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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Can Pascal Make Hopkins Feel His Age?

By Martin Mulcahey

Bombastic World War II General Douglas MacArthur said of age, “You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt, as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear, as young as your hope, as old as your despair.” He could just as well been commenting on Bernard Hopkins. Apart from fellow future Hall-of-Famer Joe Calzaghe, no boxer has been able make the negatives of MacArthur’s quote pertain to Hopkins. Since reaching the milestone of 40, Hopkins has beaten the young (Kelly Pavlik) and old (Antonio Tarver) alike but in Jean Pascal, he faces the most athletic opponent since Roy Jones Jr. in 1993. The same Roy Jones whom Pascal idolized growing up, never imagining he could one day duplicate his hero’s victory.

This is a matchup filled with incongruity, beginning with a reversal of the usual scenario featuring an aging champion fighting off the attack of a brash young challenger. Tonight, we have an elderly veteran who managed to finagle a fight against the linear champion in his prime. Forget about getting older, Hopkins is old. However, Hopkins dedication to the sport and certitude of victory has allowed this old warhorse to remain a relevant threat to anyone in the light heavyweight division and, once again, forcing fans and boxing insiders alike to ask themselves: who wins? The young man possessed of athleticism or an old man with a larger bag of tricks? The pressure sits squarely on Pascal, with the only prize awaiting him at the end of 12 rounds the right to claim he was the man who sent Bernard Hopkins into retirement.

Of course, when discussing this fight, the subject of age must be raised because the 18-year difference in age is such a compelling statistic. The question of age has been a constant with Hopkins for more than a decade, as present as his shadow during interviews. Pascal is nearly two decades Hopkins junior (five years old when Hopkins turned pro), a statistic so egregious as to be comical. It is an aspect that threatened to overshadow the event but is also historical since Hopkins can become oldest champion ever besting George Foreman by 38 days. Hopkins showed his firm grasp on boxing history. “The difference between me and Foreman is that most people didn’t think Foreman could do it. Not only do people think I can win, they think I can win big and I plan on proving them right.”

Many observers have doubts as to the entertainment value of this matchup. I will come right out and say it; if this fight is boring, Hopkins will have had his way and won. When was the last time Hopkins was in an entertaining bout he won or, for that matter, a compelling fight? The way Hopkins took Kelly Pavlik apart was beguiling and his inability to unnerve Joe Calzaghe gave it a tension lacking in other performances. Hopkins’ putrid PPV performance against Roy Jones in his last fight left a blind spot in any fan’s eye unfortunate enough to have witnessed it. Pascal is the opposite of Hopkins, a fighter whose physical talent and willingness to battle has created memorable moments against Carl Froch, Adrian Diaconu, and even fellow Hopkins bore-boxer Chad Dawson. Therefore, the excitement factor is directly tied to Hopkins ability to employ his stagnating game plan.

Because of the distinct probability this fight has to turn into a stinker, fans should be thankful Showtime stepped in to prevent it from going the PPV route. In the process, the network has made this potentially historical fight available to a wider audience. Chris DeBlasio, Director of Sports Communications, is happy to be the bearer of the spectacle. “The goal of ‘Showtime Championship Boxing’ - as many of you have heard and know - is to televise the most competitive, significant and compelling fights that boxing has to offer in every weight class. This light heavyweight world title fight does fit perfectly into that strategy.” DeBlasio made a compelling argument for the significance of the fight. “It's an important crossroads fight, we know, for both men. There's tremendous upside for Jean Pascal to vanquish the longtime champion in Bernard Hopkins. For Bernard Hopkins, he was first featured back on Showtime in 1994 when this network was looking to establish its brand identity in the sport.” A historical detail lost on most covering the fight.

The event has international flair, marking the third time Hopkins traveled outside of America to engage in a fight. Though it has to be said, the culture, language, and culinary gap are not what are usually expected from an “away” fight. Nor as intimidating as locales in Mexico, South America, Asia, or Europe. As for Pascal looking for any edge tried to drive his perceived advantage home. "Listen, when I go to the States, you guys speak English. I've got to speak English. There's no translation. Now, you're in my country. You're not home. This is my territory. In this town, we speak French." To that point, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer is not worried about the environs. “I personally had a discussion with Jose Sulaiman and with Mauricio Sulaiman (the father and son duo running the WBC) to ensure that we have a fair panel of judges and a fair referee. A bad decision might ruin it for Canada forever because nobody will come to Canada any more if they're going to hear that in Canada, you get bad decisions.” An overly dramatic viewpoint considering Showtime aired Lucian Bute’s controversial first victory over Librado Andrade two years ago.

Not to be outdone, Bernard Hopkins tried to win ground by taking Pascal’s championship belt from Quebec’s mayor, an invited VIP, as Pascal spoke. Hopkins then played keep-away with it, holding the belt behind his back and switching hands to make Pascal reach for it like a big brother would tease his younger sibling. Pascal quickly got in Hopkins's face, spat a couple terse words and pushed Hopkins before the pair was separated. The scuffle had the intensity of two declawed kittens squaring off but Hopkins got the better of the situation by goading Pascal into reacting to him and wasting valuable mental focus. Weeks earlier, Pascal told boxing writer Anson Wainwright of, “I am aware that Hopkins likes to engage in mind games. Inconsistent behaviors tend to throw some boxers for a loop. In that regard, Hopkins has been a teacher and an educator to many great names in the sport.” Point proven and round zero to Hopkins.

What was an amicable promotion has degenerated into callous verbal skirmishes. Yvon Michel, Pascal’s promoter, noted the unexpected turnaround. “Two months ago, Jean Pascal and Bernard Hopkins were like school friends. Now it looks like that’s finished. They’ve had warriors’ faces since they walked in here this morning. No matter what happens Saturday, this fight will have a colossal impact on the career and the life of these two guys.” Pascal went from complimenting Hopkins, “Bernard Hopkins is one of the biggest names in the sport today. His name is synonymous with excellence. I am extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to fight against such a great well-known boxer,” to a final sentiment, “Bernard Hopkins says that the smartest guy will win. He says he is the intelligent man and I am the idiot. After the fight, everyone will know who the dummy really is.” Perhaps this has piqued fans curiosities; after all, they have bought all 16,495 available tickets.

