Amir Khan has withstood every test thrown at him over the past two or so years. He has handled both successes and failures with a humble, admirable grace that has made him a fan favorite and rising star in the boxing world. And most recently, after absolutely dominating Zab Judah with a vicious fifth round knockout in this past Saturday’s bout, Khan got his biggest compliment to date – comparisons to the current undisputed -- until Floyd Mayweather Jr. steps up at, least -- boss of bosses, Manny Pacquiao.
Khan (25-1, 18 KOs) has slowly but surely become a worthy challenger for the title of “boxing’s biggest star” by letting his fists, not his mouth write his resume for him. His latest victory over Judah was just the latest example of why even the most earnest haters of Pacquiao or Mayweather -- the sport’s version of Israel and Palestine -- can find few faults with how he goes about handling his business.
For five rounds, Khan outworked, outfought and outthought the veteran Judah. With the way the bout was going, all Khan really need was a few additional solid rounds, followed by a switch-up to a more defensive style popularized by Mayweather – something that the English fighter has already proven he has in his arsenal. Instead, however, Khan opted for a clean win the old fashion way. Stalking his opponent like a predator circling his prey, Khan timed his punch perfectly and landed a brutal hit to Judah’s body, securing his latest victory in style.
After the match, Judah would maintain that Khan’s admittedly close-to-illegal shot was a low blow. However, careful replay analysis of the proceedings indicates that Khan’s punch landed exactly where it was supposed to – on Judah’s waistband.
With Judah officially in his rearview, Khan has now won eight consecutive fights since his 2008 defeat to Breidis Pescott, and he only appears to be getting stronger.
Which brings about the inevitable question that will be lobbed at any up-and-coming fighter climbing to the top of the boxing hierarchy: Is he the next Pacquiao?
The short answer is – no.
While Khan’s in-ring record is impressive and is continuously improving, he doesn’t have any of the wins on his resume that Pacquiao has accumulated over the past five years. While the Filipino superstar’s timing could be questioned, with many citing his tendency to fight the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Shane Mosley, Ricky Hatton and the sort after they had lost some of their edge, the name value remains the same. Pacquiao has fought and beat legends, Khan has not.
That’s not to say that the English fighter isn’t on his way, though. By aligning himself with the likes of Freddie Roach and Alex Ariza, Khan is following the Pacquiao blueprint and associating himself with some of the best minds in the sport.
Furthermore, by virtue of Khan’s insistence on fighting the biggest and brightest names that boxing has to offer, he is quickly becoming a fan favorite and a star to watch. If he can fight or beat the likes of Timothy Bradley or Mayweather at some point in the foreseeable future, there is no reason why the 24-year-old can’t reach that Pacquiao plateau at some point.
The other side of the equation is out-of-ring pull, and quite obviously, Khan isn’t anywhere close to the god-like figure that Pacquiao has become to a legion of devoted, cult-like followers. In fact, Khan must deal with something foreign to Pacquiao. Because of his Islamic religion, Khan may never be fully embraced by the average pub-dwelling English boxing. Despite his Manchester roots, Khan has admitted there are fans in England who would love to see him fail.
Meanwhile, over in the Philippines, Pacquiao is a national hero to his own people, and admired figure all over the world. He dabbles in politics, entertainment, sports and every other field that he can somehow squeeze himself into. He has an established, solidified identity – Khan does not.
Of course, being eight years Pacquiao’s junior leaves him plenty of time to achieve those feats. And for now, at least, Khan is doing it the right way – in the ring, with his fists not his lips.
Pacquiao is still King, but Khan has now become a very legitimate heir to the throne.