Boxing: Ambitious Khan hops channels and crosses the Atlantic
Amir Khan makes his last appearance on ITV next Saturday and is likely to deliver a swift parting shot. This will be aimed in the direction of the former British super-featherweight champion Michael Gomez, the fourth challenger for Khan's Commonwealth lightweight title.
Their meeting at Birmingham's National Indoor Arena has all the portents of a very brief encounter, so viewers are advised not to blink. At 30, Gomez has known better days. While he can still bang a bit, his recent record does not suggest that he can withstand Khan's punching velocity for long.
With ITV hanging up their boxing gloves because of their heavy financial investment in football and motor racing, Khan is now set to go channel-hopping. Promoter Frank Warren hints at "some terrestrial exposure", which could see him featured on the BBC or perhaps Five. It is possible that any deal might also involve Setanta, who are now cornering the fight game's satellite market. Khan is the only fighter in Warren's Sports Network stable who is not currently available to them.
Saturday's fight is also Khan's last under a three-year contract with Warren which has seen him progress from Olympic silver medallist to unbeaten Commonwealth champion and a leading world-title contender who is bracketed with Wayne Rooney, Lewis Hamilton and his palAndy Murray among Britain's wealthiest young sports stars.
Apparently Khan has yet to sign a new contract, but Warren says: "Amir and I are cool. We are very happy with what we've got. Let's get this fight out of the way and all will be revealed in a few weeks. We can't make any plans yet because Gomez is capable of upsetting them."
True enough, because it takes only one right-hander to wreck a dream. On the face of it this seems something of a mismatch, yet it could turn out to be a blood-and-thunder battle – while it lasts. Catching Khan before he settles is Gomez's only hope, and the Manchester-based Irishman will certainly give it a go. But while he may have the desire, it is doubtful he has the durability.
Some boxing insiders say that Gomez, with 24 KOs in 43 fights but stopped three times in his previous seven bouts, is shot. But he can still fire the occasional bullet himself. "I'll take Khan out of his comfort zone to places he doesn't want to be," vows the colourful character whose most famous victory was savaging Scotland's Alex Arthur, though that was five years ago.
Since then Arthur has been installed as a world champion whereas Gomez's last fight was a six-rounder against Baz Carey, who was the second of Khan's 17 victims so far.
Apart from channel-hopping, the 21-year-old Khan is also embarking on a transatlantic crossing, seeking a new trainer in the US after splitting with Oliver Harrison. For this fight he has been tutored in his Bolton gym by matchmaker Dean Powell. "We've worked well together," says Khan. "Gomez is a good fighter who hits hard and I know he will come at me like crazy, all guns blazing. But Dean has taught me how to use my feet better."
One hopes that Powell has also been advising Khan on how to keep his chin out of harm's way. Curiously, a lack of head movement seems to be a trait among former top amateurs such as Khan, Audley Harrison, David Haye and Kevin Mitchell.
All leave themselves open to head punches. Could this be because the use of headguards has bred a disregard for ahigh-held defence?
Gomez may seem a bit of an old banger and an easy target, but Khan will still need to keep his hands up and his chin down.
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