Cocky Khan scrambles to victory after being floored

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The Independent Online

At eight o'clock last night Amir Khan was in theory worth millions but by 8.30 he had been knocked to the canvas by a labourer who earns £200 a week.

At eight o'clock last night Amir Khan was in theory worth millions but by 8.30 he had been knocked to the canvas by a labourer who earns £200 a week.

Khan has only himself to blame for arguably his worst performance in recent years, against Craig Watson.

The 18-year-old first lost his legs and senses before the full effects of a short southpaw left sent him to the canvas for a brief count in the fourth and last round. The scare came in the semi-final of the 64kg division of a regional stage of the Amateur Boxing Association of England Championship at the Guild Hall, Preston.

There were sections of the crowd who immediately jumped up and about 2,000 others who fell silent just as quickly.

Khan was clearly hurt by the punch but he had won the previous three rounds so convincingly that when he regained his feet all he had to do was remain upright to the bell in order to win.

With about 30 seconds left, Watson chased Khan from one corner to the other corner and smeared the blood on the Olympic boxer's nose all over his face. However, it was one punch too late for the fight to end like a true fairy-tale and at the bell the Olympic silver medallist received a 21-9 verdict over the building labourer from Clayton in Manchester.

The story of the fight was not the short left that sent Khan down, but the shocking lack of respect that the Olympian had displayed in the first three rounds. He often fought with his hands far too low and threw wild and erratic punches in a desperate attempt to knock Watson out.

By the middle of round two Watson, who is 23 and a naturally bigger man, had started to read Khan's lunges and was trying to counter effectively. Finally, in round four, as Khan missed, Watson found the target perfectly and so nearly ruined the script and so nearly put an irreversible dent in the million-pound contract that Khan and his advisers have been looking at for the last six months.

Khan at the Olympics was just 17 and truly brilliant to watch. He had power, grace and that most essential and most often neglected of boxing attributes: timing. In December he easily beat a good American but all of those bouts last year, a grand total of 19, took place at lightweight.

Just eight days ago the teenager told his coach at the Bury Club, Mick Jelley, that he was struggling to make the 60kg weight limit and wanted to move up to the 64kg class. The increase at such a late date was also probably a factor last night because Watson never looked fazed or concerned by Khan and was clearly much, much stronger.

"I didn't think I could win the fight but I just wanted to prove that I deserved to share the ring with him," Watson said after he left the ring and slowly navigated a procession of seven camera crews.

Khan at the same time, was whisked away by security to get his nose checked and get some rest before finding out when the final will take place.

"He got careless. He dropped his hands and he was caught. That is what happens in boxing and Amir does that better than anybody," said Jelley, who let it be known long before last night's first fight that he was less than pleased with the boxer's decision to move through the weights category.

Khan will either face Chorley's Lee Graves or Arrow's Liam Dorian in the final at 64kg. Both are much better fighters than Watson and much stronger and bigger than Khan.

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