Amir Khan is still unbeaten and still moving slowly closer to an inevitable world title fight after a memorable night on Saturday here in Birmingham. Khan was dropped to the canvas in round two for the fourth time in 38 months, hurt to the body in round four but in round five his fists finally persuaded the referee to save Michael Gomez from any more punishment.
Khan retained his Commonwealth lightweight belt but the Gomez fight was never really about the bauble on offer. Gomez took a terrible beating throughout and was perhaps just one or two punches away from being rescued in round one after a chilling two-punch combination lifted him off his feet before dumping him on the canvas. It was often hard to watch up close but the crowd of 10,000 had no trouble urging Khan to land at will with punches that slowly distorted Gomez's face. However, when Gomez did connect he hurt Khan and that is something that the young boxer will need to consider before moving up a grade or two.
Khan praised Gomez's heart and desire and Gomez glumly admitted that Khan was simply too good. Gomez did also insist that four or five years ago he would have won the fight.
Khan is now a free agent and will go on an international tour of potential future promoters and he is also considering hiring an American trainer for his next fight. Dean Powell was in Khan's corner on Saturday night having replaced Oliver Harrison eight weeks ago but Powell could face the axe. Khan's promoter, Frank Warren, announced that the young boxer will fight again on 6 September but that date could alter if Khan finds a lucrative replacement deal for both a promoter and a TV company to screen his fights.
Warren remains favourite to retain control over Khan's career and his assessment and future plans for the boxer make perfect sense in a business infamous for its daft behaviour. There are, however, other members of the boxing fraternity who are desperate to whisper sweet promises of increased wealth and fame into Khan's ear. "I can make the world title fight tomorrow but it is not the right thing to do," said Warren. "He needs a couple more fights and there is absolutely no rush. He's 21, he's still a baby in boxing terms and he needs more experience."
The problem for Warren is considerable because between Khan and a real world title fight are about 10 quality fighters including Nate Campbell, Juan Guzman, Joel Casamayor, David Diaz, Julio Diaz, Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis. Khan is unbeaten in 18 but he is a long way short of stepping into the middle of a ring with anybody from the list of leading lightweights. During the next few weeks Khan needs to sensibly assess all of the sweet-talking and calmly make a decision. Gomez summed up Khan's predicament perfectly in his changing room on Saturday night. He said: "Khan is world class but he also has world-class vulnerabilities."
There will be, says Warren, an official announcement about the fighter's future which will presumably include a potential switch of trainer and a new TV company in the next few weeks. In an odd way the knockdown in round two only adds to Warren's statement about Khan's need to not rush into a world title fight that he would lose.