With Amir Khan announcing this week that he’ll resume his boxing career on April 21, after nearly two years out of action, there’s plenty of buzz around what the 31-year-old star fighter will do now that he’s under the Matchroom Boxing umbrella.
Sky Sports asked him about five dream opponents for the rest of his career, and here was his short list, in their order:
- Keith Thurman
- Errol Spence Jr
- Terence Crawford
- Manny Pacquiao
- Kell Brook
For the pure sake of something to talk about during boxing’s yearly winter break of major active competition, let’s share some thoughts on these matchups.
On Thurman, Khan says, “He’s a very good fighter, but you can always work out when he’s going to throw a big bomb. You can always see it coming.”
Thurman (28-0, 22 KO) has been dynamic enough to go unbeaten thus far in his pro career, and he currently holds the WBC and WBA welterweight titles, beating Shawn Porter and Danny Garcia in his last two outings. He’s recovering from major surgery on his elbow, and expected to return in April against Jessie Vargas, a former titleholder, with eyes on a big fight against Spence.
I’d go with Thurman if the two fought, no second guesses about it. The last we saw of Khan, he was still a really good fighter. But one with the same vulnerabilities as always. Thurman probably isn’t as predictable as Khan wants to let on, and while his knockout power hasn’t been a big factor against better opponents — as often is the case when fighters move up the ladder — he’s got enough pop to hurt and stop the chinny Khan.
Errol Spence Jr
On Spence, Khan says, “He’s strong, hits hard with both hands. You saw it when he fought Kell Brook, he was just putting a beating on him.”
Spence (22-0, 19 KO) has the IBF title, which he ripped away from Brook in 2017. At 28, he’s the youngest fighter Khan mentions on this list, and more importantly, has the least miles on him as a professional. Spence defends his belt next weekend against Lamont Peterson, a fight Spence is expected to win without a lot of trouble.
I’d go with Spence in a matchup with Khan. He’s fresher, younger, and can match Khan for pure talent, too. He takes a better shot than Amir, so if it got down to a firefight, I’d favor the American there. But I just see Spence as an all-around bad matchup for Khan, at any stage of Khan’s career.
Khan says that Crawford is a “brilliant fighter,” but questions his power moving up to 147, which is fair enough: “I know he was very strong at 135, then he went to 140, but now at 147 is he really going to carry that weight? Not many fighters can do that. Manny Pacquiao carried the power when he moved up in weight, but can Terence Crawford do the same thing?”
Crawford (32-0, 23 KO) has won titles at 135 and 140, fully unifying the latter division, and now is headed up to 147, looking to land a mandatory WBO title shot at Jeff Horn. He tops many pound-for-pound lists, and is No. 2 on most of those he doesn’t.
Broken record: I’m going with Crawford against Khan. Have you seen Crawford fight? Again, I think he’s just a miserable matchup for Amir. There’s really no advantage I see Khan having in this one.
Khan believes Pacquiao “still has a few fights left in him,” and adds, “To fight someone like him and to be in the same ring as someone like him would be amazing. He’s a legend in the sport already, but he still wants to keep on fighting.”
So this would be more about the status and experience. Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KO) is 39 and well past his best days. Even though I felt he beat Jeff Horn, I thought Pacquiao looked ragged and old compared to his win months prior against Jessie Vargas. He no longer looked like a truly elite fighter in the sport. There were flashes of the old (younger) Pacquiao against Horn, but they were just flashes.
This one I could see going either way. Khan is vulnerable, but his hand speed and height advantage could be a real problem for Manny, and Pacquiao just hasn’t lit opponents up like he used to in many years now. This won’t be the case, obviously, but if they met on April 21, I’d call it a toss-up. I don’t know how much either has left. If they both fought a tune-up, looked equally solid in victory, and then met, I might actually pick Khan in 2018.
It’s been talked about for years now. Khan is still cautious about it, even though they’re both with the same promoter now. “Let’s see how he does in the 154 division. I know he’s got a fight coming up with [Sergey] Rabchenko. But look this is a fight maybe in the future that can happen.”
Khan’s 31 and fading. Brook is 31 and fading, taking some bad beatings against Gennady Golovkin and Errol Spence Jr. But I count neither man out. The right little roll could see both of them regain a world title.
Brook has said it’s basically now or never for this fight to mean something. It could definitely happen by the end of 2018, but it will require Khan being confident that he’d win, I expect. He’s never been keen to fight Brook before.
I’ve always thought this is a matchup that comes down to who forces their fight the best. If Khan can make it a boxing match, he wins. If Brook can force more physicality, he’ll get to Khan sooner than later.
How about all of you? How do you see these matchups?