By Paul Mason
Amir Khan’s victory over Samuel Vargas last weekend in Birmingham raised more questions than answers. His next move seemingly is boom or bust, and he needs to tread carefully if he wants his legacy to be untarnished. One feels that Khan resembles a high wire walker, and one false move could bring his world crashing down all over again. Here, I assess the options he has for his next contest.
Before Khan’s fight with Vargas took place, former IBF Welterweight Champion, Kell Brook was the man that the majority of fans wanted to see the Bolton man share the ring with. Following his heavy second round knockdown at the hands, in particular, the overhand right, of Vargas, Brook surely now starts as the favourite. December had been mooted, but at that time of year, it would be either Cardiff’s Principality Stadium, or London’s O2 Arena, that would be the only venues surely be able to hold this spectacle.
Following Khan’s win in Birmingham, he brushed off Brook as almost a second prize, focusing solely on a fight with Manny Pacquiao. This tells me that Brook is a fight that Khan secretly would rather avoid if he can, as he clearly believes a Pacquiao fight offers him the same riches and rewards.
Sticking points for a Brook bout would also be the weight at which the two men fight at. Brooks struggles to make 147lbs have been well documented, although he says he would make that weight in order to fight Khan, it is easier said than safely done. Khan has stipulated the fight must be made at Welter, even though he himself struggled to make the weight for the Vargas fight, eventually having to strip naked to do so.
A Brook fight looks the smart bet for Khan’s next paid outing.
Filipino buzz saw Manny Pacquiao rebounded from a shock defeat down under in July 2017, where he lost his WBO Welterweight Title to the unheralded Jeff Horn, by picking up the WBA “Regular” version with a return to form against Lucas Matthysse, winning via seventh round stoppage. This match seems to be Khan’s preference, as Pacquiao is now 39 and well into the twilight of his career, 6-4 in his last ten outings. This is a winnable fight for Amir, but one that is almost certain to be on Manny’s terms in the sense of purse and location of the fight.
Khan is very keen on this matchup, and Pacquiao is yet to respond to the Bolton man’s overtures to fight him.
Whether Pacquiao is looking for matches like this as he winds down towards retirement are unclear, and he is now engaged in a legal dispute with promoter Bob Arum so this may take some time to clear up.
Welterweight World Champions
Khan still has some stroke across the pond, and he would be a good first defence for Shawn Porter, who won the WBC Title on the weekend by outpointing Danny Garcia in Brooklyn. Porter would be a decent test for Khan, but this looks a highly unlikely next assignment.
The alternatives though are fraught with danger. It’s a three-fold pound for pound danger at that. The WBO Champion is Terence Crawford, an unbeaten fighter who, in the last two years, has cut a swathe through the Lightweight, Super Lightweight and Welterweight divisions, picking up the WBO Title at Lightweight, before becoming undisputed Champion at Super Lightweight, before beating the aforementioned Jeff Horn to pick up the WBO Welterweight belt. Crawford is otherwise engaged on October 13, when he meets the 27-0 Jose Benevidez in his first defence of the Title, to take place in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.
The IBF Champion is Errol Spence Junior, who ripped the Title away from Kell Brook back in May last year. He has ruthlessly defended twice since with stoppage wins against Lamont Peterson and Carlos Ocampo. The problem here is that following Porter’s win over Garcia, Spence went head to head with Porter, seemingly promoting a unification match between the pair for later this year/early 2019.
The forgotten man of the division is WBA (Super) Champion, Keith Thurman. Thurman hasn’t fought since March 2017, where he beat Danny Garcia via split decision to become WBA (Super) and WBC Champion. He has had elbow and hand troubles that have kept him inactive ever since. He is expected to announce his return in the coming weeks, but Khan won’t be the man in the opposite corner.
So it seems if Khan is to continue in the sport, his only options are Brook or Pacquiao.
The final option would be retirement. A 2004 Olympic Silver Medallist, and a WBA and IBF Champion at Super Lightweight, Khan doesn’t have a lot left to prove if anything. And, after several wars and heavy knockout defeats throughout his career, few would blame him if he hung up the gloves.
Something tells me that this is currently far from Khan’s mind at this point in time.