James Lawton: Let's reflect on Amir's honest intentions rather than Haye's fresh insults

Khan must realise the folly of fighting in a way best suited to his opponent

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The Independent Online

Last time it was The Man in the Hat who was said to have helped derail Amir Khan's journey towards a super-fight with Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao. This time there was no doubt about how reality was imposed. Sadly but maybe inevitably, it was by nothing more ornate than a disabling left hook thrown by the ill-considered Danny Garcia.

It gave the 24-year-old of Puerto Rican blood and Philadelphia grooming – than which there is not much a whole lot harder in all of boxing – Khan's WBA title to go along with his own WBC belt.

More significantly, it also ended the myth generated by the kind of hype that led, most recently, Ricky Hatton to his dismantling by Mayweather and Pacquiao. That such a fate awaited Khan sooner or later had been a suspicion hard to put aside ever since Breidis Prescott made free with his chin four years ago and, yesterday morning, the fear was made real from the moment Garcia landed his first devastating hook.

It was by no means a classically thrown punch but it landed with a force that brought a not unfamiliar image of Khan's scrambled senses.

If there was any relief at all from the impending consequences it was that Khan was at the mercy of the heavy but scarcely clinical punching of Garcia rather than the surgical Mayweather or the explosive Pacquiao. This, though, was the smallest consolation for anyone who had admired Khan's search for improvement which started so impressively in the boxing arena of the Athens Olympics eight years ago.

There, Khan was denied gold only by the skilful Cuban veteran Mario Kindelan and it is no strain on the memory to recall the passionate manner in which the 17-year-old vowed to make himself a world-class professional.

It is hard to imagine a greater discouragement to such an ambition than the firestorm produced by Prescott but Khan was not only as good as his word he also set a brilliant example to any British fighter with half an idea that he had a chance to go all the way to a significant place in the highest rankings. He put himself in the hands of the hugely respected American trainer Freddie Roach; he went to the heartland of the trade and he did the necessary work.

What he couldn't do, even as he talked up his chances to the extent of anticipating fights with Mayweather or Pacquiao, was overcome the handicap which reared up again so disastrously at the weekend. He couldn't be taught how to fight hurt but while still in charge of superior qualities of speed and skill. For two rounds against Garcia, Khan was plainly superior but even under pressure his opponent retained the threat of delivering serious damage. There was a weight in Garcia's punching that had been somewhat discounted, maybe by the erosion of his most famous victim, the once formidable Mexican Erik Morales.

When Garcia landed his most telling blow, the outcome quickly became merely a matter for the judgement of the excellent referee Kenny Bayless. This was exercised with good timing in the fourth round, a verdict which even in his bitter disappointment Khan had the grace not to challenge in more than a nominal way. No doubt Khan, at the age of 25, will seek to rescue something from the debris and in Roach he has an adviser who has never been inclined to soften the realities of his business. What Khan can do is not so easy to say beyond a new resolve to operate within his own strengths and the huge imperative to understand the folly of fighting in a way best suited to his opponent.

It is here that we have seen the breakdown of the career of a fighter who has always been filled with the desire to make the best of all his assets. Among these, courage remains high on the list, which is just as well when you consider the scale of the challenge that now awaits him if he ignores the advice that it might be time to walk away.

Meanwhile, David Haye creates a new drama over his career intentions following his fifth-round knock-out of Dereck Chisora, who was suffering his fourth defeat in his last five fights, the one win coming in a marginal, six-round affair against a former Lithuanian kick-boxer who brought in, as sheepishly as you like, a record of 21 wins, 51 defeats and three draws. For the abject detail, Chisora won on points.

In a well-ordered boxing society, it is Chisora who would be considering the imminence of retirement. Haye, we shouldn't forget, was an accomplished world cruiserweight champion, but the idea he might be a loss to even the most impoverished heavyweight division remains utterly risible.

Against his one significant heavyweight opponent, Wladimir Klitschko, he fought, after creating a mountain of trash talk, with a miserable lack of commitment before displaying an injured toe. Earlier, he was praised for a defensive performance against the ultimately passive Nikolai Valuev, beat the hapless Audley Harrison and disposed of the remnants of fighters previously known as John Ruiz and Monte Barrett.

This is not a heavyweight career but a mockery of genuine competitive fighting – and another reason to reflect more on the defeat of Khan and his honest intentions than any fresh insult to the name of his trade.