Amir Khan stopped trying to win titles, gain fame and make money the easy way a long time ago and his impressive boxing journey continues tonight at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Khan is 25 and when he fights Danny Garcia for the American's WBC light-welterweight belt, it will be his eighth consecutive World Championship fight; it will also be another memorable confrontation against a man Khan could have easily avoided.
Last December, Khan lost his two world titles in a tight fight with Lamont Peterson, but the final bell was merely a pause in the timeline of the night. A man, gloriously dubbed The Man in The Hat, was exposed in a high-profile and often unethical trial by video, sitting at ringside and interfering with the work of a fight supervisor. The Man in The Hat has been cleared of any illegality on the night, I should add.
Khan and his people, mostly expensive lawyers working for Oscar De La Hoya's promotional company Golden Boy, lobbied for an immediate rematch because of The Man in The Hat. It worked, the fight was made but in May Peterson was disgraced by a failed drug test when he neglected to mention the synthetic testosterone pellets inserted in his hip. Peterson has been stripped of the WBA belt and it was returned to Khan, who will be defending it in tonight's fight. The other belt, the IBF version, remains in limbo.
Garcia is 24, unbeaten in 23 fights, and has a father who has done far more to sell this fight than the championship belts the fighters own or their combined ring abilities. Angel Garcia has veered like an out-of-control lunatic at a wedding reception and dominated each of the meetings between the camps with his bigoted and ignorant views. It is lucky that Dereck Chisora never hired Angel's scriptwriter.
"Khan's a bum and I never met a Pakistani that could fight," Angel is fond of repeating. "My son is gonna kick the little f**got's a**e." Rather alarmingly, Khan does seem to have let Angel's insults upset him and will need to control his emotions when the first bell sounds.
Garcia is a fortunate champion, having stepped in to fight ancient Mexican legend Erik Morales for the belt back in March. Morales was himself lucky to get a crack at the vacant title a few months earlier; the WBC, which is based in Mexico City, always favours old legends and cash cows over genuine contenders. The WBC has had a Londoner called Ajose Olusegun, who is based in America, as its leading contender but he is not an attraction and has been overlooked for years.
Last October, Khan watched Garcia, who was calling for a meeting, scrape a tight decision over a veteran called Kendall Holt. Khan said at the time that Garcia was not ready for him, which was correct. However, boxing is a fluid monster and Garcia was given the Morales gift, Peterson failed the test and suddenly the fight was made. It is actually a good fight because of Garcia's confidence, his father's claims and Khan's habit of making dramatic wars out of easy skirmishes.
If Khan reverts to boxing and forgets the pull of his fighting spirit, he will simply know too much for Garcia, who until recently was the chosen winner in many mismatches. Khan has been knocked out, he has been hurt and he has shown that he can find ways to overcome serious problems during a fight, but it will be much easier just to box sensibly from the bell tonight.