As for what those fans will witness, it is largely up to Bernard Hopkins as he will have to make the most dramatic adjustments. Hopkins does sport a height and reach advantage (three inches in both departments) that was telling in the obligatory press conference staredown. Jean Pascal is a peculiar fighter to get a handle on stylistically, leading unexpectedly with hooks or darting in and out of range employing quick bursts of punches. Hopkins is a thinking man’s boxer, who expects opponents to fight by the book he has memorized and perfected. Thus, Hopkins was caught off-guard by the athletically gifted Roy Jones and awkward southpaw Joe Calzaghe. Pascal is a B-level amalgamation of Jones and Calzaghe, which works in his favor if Hopkins reacts to Pascal’s punches as he would a regular foe. How quickly Hopkins adjusts or figures out the puzzle before him is key to how the fight unfolds.

The dueling trainers went with automotive metaphors to describe their boxers and roads to victory. Marc Ramsay, Pascal's trainer, spoke out first. "Be ready to see my athlete. He is ready like a powerful F-1 car. When the fight starts, you will see a jalopy on the other side of the ring and my F-1 will run him over." Don’t mistake Ramsay’s humor; he is to be taken seriously, given game plans he devised for Pascal to follow to victory over all but one opponent. Well-respected Naazim Richardson was put off by Ramsay’s lack of deference for his vehicle. "As you watch my athlete, please give him his due respect. Please understand this man's age, what he has accomplished and what he has been able to do for years. He is exceptional and I want him to get his just due. Trust me; if he wasn't prepared, I wouldn't be here." Michel made the most poignant observation on the fights meaning to Pascal. “He's trying to beat Bernard Hopkins but he's trying to match Sergio Martinez or Manny Pacquiao to take aim as the ‘Fighter of the Year.’”

Relatively neutral observers weighed in, as part of a Showtime survey. Glen Johnson’s opinion was especially noted, given his age and loss to a prime Bernard Hopkins. “I think just being in Canada really helps Pascal and that will be the difference. It’s going to be great fight and very close and based on the crowd’s reaction, Pascal wins. It’s hard for me to give a definite answer on who is going to win, based on what I saw when Hopkins fought Roy Jones. I guess I would have to pick Pascal.” Carl Froch, also notable as the only man to defeat Jean Pascal, was his usual honest self. “Pascal is on the way up and Hopkins, while not really on the way down, has definitely hit a ceiling, with regards to work rate. I think the wily fox has a few gray whiskers now and he may be cute in the opening rounds but Jean Pascal’s sheer will to win can be what seals the deal.”

The most unbiased opinion, from a boxer who has not shared a ring with either man and is not in their weight class, came from loquacious former champion Paulie Malignaggi. “Pascal is younger and brings a high-energy level, plus the crowd backing him will motivate him a lot. I think this will be a close fight with Bernard definitely frustrating Pascal in spurts and with Pascal having success as well while pushing Hopkins to fight at a pace faster than he would like. I honestly think it will be very close and I think Bernard will get the decision up there.” It was a person with a lot to lose, Pascal’s promoter, Michel, who surmised, best incorporating the promotion’s tagline of “Dynasty.” “It' is the beginning and it's the end. No matter what happens Saturday, this fight will have a colossal impact on the career and the life of these two guys.” If those 36 “Dynasty” minutes do the same for boxing fans, essentially, it all comes down to Bernard Hopkins.


The Bernard Hopkins Era Will Continue Against Jean Pascal

Brian McDonald

Bernard Hopkins is the best fighter of his era. Now he seeks to extend that era even further by taking a fight with the Canadian champion Jean Pascal. I’m calling for Hopkins to win by unanimous decision.

Why? Because, like the executioner, I’ve got nothing to lose by it.

His defense is the thing that has made Hopkins nearly untouchable for all these years, and a defensive fighter only gets better with age, cagier, to compensate for the inevitable losses of speed and endurance. Parenthetically, announcers never tired of pointing out that at the height of Roy Jones Jr.’s career he lacked sound boxing fundamentals; rather, he relied on his freakish athleticism. After he moved up to heavyweight to fight for a belt, it seems that he slowed down and he never did regain that edge in speed and reflexes that had put him on top. The style that made him great was not meant for longevity. Bernard Hopkins’ style, on the other hand, is the paradigmatic formula for a long and great career.

With all due respect for my colleague, I have to disagree with an article recently appearing on this website. It’s time for a defense for Hopkins. While great fighters like Roy Jones Jr. and Evander Holyfield have made us cringe in the last decade with their attempts to crawl back into the ring, the Executioner has inspired awe.

Hopkins is an undersized light-heavyweight, really a natural middleweight. He probably didn’t start at a lighter weight (as boxers brought up well by managers and coaches do) because by the time he started boxing he was a bit older (prison time) than guys like Trinidad and De La Hoya were when they started. So it seems unfair to me to dismiss his victories over those two fighters and Winky Wright for reasons of size advantage. Those three wins are monumental on any resume, especially because at those moments in boxing people were ducking Wright left and right, and Trinidad was the scariest name in the game.

As far as avoiding Jones, I think it was a lack of interest on all sides: Hopkins, Jones and the fans. The first loss to Jones was the most boring fight in the history of big name fights. Roy Jones landed 3 punches, Hopkins landed 1 (exaggerating). So what is the point in seeking a rematch? I know I never wanted to see it, and I’m sure Jones wouldn’t have taken it if Hopkins had pushed. The rematch was, in the end, a sort of coming home for both fighters. The outcome is revealing: at the end of their careers it was Hopkins, not Jones, who came out on top.

The Jermain Taylor fights were, according to my scoring, close but all should have gone to Hopkins. As Hopkins pointed out, Jermain was younger, more marketable as a champion and better looking than Hopkins (Hopkins went on to add “I know I’m no Denzel, but damn”). It reminded me of Hagler/Leanard, but instead of retiring and moving to Italy, Hopkins went on to become the best 40+ fighter ever, defeating a list of fighters who in their moments were very good. Their moments passed, usually in culminating losses to Hopkins. The executioner finished off the careers of Kelly Pavlik, Antonio Tarver and Winky Wright. Their moments collectively add up to make the last stretch of The Hopkins Era.

