By Alan Hubbard
I HAVE KNOWN AND LIKED Amir Khan since he was a schoolboy sensation. I enjoyed watching him win his Olympic silver medal silver in Athens back in 2004 as GB’s lone ring ranger; and subsequently his WBA world light-welterweight championship belt in Newcastle five years later.
I also enjoyed watching him rumble in the Australian jungle as a genuine celebrity trying to get out of there on the TV reality show.
But now I worry about him. And not only because of those alleged sexual peccadilloes that keep making headlines in the tabloids but because of his impending comeback to boxing two years after being poleaxed by Canelo Alvarez.
It is not the clash of dates which sees his Sky-backed return to the ring in Liverpool on April 21 pitted against the appearance of a re-born Carl Frampton in a humdinger of a fight in Belfast the same night on rival channel BoxNation, irritating and unnecessary as it is, which bothers me as much as the risk he is taking with both his well-being and boxing reputation.
Already they are talking about future match-ups with such as Errol Spence jnr, Danny Garcia and Keith Thurman, all of whom have power in their punches.
Ok. They’ll probably dig out an opponent who couldn’t break the proverbial egg, let alone Amir’s vulnerable jaw, for his first fight back, someone closer to the fistic prowess of Keith Lemon than Keith Thurman.
But what follows after that?
A showdown with domestic rival Kell Brook, now due to box at light-middleweight, would have been a burster once, but it now seems past its sell-by date.
I understand that some time before he signed for Matchroom, Khan was offered a healthy six-figure purse by Frank Warren to meet Bradley Skeete, but turned it down.
Khan argues that a cold, clinical ko of the sort he suffered against Canelo (and also against Breidis Prescott way back) is less harmful than taking a beating over several rounds – and he rightly points out he was boxing well against the Mexican before he was chinned in the sixth.
Of course he is entitled to continue his career at 30 but he has to be in perfect condition to do so. Some may question whether in the past two years he has truly lived the life of an athlete.
It is regrettable that Khan’s return to the ring, which marks his first on British soil in five years, falls on the same night as Frampton’s more intriguing featherweight encounter with fellow former world champ Nonito Donaire in Belfast, a date which Warren had pencilled in first.
Now ask yourself this:
Would you, as a TV viewer, rather watch Khan, who sadly has never really had a fan base over here despite his undoubted talent, shedding 24 months of ring rust against a hand-picked pushover, or the immensely popular Frampton in a potentially fiery dust-up with a genuine world class opponent?
For me, much as I like Amir, it’s a no-brainer.
LAST WEEK I RECEIVED a large dollop of derision from certain quarters when I suggested that Anthony Joshua was by no means a cast-iron certainty to beat Joseph Parker in his next bout.
Indeed my forecast was that he might taste defeat for the first time in his pro career.
I stand by my argument. Last month Anthony Joshua, a 14-1 on favourite with the bookmakers to become the BBC Sports Personality of the Year, lost out to Sir Mo Farah.
In fact the 2014 Olympic and current world heavyweight champion did not even make the top three, outpointed by a relatively unknown motor cyclist and a Paralympic athlete-turned-ballroom dancer.
So is the personable puncher as much the bee’s knees with the public as those around him seem to think? Maybe not quite.
And maybe the controversy surrounding his alleged comment to American heavyweight boxer Eddie Chambers about him being ‘a disgrace to the superior black race’ (although Joshua’s people insist his account had been hacked) hasn’t helped.
Would the Board of Control have remained silent had this comment been attributed to Tyson Fury or Billy Joe Saunders, one wonders?
What will help even less is if Josh loses his three-belt world championship status.
As I noted, AJ seems to have sprouted rather too much muscle of late and while WBO kingpin Parke may not be the greatest of world heavyweight champions he is a capable boxer who seems to have a decent chin and knows how to use the ring to steer clear of danger.
Even Joshua’s coach wants him to have a lower fighting weight for the unification bout with Parker in Cardiff on March 31.
Joshua, 28, scaled a career-high 18st 2lb in beating his last opponent Carlos Takam in October. The WBA Super, IBO and IBF champion is aiming to hit 17st 10lb, says long-standing coach Robert McCracken.
“The emphasis is on being as quick as possible and taking as little punishment, and being a bit lighter would allow him to do that,” says McCracken.
Clearly there are parts of Joshua’s game that make him vulnerable. He remains very much a work in progress and to talk about him like he is Muhammad Ali reincarnated is nonsense.
I was lucky enough to go around the world with Ali, and yes, there are some similarities. He is handsome, charismatic and has quick, hurtful hands, plus the gift of the gab well as the jab.
But The Greatest was more supple and less predictable with a far superior defence – a one-off. Joshua must be his own man, not a pugilistic pastiche of Ali. With all due respect, he some distance to go fore he can be bracketed with his hero.
Personally I think Joshua would struggle to lay a glove on a fighting fit Tyson Fury – though it would be fun watching him try. But first he has to get past Parker, which may not be as easy as some think.
HOWEVER IN TWO or perhaps three years time it may not be Joshua or Fury’s name that will be on everyone’s lips. Instead we will be singing the praises of another young British heavyweight even more enthusiastically.
He is Daniel Dubois. He’s aged 20, is 6-0 after just turning pro, physically is bigger that Josh, bangs even harder and already has reportedly knocked him cold – along with other heavyweights of no mean repute – in sparring.
He gave up the possibility of winning gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics because his ambition is to become Britain’s youngest heavyweight champion of the world – a record held by Herbie Hide at 22 years 4 months
Already the Southern Area champion, the young Londoner has made remarkable progress.
In his first eight months this 6ft 5in, 17 stone plus wrecking machine with devastating power in both hands has knocked out his six opponents and his promoter Frank Warren has such faith in his ability and dedication he nominally moved him from four rounds to ten in just his fourth fight – unheard of in a British ring for one so young.
Those watching him interviewed on Buncey’s Boxing Hour recently were surely impressed by this gentle giant’s modesty, pleasant demeanour and total lack of arrogance. He could be the best thing to hit British boxing -and opposing heavyweights – for years.
He’s going to be sensational.
See why when he appears with fellow thumper Anthony Yarde and Skeete, the man Khan didn’t fancy doing the rounds with, at the Copper Box on February 10. Or follow them on BoxNation.