Roller coaster Khan keeps moving along
If there’s one thing you can say about the career of Amir Khan is, if nothing else, it’s been eventful both in and out of the ring. Win, lose or draw, his fights are always filled with some sort of drama. And in many ways, it has mirrored his life outside the ring (where his foibles have become tabloid fodder in the U.K.).
It’s never dull for Khan, who faces Samuel Vargas today at the Arena Birmingham.
“It’s been crazy, honestly,” Khan admitted a couple of weeks ago before his day’s work at the Ten Goose Boxing Gym, in Van Nuys, California. “It’s been up, down, won fights, lost fights, crazy life I was living outside of boxing. I had a lot of drama going on. I think at one time, being out the ring for such a long time, about two years, I kinda lost everything, in a way.
“I was lost in life because boxing, in a way, I realized now that boxing is what I needed to keep me on the right path. Other than boxing, you see why boxers go off the rails. They go into drugs and drinking alcohol and everything. And see I almost went on that road but guess what? Boxing came back onto the right road, praying and everything else and having a good family around me. But when you’re a fighter and you are in a position like myself being a superstar and then it can just disappear in one second.”
Now the fact that he referred to himself as a “superstar” will grate on many of you but give him this: The 2004 Olympic silver medalist has been a public figure in England now for over a decade and has been a notable name in boxing, from the time he turned professional in 2005.
Khan continued, “It must be the hardest thing for any fighter, even fighting, fighting, fighting, then knowing that you can’t fight because of a hand injury. Even that was a big downfall for me because I didn’t know if I was going to fight again after my operation, ‘Am I going to be OK to fight?’ My hand was hurting me; I had to have three operations on it. So I was like, ‘Maybe I’m done. It’s a sign from God that he doesn’t want me to fight anymore.’ So I was lost; I was kinda getting…not a little depressed but I was getting there because boxing has been my life since I was younger.
“Then obviously, it was the (Saul) ‘Canelo’ (Alvarez) fight; I had lost again,” said Khan, referencing his KO loss to the Mexican star in May of 2016. “So I was thinking, ‘Oh, I don’t want to end my career with a loss like that.’ So I was in bits mentally but luckily I kinda put myself together again. Family was great support; my wife was amazing support. She was always there by my side and I got back in the ring again and I had to have a good performance to show the world that this is where I belong.”
Back on April 21, Khan made an emphatic return by drilling Phil Lo Greco in one round.
“It couldn’t have gone any better. It went the best way it had to go because beating Lo Greco the way I did was something no one had really suspected,” said Khan, who, for that fight, began his union with noted trainer Joe Goossen, as Virgil Hunter fell ill.
Goossen says of Khan, “He’s undoubtedly the fastest guy I’ve worked with in my life – and I’ve had a lot of fast guys. He’s undoubtedly the fastest guy I’ve ever trained. I’ve never seen such speed up close and personal, especially in the gym on a daily basis. That being said, there’s a lot of things that impress me. He’s a gifted athlete; you don’t become a sliver medalist at 17 or world champion at 22 unless you got something on the ball.”
However at times, like a shaky driver with a sports car, Khan has had problems controlling that speed and he hasn’t had the type of chin to allow him to overcome tactical and technical errors. “He’ll be the first one to tell you this: A) That you want to be more selective with your punches, you can be fast when you throw them but they have to be deliberate, accurate and purposeful,” stated Goossen.
So in other words, less is more for Khan, as it relates to his offensive output and there is a real emphasis in their daily work on such things like putting his hands in proper defensive position after punching and understanding where he is in the ring.
“Sometimes when an athlete is that athletic and so good, you tend to just go, ‘Hey, let him do what he’s doing.’ But you do know, at a certain point in time, that a fighter’s going to reach the top echelon in the game and it’s just like in baseball. A pitcher can throw a beautiful slider off the plate low and away and those pros can just go out and reach out and put it out of the park,” said Goossen, whose late brother Greg was a Major League catcher.
“It’s a great pitch that they still hit out of the park because they don’t need much of an opening. It’s the same thing in boxing; you don’t need much of an opening for the guys who can thread the needle. At the highest level, you give them an inch opening and they’ll take it.”
So what has the Goossen experience been like for Khan?
“The experience has been amazing and it’s still going well, still going great, the way it should be going and we’re working on new things and it’s always nice to be with a well-known, respected trainer,” said Khan, who has been through a bunch throughout his career. “I’ve worked with many trainers from the Freddie Roaches, Jorge Rubio, from Miami, and a lot of U.K. trainers and Virgil Hunter, for example; he was my last trainer. But with Joe, I like that Joe just likes to push me and push me at my limit and we work on a lot of strategies, a lot of techniques and I see that defensively I’m a better fighter and offensively I can see myself hitting a lot harder and sitting on my shots and I’ve known Joe a long time.”
Khan also notes that Goossen being a family man and a stable individual is something that attracted him to the veteran cornerman, whom, in the past, led the Ruelas brothers, Michael Nunn, Diego Corrales and Joel Casamayor to world titles. With an emphatic victory over the hand-picked Vargas, he will go big-game hunting at 147.
Yeah, it’s a new chapter for Khan, who is still just 31 years old. One thing Khan has never lacked is self-belief and he believes the best is still yet to come from him.
“I’m much more focused; I’m more settled in my life. It’s much more chilled,” he explained. “My outside life, I realized I’m not a celebrity. I’m not someone who wants to be famous. I’ve done it all. It’s now all about leaving a legacy, winning another world title – that’s what my life is now.
“Training hard, fighting the best out there, working hard and not letting anything get past me, not making mistakes. I don’t want to live that fame life. I can go anywhere in the world and people will recognize who I am but they recognize me. Why? Because my boxing. Now I respect that. If I become the best at the sport and the best at what I do, then that’ll be something everyone will remember me for. So that’s what I’m doing now.”
Here’s this week’s episode of “The 3 Knockdown Rule,” with Mario Lopez and me, in which we give a blunt assessment of Ryan Garcia’s most recent outing and we preview the cards on HBO and Showtime:
DAZN will stream Khan-Vargas on its social media platforms this afternoon…Also the untelevised portion of the “SuperFly 3” undercard from the Forum will be streamed by 360 Promotions on its site, with Doug Fischer and me on the call, starting at around 4 p.m. (PT)…It’s a busy day of boxing, as both Showtime and HBO have cards tonight. (Check your local listings.)…I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.