COMMENTARY | When a fighter looks like a star, acts like a star, and has the profile of a star, chances are pretty good that stardom is in the cards. Add to the mix a major promoter with all the right connections, and the fighter in question will likely get every benefit of every doubt when it comes to proving his greatness.
Such is the case with Amir Khan, the UK's 2004 Olympic silver medalist and former two-belt world junior welterweight champion.
When it came to star potential, Khan was a slam-dunk prospect. Athletically gifted, charismatic, and possessing the gift of gab, Khan's star kept rising as he breezed past his first opponent as a pro and captured regional titles against marginal UK pugs.
By the age of twenty-two, Khan was already ranked by the WBO and had just captured one of their minor inter-continental titles in the lightweight division. It would just be a matter of time before the young Pakistani-Brit would take his rightful place among the sport's biggest stars. Everything in Khan's fighting life had pointed to the fact that stardom would be his destiny and, now, it was all coming to pass.
Except, in boxing, there's no such thing as destiny. And while Khan was truly gifted, the talent couldn't hide gaping flaws in technique and temperament.
It took heavy-handed Colombian battler, Breidis Prescott, just fifty-four seconds to bring Khan's rocket to the stars to a crash landing.
The embarrassing knockout loss exposed some of the technical flaws Khan had developed as a big fish in the small pond of British lightweight and junior welterweight talent.
But, to Team Khan's credit, they made all the right moves after suffering through such a setback. Khan would begin to work with famed trainer, Freddie Roach, at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles, where plenty of quality sparring could be found. Just as important, though, there would be an entire planet standing between him and the hometown/home country distractions that would all too often pull him from the gym.
Shortly after hooking up with Roach, Khan would capture his first world title, scoring a one-sided unanimous decision over WBA junior welterweight titlist, Andriy Kotelnyk. One fight after that, Golden Boy signed the twenty-four year old to an exclusive promotional deal. Khan was now officially back on the road to stardom.
Dominant wins over Paulie Malignaggi and IBF titlist Zab Judah as well as an entertaining victorious clash against Marcos Maidana had turned the promising young talent into a real, elite-level junior welterweight-- now with two belts around his waist.
But, still, even as Khan found himself listed at the top of the 140 lb. rankings, doubts remained. Was Khan a changed, fully-developed pro or was he simply a better-managed, better-matched fighter?
In December of last year, Khan lost a close, disputed split decision to Lamont Peterson, dropping both of his titles and once again raising doubts as to whether the camera-friendly fighter was more sizzle than steak.
The impact of the Peterson loss would be mitigated by a revelation that Peterson had been using a synthetic testosterone during the time of the fight-- a fact that came out when Peterson tested positive for the banned substance prior to a scheduled rematch with Khan earlier this year.
The doping scandal prompted the WBA to return their title to Khan, who would then go on to face WBC champ, Danny Garcia as a replacement for Peterson.
Four rounds and three knockdowns later, Khan would once again find himself knocked off his pedestal, the victim of an ugly stoppage on boxing's main stage. As a result, trainer Freddie Roach was relieved of his duties and Virgil Hunter, of Andre Ward fame, would be pegged as the replacement.
This Saturday, at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, Amir Khan once again looks to jump back on the road to stardom. His opponent, the light-hitting lightweight import, Carlos Molina, isn't likely to get in the way.
But what happens after Molina?
Even with the pull of Golden Boy behind him and a wealth of raw talent at his disposal, there are just so many second chances Khan can be given. As his weaknesses become his opponents' textbook for beating him and fans begin to tire of the up and down routine, each subsequent fight assumes a greater level of importance. What once came easy to the young athlete, will, from here on out, become a series of must-win scenarios.
Will the pressure serve to crack the 26-year-old fighter, making him implode under the weight of his own promise...or will it give him the maturity and drive to finally reach his full potential?
The first step forward comes this Saturday.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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