Boxing: Khan goes back to school as Haye relishes facing a bully

Flawed lightweight insists he can stand on his own two feet. By Alan Hubbard
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The Independent Online

The thing about most boxers is that while they endeavour to keep their jaws out of the way in the ring, they always enjoy a bit of a chinwag. So it is with two of Britain's biggest drawcards, heavyweight David Haye and lightweight Amir Khan, who have been explaining how they hope to build and rebuild their respective world championship aspirations by taking it on those fragile chins.

In Khan's case not literally, of course. While he is prepared to absorb the told-you-so jibes that followed his potentially career-wrecking KO by Colombian Breidis Prescott last month, he has moved quickly to insure himself against further disaster by firing his Cuban coach Jorge Rubio and enlisting in the hardest school of knocks under the expert tutelage of top US trainer Freddie Roach. But perhaps more important is his revelation last week that from now on he is his own young man, firmly in control of his ring destiny.

"In some ways it's good that this [the defeat to Prescott] happened because people will now listen to me," he said. "Now what I say goes. Long before that fight it was me who said I wanted to go to America and train away from everything and all the distractions, it was me who said I wanted to train with Freddie Roach.

"But you have to listen to your management team, this guy or that guy, you get dragged here, dragged there, you get with a coach and you're not happy. You keep it all in. A lot of things were playing on my mind and I just didn't say anything until I got beat. I should have done this a long time ago and I don't think it [the defeat] would have happened. I take the blame for that even though I was told wrong by Jorge. Maybe getting beat was a blessing in disguise."

So Amir goes to Hollywood, though Roach's renowned Wild Card gym in Los Angeles is hardly Beverley Hills. Situated in seedy north Hollywood, it is a fistic emporium more redolent of the sweat science than the sweet science. Roach is a trainer much in the inspirational mould of Muhammad Ali's guru Angelo Dundee and the late Eddie Futch, who was his mentor. If anyone can teach Bolton's young boxer pup new tricks, he's the man.

Khan will spend six weeks re-learning the art of self-defence alongside Filipino Manny Pacquiao, a four-weight world champion and Roach protege who is preparing for his "super-fight" with Oscar De La Hoya on 6 December, the night Khan is due to begin his ring rehab in Birmingham. But the date and venue may have to be changed because of TV schedules, which would also allow Roach to be in his corner.

"The thing with Freddie is that he explains everything," said Khan. "He doesn't just work with the pads, he throws punches back at you. He's already shown me how to roll with the shots by bending my knees more." Roach took time out from a promotional roadshow with Pacquiao to say: "Overall Amir is a good athlete and a boxer with great potential. He had a problem but he'll get over it. He'll be training here with guys like Pacquiao and we've got to bring him to another level. He has to go back to his boxing and stop looking for a knock-out."

And avoid getting hit on the chin, something which Haye confessed he is actually looking forward to when he meets American Monte Barrett at London's O2 Arena on 15 November. "He's not one of those slow, sloppy heavyweights," said Haye. "I know he's going to test my chin, and that's what I want. Some people think I'll fall down and go to sleep but if I can't take a shot from a seasoned heavyweight like Monte Barrett, who'll come in with two guns blazing, I might as well call it a day."

Barrett has twice challenged for world titles and has been beaten by three of the best, Wladimir Klitschko (who floored him five times), Nicolay Valuev and Hasim Rahman. But he has won his last three bouts in under two rounds apiece and has just blasted out a genuine US heavyweight hope, Tye Fields, in a round. "I beat up prospects for a living," he warned Haye.

Barrett is one of those ghetto-reared boxers always equipped with a quip. His best line came when he said that at 37 he is 10 years older than Haye. "That's the same difference in age as me and my girlfriend. But the difference between her and David is that she likes it when I spank her ass."

Tomorrow it will be Ricky Hatton's turn to unveil a new trainer in Floyd Mayweather Snr, father of his Las Vegas nemesis, hired for the Hitman's 22 November fight with Paulie Malignaggi. Mayweather Snr uses more expletives per sentence than Joe Kinnear, and Frank Warren, who has just pocketed £115,000 in libel damages from the publishers of Hatton's biography, remarks: "I don't know what he can teach Ricky at this stage of his career except how to swear better."