Amir Khan presented a formidable case for the defence on his "Judgement Night" here with a blistering two-round stoppage of Oklahoma-based Irishman Oisin Fagan, winning in a manner that suggested he had learned his lesson after his KO defeat less than three months ago.
Knowing he was on trial for his future, he acquitted himself admirably, keeping his chin out of danger but still retaining the attacking venom which has made him such a major attraction. The reception he received from the 5,000-strong crowd suggested that his popularity remains undimmed by that stunning defeat but under the tutelage of American trainer Freddie Roach, Khan, who is 22 tomorrow, has been restyled, his bodyweight redistributed and his mind clearly more focused.
Fagan's corner threw in the towel a split second before referee Mickey Vann rescued him as he was submerged under a fusillade of hooks, crosses and upper-cuts. The fighting Irishman had been floored from clipping right-hand punches twice in the first round but creditably he came determined to try his luck knowing that Khan's exposed susceptibility to a right-hander now gives even the most anonymous trial horse the ambition to throw punches as if at a coconut shy.
But Khan, who added a bauble called the World Boxing Association lightweight title to his Commonwealth belt, kept his hands up and his chin down under attack and declined to rush in as he did in the fateful 54 seconds against Bredis Prescott like a young bull at a date. Instead he evaded Fagan's overhand rights, ducked under them and cut him down with his slashing attack.
Fagan, 34, came without a punch of pedigree and a moderate CV for a man whose accomplishments are more notable outside the ring – he has a degree in political journalism. Last night Khan was the story. "I never lost my self-belief," the Bolton fighter said. "I wanted to show everyone that Amir's not finished. I have always believed things happen for a reason and if I had not got knocked out, I wouldn't have gone to America and teamed up with Freddie or sparred with Manny Pacquiao."
In Nottingham's Trent FM Arena, hometown boy Carl Froch came through a thrilling battle with Canadian Jean Pascal to take his first world title, the World Boxing Council super-heavweight belt given up by Joe Calzaghe, and finally forge a reputation for himself on the global stage.
Both fighters showed courage and enormous stamina in a 12-round contest that saw them trade blows incessantly. Both were unbeaten before the fight and neither could be knocked down or would back down in the face of incessant flurries of right-handers.
At the end of a thrilling contest Froch won on a unanimous points decision. "I caught him with some sweet right hands but he was a world-class opponent and I fought well to beat him," said the 30-year-old, who is unbeaten in his 24 fights. "He came and had a go. I kept my composure and used my experience, and I picked him off. I can outbox anybody with my long jab."
On the same bill, the heavyweight prospect Tyson Fury started his professional career with a first-round knock-out of Bela Gyongyosi in Nottingham. The 20-year-old ABA super-heavyweight champion, who stands 6ft 9in, took just two minutes and 14 seconds of a scheduled six-rounder to dispose of the Hungarian.
Audley Harrison has walked into more Last Chance Saloons than John Wayne but surely the doors have swung closed on his world heavyweight title ambitions. Back in London, he was out-gunned by fellow 37-year-old Martin Rogan, losing a 96-95 points decision on the scorecard of referee Ian John Lewis, which seemed ungenerous to the rumbustious Irishman.
The former Olympic super-heavyweight champion succumbed to a part-time cabbie who had fought only 10 times and only recently won a novice competition. Harrison was drawn into it by Rogan's roughhouse tactics and caught repeatedly by a right hand. At one stage, near the end of the eighth, Harrison seemed to be out on his feet. He had announced, "My redemption is coming" and entered the ring wearing a T-shirt proclaiming "Yes I Can". As this is the panto season, we have to say to him, "Oh no you can't".
Enzo Maccarinelli, also seeking redemption after surrendering his World Boxing Organisation cruiserweight title to David Haye in March, followed the Hayemaker into the heavyweight ranks and stopped the 34-year-old Matthew Ellis, aka The Blackpool Rock, in two rounds. Ellis, who five years ago was beaten in two rounds by Harrison, came in after two world title opponents for the Welshman had been ruled out with medical problems.
But he was sent spinning to the floor from slashing body punches twice in the first and then again in the second, when the fight was stopped after one minute 28 seconds. The Blackpool Rock was well and truly licked.Reuse content