Saturday night’s performance versus Colombian Samuel Vargas in front of a deafening home crowd served as a microcosm for Amir Khan’s career. Blistering hand speed that simultaneously wows pundits and takes out opponents countered by a defensive vulnerability that he just cannot seem to shake. Whatever Khan’s weaknesses are though, three knockdowns in as many rounds followed by a more measured performance in the second half of the contest meant that fight fans in Birmingham and beyond were once again given superb value for money.
Buoyed by a hero’s welcome at the Arena Birmingham, ‘King’ Khan started typically fast showcasing spurts of the hand speed that wiped out Phil Le Greco in forty seconds earlier this year. Having dominated the first round with a mix of good movement and eye-catching combinations, Khan managed to take advantage of his superiority at the start of the second. A burst of punches left Vargas needing the ropes to keep him up before a further stinging barrage of blows sent him to the canvas. The brave veteran got back to his feet but Khan maintained the pressure in the next couple of minutes and looked hungry for another quick victory.
Then with the bell imminent, a booming right hand from Vargas dramatically floored Khan and minds instantly shot back to dark moments versus Breidis Prescott and Canelo Alvarez. Fortunately enough, Khan didn’t look too rattled and the instantaneous arrival of the bell gave him sixty seconds to take stock and recover. Nevertheless, as he rose from his stool for the third round surely many would have wondered which way the Amir Khan roller-coaster was going to turn next.
To the relief of the onlooking masses, he seemed unaffected by the knockdown and soon it was Vargas who met the canvas once more before more Bolton born bunches of raw velocity in rounds four and five wowed pundits and fans alike. By the sixth the frantic nature of the contest had died down somewhat and Khan, under the tutelage of new trainer Joe Goossen began to dictate proceedings from more of a distance. With a big upcoming fight to protect no doubt in the back of his mind, Khan went against his fiery nature somewhat and professionally saw out a unanimous points victory.
Though, in true form for a Khan fight it wasn’t all plain sailing towards the end as the extremely brave and ferocious Vargas took the fight to Khan until the last bell. Indeed, a lapse of concentration at the very end of tenth lead to Vargas rocking his opponent with a vicious right hand. Fate seemed to be on Khan’s side though as he was again saved by the bell and ten minutes later was celebrating a second victory after returning to the ring from a two-year absence.
After the fight Khan hinted that he held back in the later stages to gain some valuable ring time, which despite denying the crowd a dramatic knockout, was clearly the smart move. As with Vargas in the rear-view he will now focus on what will likely be one of the biggest and most lucrative fights of his long career. Many hope that Khan’s opponent for that fight will be fellow Brit Kell Brook, who was no doubt doing his homework at ringside. Some pundits have touted that for both men, an all British showdown against each other is their last chance for a huge stadium fight and the subsequent pay day that follows. However, despite Brook saying that he is willing to move down to the 147-pound welterweight limit for the fight, Khan seems to have Manny Pacquiao squarely in his cross-hairs.
As always though money will talk and the fact that both Khan and Brook are currently under contract with Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing stable may help grant the wishes of those who have been waiting for another British super fight. Whoever Khan fights next, he will have to strike the balance between utilising his devastating attack while also ensuring that he doesn’t let his opponent test his questionable chin. However, you get the feeling that if put in front of a stadium sized crowd for one last rodeo in the big leagues, tactics may go out of the window and it’ll simply be a case of last man standing. Which in many ways would be a fitting end to the Amir Khan story, regardless of whether he is the one with his hand held aloft or not.