It was a wonderful piece of cynical matchmaking and Amir Khan finally fought to plan to win every second of his fight against Carlos Molina at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
Khan had lost his last two fights going into Saturday's fixture and there was always an understanding that one more defeat would be the end of his ambitions and dreams inside the boxing ring. Molina was plucked from the fringes of respectable boxing company and conceded height, weight and experience but remained defiant until his corner waved it off after 10 rounds.
It was the sweetest start to the developing and passionate affair between Khan and his latest trainer, Virgil Hunter, and the signs are extremely positive after a near-flawless display that keeps the roving Bolton fighter firmly in the world championship mix and away from low-key crisis fights.
"I had a plan and I knew that I had to stick to it," said Khan, whose relief at the end was understandably excessive even if the WBC silver belt that he won means nothing. "The plan was to think at all times and not lose my head; I carried out the game plan without any problem."
Molina, unbeaten in 18 before the first bell, never stopped trying but was getting methodically picked to pieces as the rounds ticked by; and, more importantly, Khan was starting to relax and hurt him. There was a case for it ending a bit sooner but thankfully there was a belated outbreak of mercy in his corner when he walked back at the end of the 10th.
"Molina took some big shots and he caught me a few times and that was a test for me," admitted Khan. "I knew that I had to keep cool and not lose my head – that has been my problem and that is what we have worked on in the gym."
In Saturday's fight at the weary and venerable auditorium Khan was noticeably thinking his way from rope to rope and calculating the risks in the mix of punches that he threw. Khan has, it must be said, boxed to the numbers before, when he won his first world title against Andriy Kotelnik in 2009. On that night in Manchester there was a high level of concentration, motivated by the very real fear of another calamitous loss like the 60-second blowout he suffered in 2008 against Breidis Prescott. In the boxing business, fear and money are just about the best two tools available to lift a fighter's performance; on Saturday Khan fought like a man aware of his precarious slot in the fickle pecking order.
"I have only been with Virgil for 10 weeks and I can see that it is working," continued Khan. "I'm a quick learner and he is a great trainer. I will continue to improve after that fight but the signs are good – I did what I had to do, never lost my head and now I'm in the position I want to be in."
Khan also has the immensely powerful backing of Golden Boy Promotions touting him as a "new" fighter; They will bring all their influence to the negotiating table to get Khan a world title fight in 2013 and that is the way the business has always worked.
"Right now, I believe that with Virgil in his corner Amir is unbeatable," insisted Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, who is always good for a quote but often exaggerates his clients' ability. He is a happier version of Arsène Wenger when it comes to reality and faults in his own men.
Now Khan wants a rematch with Danny Garcia, an improved fighter who separated Khan from both his senses and his world title belt when they met in July. Garcia caught a panicked Khan with a looping left hook to the neck and Khan's legs did a boogie of chaos before a few more nasty punches forced the fight's end. It was a shock and Khan admitted that he had rushed the plan by chasing Garcia.
"Garcia got lucky and I was unlucky," added Khan. "He would never catch me with that punch again – I helped him win that fight but I'm a different fighter under Virgil. I'm a better fighter and I will only get better."
The Garcia rematch is a natural for 2013 and if Schaefer wants it to happen, it will happen. Garcia has a defence in New York in February against former Khan victim Zab Judah, but May would work – and that would be a test for the Hunter and Khan relationship.
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