Hopkins is the last of an old school mold of fighter. He fights like a true Philly fighter. He may no longer be in the argument of best pound for pound on earth, but he’s still in the ring, still boxing for the love of the sport, yes, for the money as well, but more just to prowl, to be the old veteran: tough, wily and there to prove that he’s afraid of no youngsters. On the contrary, they should be afraid of him.


Age no barrier for Hopkins

Boxing legend Bernard Hopkins turns 46 on January 15 but the former undisputed middleweight champion insists retirement is not on his agenda.

A decade after his career-defining knockout of Felix Trinidad, and long after most of his contemporaries have hung up the gloves, Hopkins is still defying Father Time.

On Sunday night, he takes on 28-year-old Canadian Jean Pascal at Quebec's Pepsi Coliseum for the WBC light-heavyweight championship of the world - and Hopkins will make history just by making it to the ring.

At 45 years and 337 days old, Hopkins is the oldest world title challenger in boxing history - 38 days older than George Foreman was when he regained the heavyweight title from Michael Moorer in 1994.

The Philadelphia-born fighter said opportunities to create history were the reason he was still pulling on the gloves.

"I get a chance to be the oldest fighter in history to win a title. I get to continue to make history," Hopkins told ESPN.

"How many times can an athlete do that?"

"The difference between me and Foreman is that most people didn't think Foreman could do it. He was the underdog of all underdogs when he faced Moorer. "

"Not only do people think I can win, they think I can win big, and I plan on proving them right."

"Pascal hasn't faced someone like me. He hasn't faced a legend. He is hosting me in his country, on his turf, defending his title. He has a lot to be nervous about on top of the fact that when he looks in the opposite corner on fight night, he is going to see greatness."

"Saturday night you will see something unique. A 45-year-old man in a young man's body is an amazing thing. I am here to prove that I can still compete and that I am something special."

Pascal, who will be making the fourth defence of his light-heavyweight title, said he would not be intimidated by his decorated opponent.

"I don't see a legend in the ring; I see a piece of meat, and I'm a hungry dog," Pascal said.

"This is my time. I belong with the elite boxers. To be the best in the world, you have to face the best. Bernard Hopkins is a legend. Bernard knows what time it is. It's about time for a new era."


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Khan vs Maidana Results Replay Download Video Stream

Watch the Full Fight Video Replay of Amir Khan vs Marcos Maidana.

Part 1 of 2

Part 2 of 2

Friday, December 10, 2010

Khan admits learning from only pro loss

By Dan Rafael

LAS VEGAS -- Looking back, maybe it really was a blessing in disguise. At least that's how junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan views his stunning first-round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott a little more than two years ago.

That shocking loss is now well behind him, and Khan has elevated his game significantly since. He believes it is in part because the defeat taught him a lesson.

But on that night in September 2008, in front of his hometown crowd in England, Khan, then a lightweight, was crushed by unheralded Prescott. Khan was done in a violent and devastating 54 seconds after being hammered to the canvas twice.

It was a shock of shocks.

Khan had been a silver medalist in the 2004 Olympics at age 17, had moved quickly up the ranks as a professional and had been named 2007 prospect of the year. A loss at that stage of his career was practically inconceivable, but suddenly that career was in tatters.

Khan, however, picked himself up, dusted himself off and has come back as strong as possible.

He hooked up with renowned trainer Freddie Roach two fights later, has won five fights in a row since the loss -- all in dominant fashion (including three by knockout) -- and won a 140-pound world title.

"I've come along a lot," said Khan, who turned 24 on Wednesday. "I think that defeat was probably what helped me to get so far in my career. Maybe I wouldn't be fighting here if I didn't lose that fight. The defeat gave me a wake-up call because my training was different and the focus wasn't there, whereas now, I'm totally isolated when I go to training camp. I'm 100 percent focused.

"I listen to instructions and listen to my trainer. I train a lot harder. That [loss] was a blessing in disguise. If that didn't happen, like I said, I don't think I'd be in this position now."

The position Khan (23-1, 17 KOs) is in now is that of a world titleholder, one of the most significant fighters in boxing and just days from a serious confrontation with Marcos Maidana (29-1, 27 KOs), the hard-punching interim titleholder from Argentina. They meet in a much-anticipated fight at Mandalay Bay in the final "World Championship Boxing" card of the year Saturday (HBO, 9:30 p.m. ET).

Opening the telecast in another meaningful junior welterweight fight are contenders Lamont Peterson (28-1, 14 KOs) and Victor Ortiz (28-2-1, 22 KOs), who meet in a scheduled 10-rounder with a possible shot at the winner of the main event at stake.

Besides physical maturity, the realization that he was better suited to fight at junior welterweight than lightweight and the change of trainers, Khan's rebound from such a surprising knockout loss can be attributed to his mental outlook.

"Mentally, you look back at your previous fights and the mistakes you made in those fights. You don't want to make those mistakes again," Khan said. "That's what drives me. That's what keeps me focused and keeps me on the edge because we know in boxing things can go wrong and one punch can change a fight. We don't want that to happen again, so we're 100 percent focused and more professional."

Part of that professionalism was going to work with Roach. Not only did Khan seek him out but he showed the maturity to leave England behind and relocate to Southern California so he could train at Roach's Wild Card gym in Hollywood, when preparing for fights.

Khan also has had no issue traveling wherever he had to go to train with Roach, whose schedule can be hectic.

That's because Roach, of course, also trains pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao. So when Pacquiao was preparing to fight Antonio Margarito in November, the two training camps overlapped.

What did Khan do? The young fighter packed his bags for Pacquiao's camp in the Philippines to join Roach.

When Pacquiao returned to Wild Card, Khan was with him. And when the crew left for Dallas for the fight, Khan spent the week there working with Roach before returning to California to finish training for Maidana.

