Kevin Garside: The fact Khan will never be great is the most painful blow

He will fight on. They all do. But the future is a far less certain place now

When a fighter loses it is not only titles and belts he surrenders. That is acceptable pain. The associated anguish and trauma is rooted in the loss of pride, of self-esteem, of identity almost. Amir Khan is a brave boy, and tough. As a 17-year-old kid he beat a 35-year-old Kazakhstani hardened by life in post-Soviet extremis to progress his Olympic qualifying dream. Before the bout he remarked on the size of his opponent's arms and the hairs on his back. He crossed the ropes all the same and boxed. The same fighting instincts would take him all the way to Olympic silver in Athens as the youngest member of the British team.

That unlikely Olympic odyssey remains an indelible part of the Khan story. But eight years on it is balanced by another crushing, unexpected defeat. There is no more cruel a seat in sport than that occupied by a beaten fighter. By his side the winner, the man who has taken all you had, and in some cases more, talks about the next big encounter, onwards and upwards, while the vanquished sits denuded, reduced, embarrassed, shamed even by an experience he told people could never happen.

Khan could explain away the Breidis Prescott defeat four years ago as an anomaly, a flash knockout that can happen to any fighter. He wasn't concentrating, too cocky, brought down by hubris. That is not how it looks now. Gorging on machismo and bombast, Khan promised a knockout conclusion in Las Vegas on Saturday night and delivered it in reverse, walking on to a chilling check left hook. Danny Garcia is a decent fighter emboldened by victory over a diminished Erik Morales and the warrior spirit engendered by his father and coach, Angel. His Puerto Rican heritage does not permit backward steps in a ring.

Khan danced all around him in full display mode, unleashing rapid combinations. Garcia gets hit for a living. He was cut and losing but he wasn't hurt and he knew what he was doing. Khan's entire world view is premised on the idea of innate brilliance bestowed upon him as a gift from a higher authority. He is not unique in this, of course. Nevertheless the sense of divine empowerment is re-inforced by all around him, who believe just as hard as he does in the truth of it all. And why not? He has been an incredibly high achiever, and rewarded with unfeasible wealth and fame.

The self-referential argument in boxing is eternally vulnerable to a big punch coming the other way. Fighters don't tend to concern themselves with the counter position; what if the bloke in the other corner feels just as invincible? Khan is wrestling with the truth of that. The bubble of raving self-regard is pricked. The justifications pour forth as he seeks desperately to re-inflate the greatness model. That is never going to happen. Khan is a beaten fighter brought face to face with his own mortality. And it hurts. He will fight on. They all do. But the future is a far less certain place this morning.

David Haye is in the other chair, the one occupied by the winner. In the rush of victory, with the validation of 30,000 punters ringing in his ears, Haye luxuriated in his return to power. Vitali Klitschko replaced Dereck Chisora in the Punch and Judy show. Haye's outing of Chisora as a game but limited force fed immediately into the winner's world view. If I were advising Vitali, he boasted, I would be telling him not to fight me. Chisora had no voice in this debate. His legitimacy had been stripped in the ring. He sat staring into space, numbed by a new reality and hopefully a new respect for this game.

The Upton Park tear-up was both a stain on and testament to a discipline that connects us to our primal core. No matter how regrettable the circumstances that led to this gathering, and how risible the deportment of the combatants, none could deny the integrity of the action when the bell sounded.

How football must wish it could claim the same after its grim underbelly was revealed during the ding-dong at Westminster magistrates' court last week. A fundamental and routine disregard for basic, human decency was paraded before the court from first whistle to last.

The brawl in Munich was dim, petty, spiteful and boorish but both fighters retrieved a measure of respect for the commitment and courage with which they went about their business in the ring. The handshake at the end exposed the absurdity of the pantomime that preceded it, as it often does in this toughest of sports. Chisora talked about the punch that caught him unawares, explaining defeat in terms of his own mistakes rather than his opponent's superiority.

Khan made a similar speech as he climbed from the wreckage of his devastating loss. To accept that the victor might be better in absolute rather than conditional terms is too big a step for the beaten man. Ultimately it is not for them to decide. The record book is the final arbiter and, in both cases, the loss comes inscribed with a capital 'L'.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The teaser trailer has provoked more questions than answers
filmBut what is Bond's 'secret' that Moneypenny is talking about?
News
Johnny Depp is perhaps best known for his role as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
peopleBut how did he break it?
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 5
film
Sport
Lewis Hamilton secured his second straight pole of the season
f1Vettel beats Rosberg into third after thunderstorm delays qualifying
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped commission: SThree: Does earning a 6 figu...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

The saffron censorship that governs India: Why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression

The saffron censorship that governs India

Zareer Masani reveals why national pride and religious sentiment trump freedom of expression
Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Prince Charles' 'black spider' letters to be published 'within weeks'

Supreme Court rules Dominic Grieve's ministerial veto was invalid
Distressed Zayn Malik fans are cutting themselves - how did fandom get so dark?

How did fandom get so dark?

Grief over Zayn Malik's exit from One Direction seemed amusing until stories of mass 'cutting' emerged. Experts tell Gillian Orr the distress is real, and the girls need support
The galaxy collisions that shed light on unseen parallel Universe

The cosmic collisions that have shed light on unseen parallel Universe

Dark matter study gives scientists insight into mystery of space
The Swedes are adding a gender-neutral pronoun to their dictionary

Swedes introduce gender-neutral pronoun

Why, asks Simon Usborne, must English still struggle awkwardly with the likes of 's/he' and 'they'?
Disney's mega money-making formula: 'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan

Disney's mega money-making formula

'Human' remakes of cartoon classics are part of a lucrative, long-term creative plan
Lobster has gone mainstream with supermarket bargains for £10 or less - but is it any good?

Lobster has gone mainstream

Anthea Gerrie, raised on meaty specimens from the waters around Maine, reveals how to cook up an affordable feast
Easter 2015: 14 best decorations

14 best Easter decorations

Get into the Easter spirit with our pick of accessories, ornaments and tableware
Paul Scholes column: Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season

Paul Scholes column

Gareth Bale would be a perfect fit at Manchester United and could turn them into serious title contenders next season
Inside the Kansas greenhouses where Monsanto is 'playing God' with the future of the planet

The future of GM

The greenhouses where Monsanto 'plays God' with the future of the planet
Britain's mild winters could be numbered: why global warming is leaving UK chillier

Britain's mild winters could be numbered

Gulf Stream is slowing down faster than ever, scientists say
Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Government gives £250,000 to Independent appeal

Donation brings total raised by Homeless Veterans campaign to at least £1.25m
Oh dear, the most borrowed book at Bank of England library doesn't inspire confidence

The most borrowed book at Bank of England library? Oh dear

The book's fifth edition is used for Edexcel exams
Cowslips vs honeysuckle: The hunt for the UK’s favourite wildflower

Cowslips vs honeysuckle

It's the hunt for UK’s favourite wildflower
Child abuse scandal: Did a botched blackmail attempt by South African intelligence help Cyril Smith escape justice?

Did a botched blackmail attempt help Cyril Smith escape justice?

A fresh twist reveals the Liberal MP was targeted by the notorious South African intelligence agency Boss