The MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada will host a card topped with a bout that should have taken place a year ago. Amir Khan (29-3, 19 KOs) vs. Devon Alexander (26-2, 14 KOs) is a fight that may only have the WBC silver welterweight title at stake, but the result will have huge consequences as to where each man goes from here.
The first attempt to get these two together was initially scuppered because of Khan’s belief that he was in line for a shot at Floyd Mayweather, a dream still stuck in the pipe. That was in December 2013 when Devon held the IBF welterweight title. Khan’s decision to forgo the match set in motion a series of events that ultimately ended with Kell Brook, Khan’s bitter domestic rival, in possession of the strap he could have taken for himself this time last year (Shawn Porter stepped in to replace Khan and won, before being beaten two fights later by Brook).
The Mayweather debacle essentially meant Khan remained inactive in a competitive sense for thirteen months. That being said, his most recent win over Luis Collazo in May was his third on the spin and his most dominant yet since teaming up with trainer Virgil Hunter following that catastrophic defeat to Danny Garcia, his last fight at light-welterweight.
Khan has had three impactful losses in his career; the wipeout to Breidis Prescott at lightweight in his nineteenth outing, the controversial points loss to Lamont Peterson in 2011, and the aforementioned fourth-round KO at the hands of Garcia. Regardless he gets back on the horse after every one, and he feels his self-belief separates him from other fighters.
“You know one thing about me, I’ve had setbacks in my career and I’ve come back stronger, and I think all fighters should be the same. I mean, you’re always going to have setbacks, that’s only gonna make you a stronger person and I think I’ve proven myself and to other people that; ‘look, when Amir has had a setback he’s always come back stronger from it.’”
Debatable. There is no denying the developmental strides Khan made after the Prescott loss under the tutelage of Freddie Roach. That period of his career between his win over an aged Marco Antonio Barrera in 2009 and the loss to Peterson two years later was the most impressive of his career. However, that defeat, followed immediately by the beating he took from Garcia seemed to have blunted his blades just a bit. Retiring the blown up lightweight John Molina inside ten before being dropped by Julio Diaz en route to a points decision does not qualify as ‘coming back stronger’. He did follow these unimpressive displays with the Collazo win though, so perhaps his conviction is justified.
“It’s never got to me, and It’s never put me down. I mean, I know fighters who have had setbacks and then retired, and I know fighters who have never been the same again. But with me I’ve been knocked out in fights and I’ve lost fights that I should have won but I’ve never let it get to me, I’ve just come back stronger.”
Khan prefers to cast aside all notions of chest-beating when attributing the cause of his stolid determination. He says it’s because of Al Haymon that…just kidding. Khan, like many Brits who come from Asian decent is a devout Muslim, and feels the strength he derives from his religion is what gives him the drive to soldier on in the toughest of sports.
“It’s my religion, it’s my faith you know. I’m a Muslim and I pray and stuff and God gives me the strength. I have so many people praying for me, my mum and everyone, things like that help and take you to the end.”
Now he is up against a man in Alexander who has gone through some of the same tribulations. Losses to Tim Bradley down at 140 pounds and getting dethroned by Porter last year means the man from St. Louis, Missouri is looking to occupy the same space as Khan in the upper echelon of their new division. He bounced back with a good win against Jesus Soto Karass in June and seems in a confident place going in to this one despite lacking in the power department, which is what gives Khan the most trouble. This is not an easy fight for Khan by any stretch of the imagination, and he is adamant he will not make the mistake of looking past Alexander to get a glimpse of Mayweather again.
“People can say what they want, I’m not looking past this fight because I know this is a very hard fight and I don’t want to make any mistakes in this fight because then that fight [against Mayweather] will never be there. I’ve always been close to the Floyd fight but for some reason I looked past it and I get beat. But not I’m not looking past this fight. This fight is, for me, the biggest fight.”
I think the lady doth protest too much. Despite his insistence on the contrary it is hard to ignore the involuntary flicker of the eyes towards the Mayweather fight he so craves. He is ‘Money’ orientated, which is understandable given the riches and prestige that would accompany a fight, and an almost unthinkable win over one of the greatest in the modern era. But he must not look past what stands in his way now, as a loss against Devon could derail him for good.