It has been a whirlwind couple of months of travel for Khan. Most fighters simply hunker down in one spot for the duration of training. Instead, Khan found himself flying from England to Los Angeles, then to the Philippines, back to Los Angeles, on to Dallas, back to Los Angeles and then to Las Vegas.

Khan, with his youthful exuberance, said it was no big deal.

"Yes, I've done a lot of traveling, but I think it's been a good thing because I've kind of enjoyed it because you don't get bored in one place," he said. "You see the same faces, normally you get in the same ring every time and same sparring partners. This time it's been different because when I was in Dallas, we had new sparring partners down there. It was a different gym. New faces to see. Then, when I was in Baguio [in the Philippines], that was totally different. Training in high altitude, that was different and also training alongside Manny Pacquiao. It doesn't seem like I've been traveling, and I don't feel tired from it."

Said Roach, "The travel was a little bit hectic at times, and we get a little tired at times and so forth, but Amir is a traveler. He's young. He never complained once. I take my hat off to him. He did a great job.

"Everything's really gone smoothly. We're ready for the fight. We know Maidana's a good right-hand puncher. He has knockout power. We do respect that, but we're ready for what he has."

Roach can be a harsh critic, but with Khan, he has liked what he has seen since their first fight together, a dominant five-round technical decision against faded all-time great Marco Antonio Barrera in March 2009.

"He knows how to set things up now," Roach said. "He just doesn't go in there and look for a one-punch knockout. He knows how to break a person down, and he knows how to work behind his jab. He's just become a completely different fighter. We haven't lost a round since we've been together. I mean, we haven't lost one round."

Roach looks to Khan's fight with Andriy Kotelnik, from whom he won his belt in July 2009. Khan won virtually every round in the blowout decision. Maidana's only loss was a tight split decision to Kotelnik in a title fight.

"The Kotelnik fight, I feel that was a great fight for us because we beat this guy for every round," Roach said. "So I think there are some very good comparisons in the way Maidana fought him to when we fought him. We dominated him every round. I feel that we'll do that in this fight, too. I don't see us losing a round here, either."

One of the reasons for Khan's supreme confidence is because he trained alongside Pacquiao. This is the second camp they've worked together. They've gotten to know each other and sparred.

While Pacquiao was training for Margarito and Khan was getting ready for Maidana, they sparred about 20 rounds against each other. There's nothing like learning from the best.

"It was just good to spar with him, to share the same ring as him," Khan said. "For confidence, I think it's brilliant because we all know that Manny's the best fighter in the world pound for pound. I think if you can do really well against him, then I'm sure you'll do well against anybody. If you can catch Manny, then I'm sure that someone like Maidana is going to be a lot easier to catch. Manny's got great footwork and great speed. We had some great rounds."

Roach said Khan handled himself well against Pacquiao. There were some rounds in which Roach said Khan even got the better of the pound-for-pound king.

"It's explosive," he said of watching them spar. "It's like a cockfight. One day, they both step it up. The thing is, I believe in good work. It's just when you're sharp, you're sharp. He helped Manny get sharp for his fight and brought his speed back up to the level I wanted it at, and Manny helped Amir with just being a sharp, all-around fighter. It was great work for him. Getting in there against the best and doing very well with him is always a great confidence builder, also."

Khan has grown to look up to Pacquiao after spending so much time with him the past two years. He hopes his own career plays out like Pacquiao's.

"We all fight for the purses and I want to walk out of this game financially comfortable, but when people ask me a question -- 'Do you want to walk out of this game filthy rich or walk out of this game having a legacy?' -- I want the legacy and to be known as a champion like Manny Pacquiao. Manny's a great role model to look up to, and to train with him makes me more hungry. Manny is on top of the world. He makes the biggest purses in the world, but still he's very humble and he still loves boxing, and keeps on fighting and fighting. And I want to follow his footsteps."

Beating Maidana, 27, who owns a TKO win against Ortiz in his coming-out fight 18 months ago, would be good start.

There was a time when some accused Khan of trying to avoid Maidana, perhaps because he is a big puncher and Khan did not fare well against heavy-handed Prescott.

Khan said he never tried to avoid Maidana. Rather, he was being a good businessman. Instead of facing Maidana in May, as so many hoped, he instead made his American debut against former titleholder Paulie Malignaggi.

Khan looked sensational stopping Malignaggi in the 11th round. The performance made the inevitable showdown with Maidana a bigger fight.

In other words, just as Khan had planned.

"Sometimes, you have to look at the options," Khan said. "When the Malignaggi option came, I knew six months down the line, or maybe nine months down the line, the fight with Maidana would be a bigger fight, so why fight him early and beat him and you miss that bigger purse in the future?"

Khan's Nevada contract calls for $975,000, but he will make considerably more once the British pay-per-view is taken into account. Maidana will make a career-high $550,000.

"This is a fight we both wanted. A lot of people think I was avoiding him. But financially, the fight was not making sense," Khan said. "It was nowhere near what we're getting paid now. I said to Golden Boy, 'I think the fight's worth more.' I got a bigger purse fighting Malignaggi, so I took that. Boxing is a business at the end of the day, and I knew down the line the fight against Maidana was going to get bigger. And look: Six months down the line, it's a bigger fight."

And with a victory, Khan can push his star even higher and put that night against Prescott further into the rearview mirror.

"Since I was a young kid, I wanted to be the best in the world, and I've been following that path. These are the fights that are going to make me an even better fighter," he said. "I'm in a division where you have the likes of Victor Ortiz, [Devon] Alexander, [Timothy] Bradley, myself, Maidana, and it's a division everyone is focusing on. And I think, in the next 12 months, I will be on top of the division."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.


Amir Khan vs Marcos Maidana: Keys to Victory, Four to Explore, & Official Prediction!

By Vivek Wallace: Saturday night, the world of boxing will shine the spotlight on two of its most coveted prizes in the sport as jr. welterweight Amir Khan (23-1, 17KO's) takes on Argentinean KO artist, Marcos Maidana (29-1, 27KO's). The jr. welterweight division remains the deepest in the sport, and by the end of the night, the expectation is that fight fans may have a very firm understanding for who exactly leads the pack amongst this group of young stallions. In Amir Khan, you have a man whom most consider to be the most naturally gifted, presenting an infusion of speed, power, smarts, length, and pop.

