Boxing: Khan loses the limelight as bully boys steal the show
Briton is upset that his world title fight is set to be eclipsed by an unlicensed brawl between Haye and Chisora – and a feud which has brought the fight game close to anarchy
Sunday 08 July 2012
Amir Khan has good reason to be mightily miffed that his attempt to regain his stature as a world boxing champion in Las Vegas next weekend is being eclipsed by a pirate punch-up back home between two scuffling bruisers who, if their affray in Munich five months ago had occurred in the street rather than the Olympiahalle, might have earned themselves a stretch in a German jail.
On the same night as Khan fights, Dereck Chisora and David Haye, neither currently licensed by the British Boxing Board of Control, to whom they have cocked the proverbial snook, will pocket a combined purse of around £5 million at West Ham's Upton Park to engage in contentious heavyweight combat under the surrogate auspices of the Luxembourg Boxing Commission. Funny old game.
But if Khan clearly isn't amused that his own engagement with the unbeaten WBC light-welterweight champion, Danny Garcia, is being marginalised, he stops short of saying the Hammers horror show should be exorcised – his view tempered, no doubt, by the fact that Haye is his best pal in boxing.
"Obviously I'm not happy with the situation," says Khan. "As professional boxers they are entitled to earn a living but the world knows that this one between me and Garcia is a bigger and better fight in real terms, a genuine world title fight. It's certainly more classy.
"I can understand the public interest in the other fight, though it is disappointing. I suppose it's better to have someone like Chisora fighting inside the ring rather than on the street. He needs shutting up and throwing out. I think David will do just that. He'll walk straight through Chisora and win easily.
"I certainly don't condone what either of them did. There is no way I would ever get involved with anything like that. I am the type of guy who walks away from trouble."
The contrast between the fight at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and the one a few hundred yards from London's Olympic Stadium could not be more stark. In Vegas, Khan faces a Golden Boy stablemate who is undefeated in 23 contests. The WBA title is also on the line after it was forfeited by Garcia's fellow Philadelphian Lamont Peterson, who failed a drugs test before a scheduled return having debatably beaten Khan on a split decision last December.
At West Ham, Chisora and Haye also brawl over the championship distance of 12 rounds, though the only title at stake is a token label affixed by the compliant WBO and WBA for the "International Heavyweight Championship". It is a confrontation that has pitched the sport close to anarchy, undermining the Board of Control, but one that is likely to pull in a capacity 38,000 crowd paying up to £1,000 ringside.
"What worries me," says Khan, "is that all this comes at a bad time for boxing with an increasing number of dodgy decisions, great fights the public want to see not happening and now a drugs situation that is getting serious. Boxing's reputation for drugs is getting as bad as athletics and cycling."
Ironically our chat with Khan at his Los Angeles apartment had been delayed when the drugs testers called, demanding his second test leading up to the fight. There will be another before it. "I don't mind that," Khan says. "There should be more random testing. Unfortunately there are now a lot of cheats in boxing with so many fighters getting caught out. People always used to point the finger at me because of me being in the Manny Pacquiao camp after what Floyd Mayweather alleged about him, but this wasn't true.
"I have been a clean fighter from day one. I have never taken drugs and never will. When I won my world title and then started moving up a weight, people said, 'Oh, he must be on something'. I believe every boxer should be randomly tested because after what happened with Peterson, I will never trust anyone I fight. You should never need help from anything other than your natural talent."
Garcia, of Puerto Rican descent, is 24, a year younger than Khan. "He's tough, young and fast," Khan acknowledges. "Any undefeated fighter is dangerous and he'll be full of confidence. It'll be a great fight, two young guys coming at each other. I hope it's the sort of fight that will bring excitement back to the sport."
My worry is that Khan's uncharacteristically ill-disciplined performance against Peterson suggested he may have been sidetracked by commercial and other commitments in his life, and that we may have seen the best of him.
I hope I am wrong, because the battered sport needs role models and he has been a standard-bearer for multicultural Britain since winning the Olympic silver medal in Athens at the age of 17. "I want to be seen as a positive face, someone kids can look up to," he says.
The same can hardly be said for the score-settling merchants of menace who will be first up in Saturday night's transatlantic TV double- header. This could be a brutally unremitting battle or a bore war. Either way, it won't be pretty.
The clue may be in the Klitschkos. I suspect we may see a repeat of Haye's pussyfooting and back-pedalling that he used against Wladimir, whereas at least Chisora had a go, if fruitlessly, against Vitali, giving the WBC champion his most arduous outing since Lennox Lewis.
Chisora may be mad, bad and dangerous to know but he has a good chin and a bigger heart than Haye, though a less hurtful punch. "I'm going to be all over him like a rash," he warns.
Chisora will chase and chivvy, with Haye's stamina suspect should it go to the later rounds. But Haye, who is 3-1 on with the bookies, is technically better equipped.
When push comes to shove – and there will be plenty of that – Haye should win on points. But exactly what point will be made when dusk descends on Upton Park is open to question.
Chisora v Haye is live on BoxNation on Saturday at 10pm (Sky channel 437/Virgin 546). Join at boxnation.com. Garcia v Khan is live on Sky Sports 1 (Sunday, 2am)
Haye v Chisora – the ring rebels
31, aka "The Hayemaker". Born in Bermondsey, London; 27 fights, 25 wins, 23 by knockout
Former WBA heavyweight champion and undisputed world cruiserweight champion. Retired after one-sided defeat by Wladimir Klitschko last year so is now unlicensed by British Boxing Board of Control. Appeared to instigate Munich mayhem, flooring Chisora while holding a bottle.
28, aka "Del Boy". Born in Zimbabwe; 18 fights, 15 wins, 9 by knockout
Former British heavyweight champion. Slapped Vitali Klitschko and spat water at Wladimir in Munich, after which his licence was suspended indefinitely. Previously banned after biting an opponent "because I was bored".
60. Born in Islington, London
Britain's leading promoter and manager of Chisora. Major shareholder in TV channel BoxNation, officially the fight promoters. Found legal loophole for the bout to go ahead under foreign licensing authority: "I can look anybody in the eye as far as this fight is concerned."
64. Born in London
Chairman of the Professional Boxing Promoters' Association and UK representative of Fédération de Luxembourgeoise de Boxe, who sanction the fight. They nominated British referee Mickey Vann, judges John Coyle and Paul Thomas (both UK) and Luc Muller (Luxembourg) and are taking legal action against the BBBC under EU restraint of trade laws over threats to discipline those involved with the promotion.
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