Amir Khan is a victory or two away from reclaiming his place as one of boxing’s top pound for pound stars. Because of how long the Bolton-born brawler has been facing top-flight competition, it is easy to forget that he is only 26 years old.
Two years ago, with everything going his way, Khan was derailed from becoming one of the sport’s true pound-for-pound kings when he fell to Lamont Peterson in a controversial split decision. It later came out that Peterson tested positive for performance-enhancing substances following the match, but the damage was done. The luster was gone. Before that Peterson defeat, Khan was being mentioned as a potential foe for Floyd Mayweather Jr. That talk quickly fizzled out at the end of 2011.
As bad as the Peterson loss was in terms of momentum stoppage, what really set Khan back was his 2012 loss to Danny Garcia. Unlike in the case of his prior defeat, the youngster had no excuses to fall back on this time around. He simply got outclassed en route to a fourth round knockout – end of story.
Realizing that he was at a turning point in his career, Khan made some changes. He got rid of Freddie Roach, correctly noting that he would never get the attention he deserved from Manny Pacquiao’s trainer. In his place Khan brought in Virgil Hunter, Andre Ward’s longtime trainer. The decision paid dividends immediately. This past December, Khan took down Carlos Molina with relative ease en route to a 10th round TKO victory. Molina entered the bout undefeated.
Next up for Khan: a showdown against Julio Diaz that he will likely win handily. This match shouldn’t be regarding as anything other than what it is: a tune-up. While Diaz does possess some underrated power, he poses virtually no threat to someone who has recommitted himself to maintaining a smart defense. The days of Khan wily nily running at his foes ended when he cut ties with Roach – he is far more cerebral in his approach now.
Khan will make quick work of Diaz, and then he will move onto what really wants to do. Garcia will take on and beat Zab Judah this April. That perfectly sets up an end-of-year rematch between him and Khan. Presuming that with his newfound focus the latter fighter will be able to avenge his prior defeat, he will then put himself in position to take on the world’s very best again.
Floyd Mayweather Jr. recently signed a lengthy, big money deal with Showtime. So far, the only realistic foes he has lined up are: Robert Guerrero, the winner of Canelo Alvarez/Austin Trout and Devon Alexander. That’s it. Beyond that, he is wide open. If Khan can get past Garcia, it’s a virtual lock that he will get a shot at Mayweather before it’s all said and done. And if Mayweather opts to avoid Khan for a year and change, the 26-year-old can always target a match with Manny Pacquiao. You will recall, the only reason the pair refused to fight in the past is because a.) Roach pledged his allegiance to the Filipino star and b.) they were 'friends'. Neither of those things figures to be a problem anymore.
It all starts with a win over Diaz, obviously. But so long as Khan doesn’t stumble, his path back to the top of boxing’s pound-for-pound charts is pretty clear.