A stunning one round KO back in 2008 shook those around the sport who adamantly support his perceived greatness, raising questions about his ability to compete at the highest level. The intrigue Saturday night will no doubt encompass the million dollar question which beckons whether or not his evolution under famed boxing trainer, Freddie Roach, has allowed him to develop enough to avoid this very same fate in a showdown where the stakes are much higher? In an effort to look at the chances of both men, we take a look at a few "Keys to Victory", "Four to Explore", and in the end, an "Official Prediction":


For Amir Khan, the fight plan can be best simplified with two words. Speed, and footwork. A month ago, stablemate Manny Pacquiao displayed the effectiveness of understanding the principles behind entry angles and exit angles. Khan will need to adopt a similar philosophy if he is to stay out of harms way. The greatest issue will result from the fact that unlike Pacquiao, the man Khan will have in front of him will present much better speed and skill to go along with his very durable chin. Based on this reality, Khan's most prized possession could be his fluid jab. He will need to effectively shoot the jab, yet also watch the trend of Maidana, and potentially go to a counter-punching mode if the rugged Argentinean finds a way to nullify it.

Critics of Khan have often raised the fact that his hand speed is quite a contrast from his foot speed, which could be a dangerous element to contend with. Khan's footwork looked much better in his last outing against the slick and unorthodox Paulie Malignaggi, but Malignaggi didn't have the pop to hurt him. Maidana does! Khan will need to mix up his assault, blending a smooth and firm jab with periodical aggression to keep his opponent thinking. If Khan can execute this type of game-plan and keep Maidana from squaring up and landing powershots, the "easy victory" most critics don't see him earning could be there for the taking.


For Marcos Maidana, the first few rounds will be most critical. Khan's mental fortitude has greatly improved since his knockout lost two years ago, but anyone who doubts that he shares the same questions about his chin that most of us do could not be more false. Anytime a fighter, particularly a young fighter, has his world rocked on the grand stage, the question will resurface when faced with this type of power. Khan has avoided that same fate by improving his overall boxing skills and he has to be commended for taking such a "grab-the-bull-by-the-horns" approach. That being said, Maidana will have to remind him very quickly how uncomfortable it can be when you have a fighter with this type of speed, power, and aggression in a deadly pursuit for a 12 round fight.

Maidana will need to not only bring pressure from the first bell, but he will also need to mix his assault by not only head-hunting but going for what I think will be the ultimate key of the night.....which is the body of Amir Khan. Everyone talks about the questions surrounding his chin, but we have yet to see the linky champion take powershots to the body from a true banger! Maidana's best luck will be to target the rib section, weakening the legs and reminding Khan that there's more than one way to skin a cat! If Maidana can bring the pressure intelligently and continue to press forward, the validity questions of Khan's chin will finally be answered, because it will be squarely tested. Most of all, Maidana will have to stay patient and remember that it's a marathon, not a sprint, and KO isn't the only way to seize the victory.


In-and-Out: Amir Khan could have an easy night if he's able to use the speed of his jab and keep Maidana at bey. What makes Maidana so dangerous is that he has a very good ability - (enabled by a durable chin) - to walk through shots and get inside to land powershots his opponent typically can't handle. This makes things for Khan rather simple in theory. If Maidana gets IN, the odds increase of him (Khan) being knoked OUT! If he can keep Maidana OUT, he remains IN (contention for bigger and better things) going forward.

Khan-Fident or Con-Fident: Coming into this fight, everyone has wondered what Khan will do when he finally gets cracked on the chin again. Bredis Prescott made it look easy and his power is quite different from that of Marcos Maidana. The key strategy for Khan from that point moving forward has been to prevent a fighter from being able to get in close enough to land that hard. Well.....tonight, that plan may not be enough. What we know is that Maidana will in fact land something nasty at some point. What we don't know is how Khan will handle it. Confidence appears to be on his side, but many young fighters have conned the fight public with this perception in the past. Tonight, we shall finally learn if Amir Khan (take it), or if Amir simply "conned" us into thinking he can!

Improved Skills vs Untested Will: Anyone who has questioned how good this fight will be can reflect on many battles of the past where one mans dynamic skillset has opposed the others undying passion to earn the "W" in the end. Tonight will be no different, but what will be is the fact that neither man is as polished in their perceived area of expertise as may suggest. While skillful, Khan is far from a finished product. And while the will of Maidana seems very strong, most would be hard-pressed to name a fighter who really tested it outside of the one man (Kotelnik) who found a way to defeat him despite it. In the end, one of these rising stars will have to step beyond the shadow of what they've shown us in the past. Which man is truly ready to take this step? By the end of the night we shall find out.

Round-for-Round: Most fight fans today attempt to equate the rising stars of the jr. welterweight division with eventual Pound-for-Pound greatness; but a deeper analysis helps explain why none of them have yet to reach that mantle. The formula is simple. To become pound-for-pound, you have to have rounds, and this fight is a great indicator on how deprived many in this division are in that department. Marcos Maidana (30 fights, 102 rounds), Amir Khan (24 fights, 106 rounds), Victor Ortiz (30 fights, 123 rounds), Devon Alexander (21 fights, 118 rounds), and Timothy Bradley (27 fights, 176).

The telling stat here is that despite the fact that we all seem to love power, the man with the least in this equation (Bradley) seems to be the one who has gained the most experience, and his resume (which includes a huge win across the pond) solidifies his status amongst them. In this particular fight, things are about even from this standpoint. With all things remaining presumably equal, which man will find the intangible needed to separate himself from the other? Stay tuned.


In the end, I think the evolution of both men has been quite appealing, but a few major things stand out. Maidana has had great troubles against the two men who presented decent to very good boxing skills (Ortiz and Kotelnik). With Ortiz, his heart simply didn't allow him to execute long enough to achieve a victory with those skills, but Kotelnik had the grit and determination to stand in the pocket and get the job done. While I don't know that Khan has achieved this same level of determination yet, what I do know is that the X-factor can be found in the fact that the man who will steer his effort in the corner (Freddie Roach) puts together the type of gameplan that typically never fails unless the opponent in the ring is intelligent enough to out-think his fighter while in the ring.

