Boxing: Khan takes quick step towards greatness
Rapid-fire victory over Dmitriy Salita can only enhance the credentials of Britain's WBA world light-welterweight champion in the US
Amir Khan's cornerman had not even backed down the steps before he put a cold end to Dmitriy Salita's ambitions inside 10 seconds on Saturday night in Newcastle.
Salita, the orthodox Jew with the unorthodox No 1 ranking from the World Boxing Association, regained his feet from the first knockdown, was dropped twice more and, after only 76 seconds, was finally rescued from a massacre made necessary by the avarice of a sanctioning body.
Khan was perfect in his annihilation, barely taking a breath and certainly not taking a single punch from the virgin fists of the 10-stone sacrifice from Brooklyn in New York. It was a savage reminder that boxing can be a nasty old business on both sides of the ropes, and when the many men in suits, including what looked like a rabbi, surrounded the defeated Salita it was hard not to think of all the airline tickets.
It was the step in the direction of greatness that Khan deserves and he looked mightily impressive taking care of business, even if Salita's improbable and dangerous position at the top of the WBA's rankings was comical. It was a clinical performance worthy of high praise, but the talk of Salita being a mandatory challenger and somehow deserving of the fight should be shelved for ever.
"I'm not even at my peak yet," said Khan. "This has sent a warning to the American boxing business and the fighters. I will fight there, but I want to fight in England again."
There had been some mixed and confusing messages from Khan and his promoter Frank Warren in the last days before the first bell. Khan appeared to suggest that he would only fight in America in the future and claimed that a degree of racism was stopping him from being a bigger name. Warren, who was understandably furious, sought out people to blame for the story.
"This has nothing to do with race, religion or colour – this is sport and Amir is loved. He's been put under pressure since he was a kid of 17 on some controversial subjects, and I just wish that people would concentrate on what he does best," fumed Warren.
Thankfully, it all ended in smiles and it has to be said that after 22 fights it is likely that the reception on Saturday night was the best that Khan has ever received from a totally mixed audience, who had entered into a carnival atmosphere long before Khan sent his fists flying. At the fight's brief conclusion nobody left and Khan looked like he was close to tears as they chanted his name and remained at the scene of the mayhem long after Khan had finally departed for the changing room to be reunited with his beloved phone, which had been confiscated 10 days before the fight.
"That was a great night, the crowd loved it," insisted Warren. "All fighters want to box in New York or Las Vegas, but Amir still has some things to do here. He's never fought at a football stadium in front of 40,000 or more people. We will all sit down and see where we are going."
There is no doubt that Khan could fill the Reebok in his hometown just before the World Cup, but the timing of future fights is crucial because of the presence and increasing influence of the boxer's trainer Freddie Roach and his Wildcard gym in Hollywood. It was Roach who put a broken Khan back together 12 months ago after the boxer was stopped inside one minute by Breidis Prescott, and it is Roach who receives all the praise in victory. However, Roach's main source of income is Manny Pacquiao and it looks like the boxing genius from the Philippines will be fighting Floyd Mayweather in either March or May next year, in a fight that could see both boxers make $50 million. Khan, Roach confirmed, will be Pacquiao's main sparring partner for the fight and could in theory fight a month later in America, but nothing is certain yet.
Khan was Saturday's co-promoter alongside Warren, and the boxer is keen for the pair to work together if and when a fight takes place in America. However, Khan's status and profile has led to inquiries for his services from promotional beasts Bob Arum and Oscar de La Hoya's Golden Boy and it will be crowded and confusing when Khan fights in America.
Warren is a big boy and is perfectly capable of putting on a big show in Las Vegas, Atlantic City or New York having done so in the past with Joe Calzaghe and Naseem Hamed. However, a named opponent will be critical to the fight's financial success and both Arum and De La Hoya have the promotional clout to deliver a name that will satisfy the bosses at HBO, who will hopefully stump up the necessary cash: boxing is a simple business in many ways.
There is a long long list for Khan including Juan Manuel Marquez, Jose Castillo, Paulie Malignaggi, Juan Diaz and even Marcos Rene Maidana. There is also the presence of Dagenham's Kevin Mitchell, who rightly stole some of Khan's limelight on Saturday by giving Prescott a severe boxing lesson over 12 fantastic rounds. The fight was a test for unbeaten Mitchell, who has been screaming for a Khan fight since 2004, and has now finally put himself in the frame with a performance of class.
"Kevin is a friend of mine, but sometimes friends have to fight – that is just the way it happens," said Khan. This is a fight that only Warren can make happen and it would leave the winner a huge star in Britain. Khan, however, clearly has ambitions of a global nature, as does Roach.
"This is just the start for Amir," insisted Roach in his distinctive growling whisper. "He can go to 147 [welterweight] and he's big enough to go all the way to 160 [middleweight] and become a multi-title winner. He can do it."
By midnight everybody involved had forgotten Salita's minor role on a night of glory and it is unlikely that the little idol from Bolton will ever have such an easy night again, and that suits him perfectly.
Seconds away: Countdown to victory
Khan hits Salita with an explosive left-right combo and connects with a clean right hand which floors the New Yorker in the middle of the ring.
Salita stands up from the blow but his eyes are glazed over and legs are wobbling, he gets an eight count from the referee.
Khan strikes Salita swiftly with forceful punches, the startled Salita cannot respond and holds on desperately to Khan, the referee steps in to break up the fighters.
Khan catches Salita on the chin with a rapid left hook to back him into the corner, where Khan unleashes a flurry of blows to put the dazed Salita down to his knees, the referee again steps in, the crowd think he will stop the fight. Salita responds to the referee's eight count for a second time.
Khan delivers a combination of quick, powerful and accurate shots to the head and body with no answer from Salita to put him against the ropes
Khan finishes Salita with a devastating left jab to the chin. The referee ends the fight with Salita knocked down for a third time.
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