Tuesday 20 March 2018

Boxing: Khan eager to unify division

WBA champion Amir Khan has vowed to unify the light-welterweight division. Photo: Reuters
WBA champion Amir Khan has vowed to unify the light-welterweight division. Photo: Reuters

Phil Barnett

WBA champion Amir Khan has vowed to unify the light-welterweight division next year once he has dealt with dangerous mandatory challenger Marcos Maidana tomorrow night.

The Briton defends his belt against Argentinian banger Maidana at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas this weekend in his third outing as WBA champion.

The Maidana clash follows just one other in 2010 - a late stoppage of Paulie Malignaggi in New York in May - and is his second in the United States.

Next year he will set his sights on collecting other portions of the 10 stone crown, with WBC champion Devon Alexander and WBO holder Timothy Bradley taking the plunge by facing each other in January. Then, he believes he can move up in weight and emulate his sparring partner and friend Manny Pacquiao.

Khan told Press Association Sport: "I want to get the mandatory against Maidana out of the way and then next year unify the division.

"I'll take it from there, really. I've got the style to move up through the divisions and I've got the body to move up. I think I'll probably be a better fighter at welterweight.

"Being a unified, multi-weight world champion is what I dreamed of. I think the highest I could go to is probably light-middleweight.

"Hopefully I'll be cleaning this division up then moving up and fighting for a title at welterweight before another at light-middleweight, pushing for that.

"I think I've got the skills and everything. I'm with the right team as well and I'm sure they can take me that way."

Khan has been accused of avoiding Maidana before now, with the South American's power highly rated and the Englishman's chin highly questioned.

The Bolton fighter has been floored several times in his career and was written off as a top-level fighter when Colombian Breidis Prescott destroyed him in a minute two years ago.

However, 24-year-old Khan believes he has answered questions about his chin and can prove its strength once and for all tomorrow.

"I think Maidana has got power, his record says it all," he said.

"In the Prescott fight I made mistakes. That was two and a bit years ago and since then, so much has changed.

"I've been thinking about it and I've moved up a division. I used to kill myself making the weight (at lightweight) so that makes you weak and reduces your punch resistance.

"Since I've been up at 140lbs I've been sparring guys who are 154, 160lbs and they can't even touch me.

"Sparring with Manny, he's hitting me with his best shots and I've not gone down in sparring ever. So I think it was just the weight-making, really.

"Talking about power, he's still got the power to knock anyone out but with this fight we have got to be smart. We have to stick to the gameplan and instructions in the corner."

Khan (23-1, 17KOs) added: "The last time it happened was Prescott, I've not been knocked down since. These people don't know that in sparring, no-one has ever wobbled me once. I've never been dropped in sparring.

"I think that was because I never really killed myself making weight until it came to the last few pounds to make 135, I used to kill myself making the last five pounds and that weakens you. You'd think boxing fans would know this but that's the only thing they've got against me.

"But this fight will be telling. When I beat Maidana, I'm sure I'm going to shut everyone up. But I don't think they'll shut up. That will always be there and they'll always have something against me. But that's fine. That motivates me.

"Manny's sparred with me, he's hit me with his best shot and I've never gone down or been wobbled. It's one of those things that motivates you when people speak badly of you."

Maidana's fearsome record reads 29 wins - 27 of them inside the distance - with one loss, against former WBA champion and Khan victim Andreas Kotelnik.

"I'm not worried about his boxing ability," said the Argentinian. "I'm prepared for anything that he does.

"If I can get a knockout it's good, but I'm ready for a 12-round fight. Khan says that he plans to fight with me. That's good for me, because when I land, the fight will be over."

Press Association

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