Strategy, when executed properly, can be very hard to beat, and in his last big fight (Pacquiao/Margarito), Roach proved that he can forumlate a strategy for this type of fighter. Officially, I like Khan to keep it at a distance, (despite his statement of "making it a fight"), and win on points. That being said, I also expect the hard-charging Marcos Maidana to storm early, and if his will isn't broken (which it normally isn't), I think the upset barometer will play a major role.

OFFICIAL PREDICTION: KHAN via UNANIMOUS DECISION (Upset Barometer will peak at 5 of 5, as Maidana can land flush and stop it at any time).

UNDERCARD PREDICTION: ORTIZ via MAJORITY DECISION (Upset Barometer will peak at 2 of 5, as Peterson could outbox him, but the power of Ortiz will change his execution).

(Check out weekly "Saturday Roundtable" discussions, and daily buzz topics with Vivek Wallace on FaceBook. Vivek Wallace can also be reached at, 954*292*7346, Youtube (VIVEK1251), Twitter (VIVEKWALLACE747), and Skype (VITO-BOXING)


Khan ready for career-defining bout with Maidana

By Greg Beacham, AP Sports Writer

LOS ANGELES — Amir Khan has reached the precipice of serious boxing stardom. Although he just turned 24 on Wednesday, Khan realizes his next few fights are likely to determine whether he joins Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather Jr. among the elite, or turns out to be an overhyped mediocrity.

Khan is eager to find out for himself, because he's got his eye on much more than a few gaudy title belts. He dreams of global domination — Nike commercials, ridiculous wealth and one-name recognition beyond his native England and his ancestral Pakistan, where he's already the biggest thing going.

If Khan (23-1, 17 KOs) can't defend his WBA 140-pound title in his Las Vegas debut against Argentina's Marcos Maidana on Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, those dreams will recede into the distance. Khan isn't eager to chase them down again.

"If I want to be the champion I say I am, I have to win fights like this," Khan said. "I have to leave a statement in the States. I want to get people talking about me, to start looking forward to my fights over here. Fighting in Las Vegas, and beating somebody as good as Maidana, is the only way to do that."

Although each fighter accused the other of ducking him in the months leading up to the bout, Khan isn't shying away from the pressure. He's been carrying an awful lot of it on his slim shoulders ever since he won a silver medal at the Athens Olympics, where the boy from Bolton became a darling of the British press and embarked on his well-covered path up the boxing ladder.

Khan has a winning personality, dazzling athletic skill, strong promotional backing and a multicultural appeal that all seem perfectly packaged for the success he seeks. What he doesn't have are victories over his sport's elite — but there are plenty of opportunities in the stacked junior welterweight division starting with Maidana (29-1, 27 KOs), who also aspires to take control of the weight class with his raw punching power.

"It's like a freight truck hitting a Ferrari," Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer said.

Khan traveled from Hollywood to the Philippines this fall during four months of training with Pacquiao guru Freddie Roach, who pitted his top two pupils in multiple sparring sessions. Khan has been a near-perfect fighter since upending his camp after his only loss, a stunning first-round knockout by Breidis Prescott in September 2008.

"If that loss hadn't happened, I don't think I'd be here," Khan said. "I don't think I ever would have sparred with Manny Pacquiao. When everything is going well, you don't think you need to do anything else. I had to lose that fight to rebuild myself and get to where I am now."

After making his U.S. debut last May in a one-sided win over Paulie Malignaggi, Khan landed in boxing's capital city with his most respected opponent to date. He acknowledges hoping to return to England for this fight before making a bigger splash next year, but Maidana's apparent reluctance to fight in Europe put the fight in Las Vegas.

The bout also is a breakthrough for Maidana, whose only loss was a split decision to Andreas Kotelnik in February 2009. Maidana jumped to the division's forefront last year with a thrilling win over Victor Ortiz, who will fight on their undercard at Mandalay Bay.

While Maidana is thought to lack Khan's speed and skill, his pure power has impressed every opponent — including Ortiz, who knocked down Maidana three times in the first two rounds of their bout before Maidana stopped him in the sixth. If Maidana connects with a big punch, Khan's chin will be tested in a way it hasn't been since his loss.

Maidana also hopes he can finish the year by following up countryman Sergio Martinez's spectacular knockout of Paul Williams with a similar result.

While Khan thinks Maidana is better than fellow 140-pound studs Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander, Maidana has been much less complimentary toward Khan. Maidana said this week he doesn't consider the matchup to be a difficult fight for him, while trainer Miguel Diaz has labeled Khan "ordinary" and "average."

Khan knows his reputation will precede him until he backs up the hype with results. In his first appearance on the Vegas stage, he can't wait to perform.

"You've got a boxer versus a fighter," Khan said. "You've got a big puncher versus another big puncher, but a smarter puncher. If you try to fight him, that's when you'll get knocked out. You've got to box him. I'm not going to fight his fight by standing there and trading shots. I'm going to box him and beat him."


Khan v Maidana: Big fight preview

A look ahead to Amir Khan's WBA light-welterweight title defence against the dangerously heavy handed Marcos Maidana.

By Graeme Bradley

Amir Khan is set to defend his WBA light-welterweight title against Argentinean Marcos Maidana on Saturday in Las Vegas. The bout will be Khan’s second in the US and possibly one of the toughest fights of his career so far.

The Bolton boxer has made a name for himself stateside after outclassing New York favourite Paulie Malignaggi at Madison Square Garden back in May in what was his first fight under new promoters Golden Boy. The 11th round technical knockout victory launched a new chapter of Khan’s career but he will have to pull off a first class performance if the story is to continue beyond the clash with the heavy handed Maidana.

The 27-year-old Maidana is the reigning WBA interim champion and the mandatory challenger for Khan’s world title. With the light-welterweight division packed full to the brim with world class fighters, Maidana is certainly the banger of the bunch having stopped 27 boxers from 29 victories – 22 of which have came within the first three rounds.

