FALLOUT FROM NEW YORK: SHOULD AMIR KHAN-TINUE?
Updated: Oct 15, 2020
In the seventy-two hours since Terence Crawford’s controversial stoppage of Amir Khan, little has focused on the nature of the low blow, and much more on Khan’s reaction. There have been voices from inside the boxing world suggesting he quit, measured against others who suggest it was harsh to tarnish his legacy with that accusation, especially given the brutal nature of several of his previous knockout defeats, as well as the calibre of world-class fighters he has dared to share the ring with.
There was the uncomfortable post-fight press conference, where Khan visibly bridled at Crawford’s direct, “You didn’t quit? Tell the truth,” accusation, there have been calls in popular newspaper columns from trusted media friends for him to retire, and there has also been theories postulated that Khan’s trainer, Virgil Hunter, was hoping to achieve an unlikely victory through disqualification.
Either way we may never know the true motivations for how Saturday night unfolded. Only Amir will know in the deepest recesses of his soul whether he was indeed confused as to how much recovery time he had, or whether he decided to take a fortuitous opportunity to avoid a likely defeat. He alone is the one who will have to live with the personal consequences of that truth.
However, quitting or not, career-wise it may be one of the sagest things Amir Khan has ever done. Down in round one and down on all judges’ scorecards, at the time of the stoppage, he had landed only 44 punches (31 power) with 24.2% accuracy. Crawford, in contrast, has landed 88 (58 power) with a punch accuracy of 41.7%.
“The fight was 100% turning,” Amir has since said. “I could see [Crawford] slowing down. That fifth round was one of his worst. It’s a strategy, how can you hit someone that low? He knows. He’s a professional fighter.”
Whether the blow was intentional or not, this is a shockingly duplicitous re-imagining of the fight. For those watching, rounds two and three had been competitive – even round one, minus the knockdown – but from the close of round three onwards, Crawford was surging into the ascendancy and only one outcome seemed likely: a Crawford mid-to-late-stoppage-victory.
However, by abandoning the fight before the final judgement, Amir has allowed himself the opportunity to fight again, with his reputation only marginally damaged. Fan and commentator agitation relating to his suggested-quitting will subside, and the ambiguity surrounding the effects and illegality of Crawford’s final punch will diminish this otherwise one-sided nature of the loss, allowing him to market another fight at a high level, should he choose to.
Having made a reported four million dollars on Saturday night, he will also retain the draw to command another multi-million-dollar purse next time around. Yet the question remains where will this next time be? He needs a credible dance partner and he needs a win.
A commanding win will preserve his public relation assessment that he lost via low blow and was edging back into the fight. A loss and his fight will likely be reported in retrospect as an obvious step too far that he wisely/unforgivably choose to ‘flight from’ rather than ‘fight through’. Demand has certainly waned for a fight against Kell Brook, which would have been a pay-per-view stadium filler back in 2015/2016, but British interest remains sufficient to make this fight financially viable. It is also a fight he can win and win far more comfortably than he would have been able to previously.
Brook has not been the same fighter since the successive eye injuries he sustained against Gennady Golovkin (2016) and Errol Spence Jr (2017). Once, one of the best pound-for-pound Welterweights in the world, he has since split from long-term trainer, Dominic Ingle and last fought twice in 2018, against Siarhel Rabchanka and Michael Zerafa. He also continues to talk up the Khan fight and seemingly limps to the opportunity for one final gilded pay day.
It is this writer’s view that both men should take this fight. Khan should win and afterwards they should both retire. (As a caveat, in an ideal world, and as a Brook fan, also, I would not like to see Kell retire on this loss, even though health-wise, he should, I would like to see him exit with a victory and so would welcome him on the heavily-subscribed undercard of an Anthony Joshua event: a fitting, winning salute for his talents.)
Amir has been an-often-under-celebrated champion, who’s record deserves far more respect than many British fight fans give it. He’s always entertained and, whilst his shot selection, footwork and ring generalship does seem to be in decline, he deserves one final opportunity to entertain us with that high risk, dazzling-handspeed-approach once more.