Bunce on Boxing: Khan can emerge from the shadows or go into freefall

'I have been in some real wars but I still feel fresh and the best is to come'

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The Independent Online

It is possible that Amir Khan is now just one fight and one new trainer away from the twilight of a career that has been, even by the modern standards of boxing's excessive highs and instant lows, memorable for a lot of years.

Khan fights in Los Angeles on Saturday night and, by my calculation, he will have his fifth different cornerman/trainer working with him, which at 26, having won two world titles and lost three times in 29 fights, is a packed career. However, it is also a career that is in the shadows right now.

Khan fights a guy called Carlos Molina, who is unbeaten, but operates in a lower weight division and is a relatively light puncher. Khan, you see, has lost his last two fights and a third successive defeat, especially a painful one, would send his career into freefall.

There is, it being modern boxing and Khan being under the considerable guidance of Golden Boy Promotions, a considerable positive for the Bolton boy; a win can easily be manipulated and a world title fight of some description is the inevitable bounty. Khan deserves his chance, having served an often savage apprenticeship with enough ugly defeats to disqualify him from ever being accused of avoiding opponents.

"I have been in some real wars but I still feel fresh and I know that the best is yet to come," insisted Khan, who left Freddie Roach a few months ago and is now trained by Virgil Hunter. "I'm learning and I'm putting right some mistakes that I have been making." One of the first things that Khan has done is apologise to Roach for suggesting in an interview that the veteran coach's Parkinson's was a factor in his decision to shift camps. Khan might occasionally say silly things but he is a tremendous human, whose private philanthropy would shame most athletes.

Hunter is a strict disciplinarian and the man behind Andre Ward, who is often not very pleasant to watch but is arguably the best fighter in the world right now. Hunter has, so we are told, spent a lot of time reminding Khan about the basics of boxing; new trainers have an annoying tendency to over-sell their recent position by bragging about what they bring to the party and being openly critical of just how "little" their new fighter knows. They all do it – Angelo Dundee and Manny Steward were the kings of both subtle and brutal dismissals of their new fighters' skills. Hunter has fallen into the trap and Khan has let him talk and that has added a little tension to the routine fight.

Khan has to win and then, at some point before May next year, he will be thrown in with Danny Garcia in a rematch that could come quite close to being a super fight. Garcia stopped Khan in the summer in a world title fight, but the build-up, with Garcia's foul-mouthed father, Angel, ranting and raving, was priceless. Angel is still talking, still covering up with verbal trash the gaping flaws in the space between his assessment of his son's talent and his son's realistic place in the pantheon. It is a rematch with edge and Hunter and Angel will earn their money trading insults.

On Saturday, Khan just has to think a little bit before letting his heart take over. It would be a great shame if he loses, but not the end; he would drop or be dropped by Hunter and then seek out a new trainer. Business as usual in the ever-changing Khan business.