The knockout artist certainly poses a threat to Khan, who has struggled to shake off his glass chin reputation after being comprehensively knocked out by Breidis Prescott two years ago, and will certainly have a punchers chance over his English opponent.

Maidana’s only loss came from then-WBA champion Andrei Kotelnik when the Germany-based Ukrainian won a controversial split decision in Hamburg last year. Kotelnik lost the title in his next fight when he travelled to Manchester to face Khan, who outboxed the champion and claimed his first world title with a definitive unanimous decision.

Since their contrasting battle with Kotelnik, Maidana has been the busier of the two in the ring beginning with a sixth round TKO over highly touted contender ‘Vicious’ Victor Ortiz. Maidana was dropped three times by Ortiz but came back to drop his young opponent twice before the referee intervened. He also knocked out William Gonzalez in three rounds, Victor Cayo in six and fought to 12-round decision win against former world champion DeMarcus Corley.

Khan meanwhile faced the little known New Yorker Dmitriy Salita, who had managed to accumulate a 31-0 record without ever fighting any class of opponent. Salita lasted just 72 seconds in front of a hostile crowd at Newcastle’s Metro Arena. A switch of promoter next for Khan, who left a bitter and furious Frank Warren to begin his US career with Golden Boy. He got their relationship of to a successful start with the 11th round victory against Malignaggi.

Khan and his trainer Freddie Roach are confident they have come up with a gameplan to beat Maidana and evade his devastating punches. Khan certainly is the sharper, more talented boxer of the two and if he can remain patient, keep his distance and work from behind a strong jab he should be able to wear down the man they call ‘El Chino’. However, you can never rule out a fighter who can finish opponents with one punch and so Khan must be focussed throughout the fight if he is to emerge victorious and continue on with his American dream.


Amir! Maidana Means it

Jon Desborough

I've been swotting up on this Argentine boxer, Marcos Maidana.

And I can't help thinking Amir Khan is a lot of trouble when he fights him this Saturday night.

This is some match-up. I'm guessing nothing like Haye against Harrison.

This kid Maidana is raw, unreconstructed, raised on a farm and rumoured to have a punch like a jackhammer.

He has stopped 27 of the 29 boxers he has faced. He's only lost once.

He hunts and fishes. The place where he grew up still doesn't have electricity.

A few years back I spent some time in rural Argentina - a lot. Great place. Unsophisticated and honest. So I've got an idea of what Maidana is made of. When he says he could end the fight with Amir with one punch, he means it.

And his ambition is to unify the light-welterweight belts and make enough money to build houses for his large family.

I bet they'll all have electricity.

Amir Khan fights Marcos Maidana tomorrow, Saturday night on Sky Box Office.


Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana press conference a thankful snoozathon

American boxing press conferences are noted for their being bland and polite in equal measure.

And yesterday's head-to-head for Amir Khan's clash with Marcos Maidana excelled on both counts.

In total, the various speakers on the dais said thank you 90 times, as they expressed their gratitude to everyone from God to themselves.

Oscar De La Hoya took the biscuit when he stood up and thanked Golden Boy, which happens to be himself.

No questions were invited from the floor and instead everyone crammed on to the dais was asked up to the lectern to express their thanks.

For anyone listening, it was boxing's equivalent of waterboarding and it truly was painful.

Another low point was the top table leading a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' for Khan, who was 24 on Wednesday.

Oscar also presented him with a huge cake, with the words King Khan on it, which cost him $181.

Khan said, you've guessed it, thank you, although as grateful as he was, he still left the monster cake behind.

To be fair, it was rather heavy and he couldn't tuck into it with the weigh-in looming later today.

Oscar cracked a joke at the end when he made a big show of looking at Khan's watch and saying he was two hours and 19 minutes ahead of Don King's press conference.

That may be true, but at least King's press conferences are entertaining.

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Amir Khan faces Marcos Maidana having matured from boy to man

Bolton's WBA light-welterweight champion is in confident, witty mood ahead of his clash with the dangerous Argentinian

Kevin Mitchell in Las Vegas

To watch Freddie Roach taking the pads with Amir Khan is to witness a teacher passing on to his young world champion, with Zen-like calm, knowledge gathered the best and the hardest way, on the end of a glove.

Roach was a good fighter, with an even better trainer – Eddie Futch. He did not always listen to the wise old man, though, and took too many blows towards the end of a career that fell short of its full potential. His Parkinson's Disease may or may not be related to the punishment he soaked up then but, a lean 50, he is in good shape – and still alert enough to help Khan avoid the mistakes that derailed his own career.

Khan will need all of Roach's savvy at the Mandalay Bay when he defends his WBA light-welterweight title for the third time in probably his toughest fight to date, against the dynamite puncher from Buenos Aires, Marcos Maidana. The Argentinian is a quiet, polite soul – "I'm a man of few words – in any language," he said through an interpreter – but his downbeat demeanour and slim physique disguise chilling power.

He has stopped 27 of 30 opponents, 10 of those in the first round, and looked tidy and relaxed in a light session on the pads this week, although he is not the most dynamic mover. He left their shared gym on the edge of town just as the champion arrived for his workout, with his entourage and a birthday cake (Khan was 24 on Wednesday). It was a civilised encounter, each fighter avoiding the other's gaze.

Khan then positively lit up the gym with his lightning combinations. If you hear applause when a fighter is merely going through rehearsed moves it is a sure sign the old gym rats have seen something special. The locals were impressed.

What stood out, also, was the respect and understanding between Khan and Roach. The boy from Bolton has been in a hurry since he won Olympic silver at 17 – and, six-and-a-half years later, he is no less patient for more glory and belts – but he has matured noticeably in the two years he has been with Roach.

"He's definitely grown up a lot," the trainer said, "but we have a lot of fun in training camp and he's still got a great sense of humour. Then, when it comes down to business, he's 100% there.

"He's going maybe from a kid to a man now. He's matured very much, and the maturity shows in the ring also. It carries over. It's great for me, of course. We understand each other completely. We're on the same page. We know exactly what to do in any situation."

The third man in the partnership also happens to be one of the sport's phenomenal talents, Manny Pacquiao. Sometimes Roach can hardly believe his luck. He's got the best fighter in boxing and, potentially, his successor.

