Bolton fighter’s recent inactivity, largely at the hands of Mayweather, such petulance is understandable.
Let’s explore a fringe but plausible theory of why Mayweather-Khan fell by the wayside – this being that at some point in the protracted negotiations – that Khan himself, or someone on his team crossed an invisible line and offended Floyd Mayweather. The Mayweather who moves whenever he wants, decides who to fight, when, how and wherever he pleases. The Floyd Mayweather who refuses to be put into a corner when it comes to the business end of the sport, and who has stubbornly, at times, refused outright to even entertain the thought of fighting Manny Pacquiao. The Floyd Mayweather who made Mexican superstars Saul Alvarez and Juan Manuel Marquez meet him at the catchweights he set for him. Woe betide the man who tries to dictate to, coax or frogmarch the sport’s most powerful fighter.
The cardinal sin Khan allegedly made was in December, when he made public to the British media the fact that he had already signed the contract – his side of the bargain if you will – to fight Mayweather on May 3. Prior to this Khan had been telling journalists the fight was “very close” to being finalised with an announcement potentially coming within a couple of weeks. Indeed Khan had pulled out of negotiations to fight then IBF welterweight champion Devon Alexander in December, if it wasn’t already clear that the Englishman was closing in winning “Money” Mayweather’s sweepstakes.
When Maidana’s winning ticket came up in February, Matchroom Sports’ Eddie Hearn revealed he had made a $5 million offer to Khan to fight his own unbeaten Kell Brook this summer – most likely in an English football stadium. However, Hearn was more insightful in a Boxing News interview in January, saying he had heard that Mayweather “wasn’t too happy” about Khan publishing the contract – adding that he had a feeling the fight subsequently wouldn’t happen. Hearn would later be proven right.
As far as who Khan will fight, it is likely to be Luis Collazo, the recent conqueror of Victor Ortiz, former foe of Ricky Hatton and holder of a WBA International strap at welterweight. Sources close to Khan have indicated he turned down the opportunity of fighting Robert Guerrero, preferring Collazo out of both southpaws. Guerrero’s pursuit of a divorce from Golden Boy Promotions may be an equally disqualifying factor also. The Adrien Broner clash seems unlikely, a precarious fight for Golden Boy given the stage both are at in their careers. Broner seems likelier to fight John Molina or namesake Carlos Molina (the lightweight, former Khan opponent) – more likely than challenging IBF 140lb champion Lamont Peterson. A rematch with Danny Garcia may make sense post-Herrera but logistically it comes too soon for an ever-closer April/May return.
Kell Brook looms large on Khan’s perspective of the welterweight division also, given he is a mandatory to the winner of Shawn Porter’s intriguing defence against Paulie Malignaggi in April. But it is as a fellow British fighter and a “noisy neighbour” that Brook presents himself as a lucrative option to Khan. It’s a fight that plenty of fans, hardcore and casual, would get excited about. However Khan’s decision to not challenge Devon Alexander last year was perhaps partly a calculation that he would have been mandated to defend the belt against Kell Brook by this summer – as the winner of Porter-Malignaggi now has to. You get the impression Sheffield’s “Special One” is too keen to match-up with Khan at this stage when he has the entire division at his feet and that King Khan is far too aloof and dismissive of such a fight that would tick alot of boxes for him. Mayweather should be fighting again in September, a month that Khan hasn’t fought since his first loss to Breidis Prescott in 2008. Khan’s devout observation of Ramadan would surely now rule out a fight with Mayweather until May 2015 at the earliest.
Team Khan’s announcement will be welcomed this week as there were suggestions that Amir has sidestepped into some sort of semi-retirement or quasi-champion emeritus status that an exceptional fighter reaches near the end of their career, where they can pick and choose meticulously who they fight. The idea that Khan is now of that position where he can cerebrally choose only those fights that enhance his legacy or bank balance is one that is open to question, even ridicule. There is also the cynical suspicion that Khan’s promoters are withholding him from any meaningful challenge until they can bundle him into a lucrative fight to “cash out” on a declining career they’ve invested time and money into – maybe recouping some of the losses they’ve made with Victor Ortiz in recent years while they’re at it.
What is striking about the vast majority of names above (including Khan) is that they’re clients of the Gus Fring of the sport, Al Haymon, who is no doubt moving the pieces of the chess board to accommodate each of them – commensurate with their experience and status in boxing. It speaks volumes that firstly his name is mentioned often and almost always positively by fighters and secondly that he is rarely seen or heard from directly. Maybe even Haymon’s influence won’t extend to restoring the golden opportunity that Khan and his team had in their grasp for several months. Before Maidana’s shock win over Broner and before Khan’s premature briefing of the media he was the nailed-on frontrunner to win the sweepstakes. Next time he may well be more careful in his business dealings with the man who tells us that he is his own boss and answers to no-one.