Yesterday was a big day for British boxing and boxing in general. In London's Upton Park soccer stadium, David Haye dominated and stopped Dereck Chisora in a much-anticipated heavyweight bout. Later that evening at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, reigning WBA Light Welterweight champion Amir Khan (26-3, 18 KOs) once again found himself on the wrong end of a major upset, suffering a fourth round TKO against WBC champion Danny Garcia (24-0, 15 KOs) with both belts on the line.
Khan had originally lost his title to Lamont Peterson via split decision late last year, and a May rematch was in the works, but Peterson was stripped of the belt (but not the W on his record) when he tested positive for synthetic testosterone. Undefeated Danny Garcia, who had easily defeated a battle-worn Erik Morales for the vacant WBC 140 lbs belt, stepped in to fight Khan and was considered a massive underdog against the more experienced and skilled 2004 Olympic silver medalist.
The opening two rounds of the fight played out as expected, as Khan put on a boxing clinic against Garcia, landing 56 punches to Garcia's 18 according to CompuBox numbers. His piston-like jab and lightning-fast speed appeared to overwhelm Garcia at times. There was cause for concern in Garcia's corner at the end of the 2nd when a major cut opened above his right eye, possibly due to an accidental headbutt. The fight took a shocking turn of events in the 3rd round when Khan and Garcia exchanged in the center of the ring, and Garcia fired a hard counter left hook under Khan's right ear, sending him to the canvas. Khan was on extremely wobbly legs after he beat the count and looked out on his feet, and he just barely survived the round despite getting clocked by a hard left.
Still clearly buzzed, Garcia peppered Khan with a series of right hands to send the WBA champion to the deck seconds into the fourth round. Incredibly, Khan fought on like a warrior, soon returning fire, managing to connect on several hard uppercuts and counterpunches to get himself back into the fight, but Garcia dropped Khan for a third time with a glancing left to the top of the forehead. Khan beat the count yet again, but referee Kenny Bayless waived the fight off at 2:28 of round 4, much to Khan's displeasure.
Garcia's win is in the running for biggest boxing upset of 2012, and possibly creates a new American star. At the other end of the spectrum, Amir Khan's career has reached a significant crisis point. He's now lost two straight, and the questions of his defensive boxing and ability to take a punch that arose when unheralded Breidis Prescott knocked him out in 54 seconds back in 2008 have since surfaced again. Current IBF Super Middleweight champion and fellow Englishman Carl Froch went as far as to suggest the 25-year-old Khan should retire.
After the jump is Bad Left Hook's Scott Christ with his thoughts on both men after their incredible battle in Las Vegas, last night.
It was really a hell of a fight, and I think both guys deserve credit. Obviously, first and foremost is Danny Garcia, who won again, still didn't seem to be anything spectacular, but showed exactly what he's made of. The guy's not eye-popping. But he is tough, smart, and crafty at a young age. He can bang, and he can take a shot. He didn't panic when Khan's speed owned the early part of the fight. He just kept looking for that opening, and he found it.
But Khan has heart and balls and as Max Kellerman said, he acts like the fighter we want to see. Everyone who praises Arturo Gatti and slams Amir Khan befuddles me -- Khan doesn't have Gatti's chin, but he has a similar warrior spirit. Amir Khan talks a lot, but he also fights hard. His flaws are big and real, and they aren't going to allow him to be the superstar mega-talent he was supposed to be, but forget "supposed to" and focus on what is, I say. Khan's fun to watch every time out, isn't afraid of challenges, and is always welcome on my TV.