"We've all got a very, very solid partnership," Roach says. "Amir has a lot of similarities with Pacquiao, not just in natural ability; they actually emulate each other a little bit. They copy each other – the moves of the other guy that they know work for themselves also.

"It's great to have two talented guys in the same training camp. It brings the level way, way up. Even when they run together, every sprint is a race. They both have pride and they both want to be the winner. It works out very well for both guys.

"Manny went through this. He also went from a young kid to a man when he was with me. So, it's great to see it happening again."

Khan is unrecognisable from the shy teenager who mumbled in front of the media at the 2004 Olympics in Athens. He had total confidence inside the ring but was dazzled away from his work place. Now he is still knocking people out but cutting million-pound deals and jet-setting in and out of Vegas as if it were just down the road from Bolton.

There are faint traces of impatience, though. "The last week before a fight always goes really slow," he said. "I always feel like this before a fight. I'll wake up next week and it will all be finished. Right now, I can't wait. I've never trained so hard. I kill myself when I train. I think I'm one of the hardest training fighters in the world. Alex [Ariza, his conditioning coach and nutritionist] really pushes me.

"Even Manny takes a short cut sometimes, but I've never said no to anything that Alex tells me to do. Manny might say to him: 'No, I'm not going to do that,' but I just stick to instructions.

"I'll have no excuses. I don't want to walk into a fight thinking I should have listened to Alex or Freddie about certain things. Maybe that could have helped, especially towards the end, with a few rounds left."

There are those who don't want to hear any of this. Khan, inexplicably, still has haters who bombard blogs with obscene tirades about him. Much of it is ignorant racism. Some of it is pure envy.

It used to bother him. Not now. The kid really is growing up. At the press conference here this week, his was the one address among many that contained even a strain of wit. We should enjoy him while we can, because he might just be about to take his career to another level.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Marquez vs. Katsidis: round-by-round updates

Mexico’s Juan Manuel Marquez will make the second defense of his world lightweight titles tonight when he meets Australia’s Michael Katsidis at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

Marquez (51-5-1, 37 knockouts) stands as Mexico’s proudest world champion, having fought Manny Pacquiao to a 2004 draw and a 2008 split-decision loss. Marquez proceeded to claim the lightweight belt by defeating Juan Diaz in the 2009 fight of the year.

He took a big pay day to get beat by the far larger Floyd Mayweather Jr. later last year, then returned to the lightweight division and punished Diaz again in a July unanimous decision.

Katsidis (27-2, 22 KOs) has lost to two opponents that Marquez has defeated in recent years –- Diaz and Joel Casamayor –- but he’s won his last four bouts and is fighting in the memory of his brother, who died recently.

Marquez expressed sympathy, but has his sights set on a third showdown with Pacquiao. Any hope of that requires a victory tonight.

Here's round-by-round coverage of the fight (scoring is unofficial):

Round 1: Marquez starts with jabs to the body. He lands a good right to Katsidis’ face. Another. Marquez is blocking Katsidis’ jab. Katsidis sneaks one in. Good right by Marquez. He works for openings. Good overhand right by Marquez. Marquez wins round, 10-9.

Round 2: Marquez jabs to the head. Katsidis going inside, but he gets hit. Marquez hitting low. Marquez right to body, left to head. Good combo to head by Marquez. Katsidis tough to inside, but sustains three hard combinations in final 30 seconds. Marquez wins round, 10-9. Marquez leads, 20-18.

Round 3: Marquez hard jab to the face. Katsidis slower to charge in. Katsidis knocks Marquez down with left hook from nowhere. Eight count. Great left by Katsidis as action resumes. Marquez on ropes, slides to left. Nice left by Marquez. Marquez back to the body. Marquez lands a good left to the face. He can take a knockdown. Five hard punches by Marquez, but Katsidis wins round, 10-9. Marquez leads, 29-28.

Round 4: Marquez ccombination opens the round. Left uppercut by Marquez. Good right by Katsidis and counter by Marquez. Good right-left combo by Katsidis. Marquez’s lefts are wicked, followed with an uppercut and jab. Katsidis works the body. Marquez good left. Katsidis goes inside again, Marquez backs up and lands. Marquez wins round, 10-9. Marquez leads, 39-37.

Round 5: Katsidis lands a right to the body. Marquez takes some shots, only to unleash harder blows. Good uppercuts by Marquez, he’s more polished. Katsidis again to the body. Refereee Kenny Bayless breaks them up. Katsidis working Marquez on the ropes. Marquez gets off the ropes and gets best of thrilling exchange in center of ring. Marquez wins round, 10-9. Marquez leads, 49-46.

Round 6: The inside battle continues. Katsidis gets the better of early exchanges. Marquez right to body. Katsidis good left to face. Hard right by Katsidis to the head. Marquez strong in reply. Jabbing away. Marquez strong in final seconds. Close round to Katsidis, 10-9. Marquez leads, 58-56.

Round 7: Katsidis charges, lands left to face. Great inside fighting. Both guys giving and taking. Marquez takes a left-right. Is he tiring? Marquez works the body. Straight right by Marquez to face. Big right by Marquez. Both guys attacking body. Marquez gets best (again) of late exchange. Marquez wins round, 10-9. Marquez leads, 68-65.

Round 8: Marquez lands two left uppercuts. Action slows a bit. Katsidis gets busy inside. Busier. Katsidis' right eye is swelling, but his surge is tiring Marquez, Nice late exchange by Marquez but he was outworked in round. Katsidis wins round, 10-9. Marquez leads, 77-75.

Round 9: Katsidisdelivers hard to the body. Ten straight punches by Marquez. Katsidis backing up. Two big right uppercuts by Marquez highlights a big barrage. Left uppercut. Hard right backs up Katsidis and Bayless stops the fight. Juan Manuel Marquez wins by ninth-round TKO.

--Lance Pugmire, reporting from Las Vegas

Photo: Juan Manuel Marquez, left, and Michael Katsidis strike a pose during a news conference on Tuesday in Las Vegas. Credit: Steve Marcus / Reuters