by Eliot Stott
As many British fighters who have tried and failed will tell you, going stateside to either fight for or defend a world title is no easy task.
Whether it be the jetlag, an away crowd or simply being on a bigger stage – going to the US has been particularly difficult for many of Britain’s best over the years.
That's not to say there haven't been many special performances, with British fighters such as Carl Froch, Ricky Hatton & Tyson Fury all travelling abroad for world honours.
Despite the spectacular performances from the aforementioned, Amir Khan’s away record against other world-class operators at such a young age is something to be envious of.
Making his US world honours debut at the age of 23 against 2 weight world champion Paulie Malignaggi compared to Froch (31) & Hatton (27), Khan put in a dominant performance against Malignaggi in the American’s home state of New York.
As well as a successful US debut, Khan has gone onto defeat former world champions Zab Judah, Luis Collazo & Chris Algeri all in convincing fashion. Now aged 33 and 39 fights into his pro-career a final fight in the states later this year is a possibility for the former Olympian.
Although Khan has had success in the US that many British fighters could only dream of, a few career lows have also come stateside.
A brutal knockout at the hands of pound-for-pound star Canelo Alvarez stands out amongst Khan’s defeats, especially considering the huge difference in size on fight night with Canelo clearly coming in a lot heavier than the 155lbs catchweight that both fighters made the day before.
An earlier stoppage and a hugely controversial points loss to Danny Garcia & Lamont Peterson respectively forced Khan to take backwards steps in his career which included returning to the UK as well as spells outside of the ring.
However, despite low points, there are still many highlights of Khan’s US exploits with the Brit’s fight against the fierce Marcos Maidana in 2010 standing out.
Almost 10 years ago, days after his 24th birthday, Khan was making his Vegas debut whilst defending his WBA World Super Lightweight Title against Maidana who’s record at the time was 29-1, scoring knockouts in three out of his last four fights.
Classically, Maidana started the fight as the aggressor catching Khan a couple of times within the first minute of the opening round. Despite Maidana’s pressure, Khan recomposed himself quickly, putting punches of his own together.
Looking as if it was going to dwindle to the bell, Khan struck with an awesome body shot with 20 seconds left, badly hurting the Argentinian who struggled to make the Referee’s count.
Clearly hurt, Maidana took a barrage of punches before the bell rang and stumbled back into his corner with what looked like might be an early nights work for Khan.
Still looking shaken at the beginning of round two, it began to look like Maidana wasn’t going to be able to live with Khan’s speed at all as the Brit enjoyed a dominant round.
Moving onto round three and Maidana enjoyed his best round yet, connecting on a regular basis and shortening the judges already wide scorecards in the process.
The fourth round started in bizarre fashion as Maidana thought the opening 30 seconds was an appropriate time to adjust his boxing shorts. An ‘amateurish mistake’ as described on commentary; Khan used Maidana’s blunder as an opportunity to dominate the opening period of the round.
Apart from the odd lapse in concentration, Khan added another round to his collection as Maidana enjoyed limited success after an enjoyable third round.
Khan started the fifth well and began to convince many watching that this was both a mature performance and confirming that his chin could hold up to some sort of punishment, over 2 years after the Breidis Prescott defeat. Showing clear frustration at being on the verge of losing another round, Maidana was penalised for use of the elbow, making matters worse for himself.
The halfway point of the fight perhaps saw momentum swing towards Maidana’s way. Despite opening up a cut on Maidana’s forehead Khan’s defence escaped him as he began to get tagged on numerous occasions with a variety of shots from the Argentine connecting.
The seventh-round was an exaggeration of the sixth as Maidana turned into a battering ram, exerting dominance especially when Khan agreed to trade punches. Although not hugely rocked, question marks began to appear in regards to whether Khan was going to be able to take this sort of punishment for many more rounds.
Thankfully for Khan, Maidana slowed up in the eighth round, giving both fighters a breather from a fight which had held a tremendous pace up until then.
In what are named as ‘the championship rounds’, both fighters started the ninth round positively as Khan wanted to extend his lead on the scorecards whilst Maidana would have known that he was playing catch-up.
Using his superior speed as he did in the opening couple of rounds, Khan was able to show the patience that was lacking previously, hitting Maidana at will without taking punishment himself.
Round ten began as did the most entertaining round of the fight. With 1:50 left of the round, Maidana threw a massive overhand right, connecting perfectly and shaking Khan to his soles.
Khan who was clearly badly hurt correctly tried to hold Maidana when he could or use as much distance as possible against a rampant ‘El Chico’ who was hitting Khan as much as he wanted to at this point.
Refusing to take a knee, Khan continued to take a lot of punishment for the rest of the round and all of a sudden looked a completely spent fighter, hobbling back to his corner as the bell rang.
Round 11 started and Khan’s survival mission was in full force. Throwing very few punches to start off with and still badly hurt from the previous round, Khan still managed to have some success in the round whilst Maidana clearly smelt blood as we reached the final round.
Aware that anything less than a knockout or at least a couple of knockdowns was going to be enough, Maidana was at his fiercest using dirty tactics when he needed to but the tank had clearly been emptied in the rounds prior as Khan did enough to see the final bell and secure victory.
With scorecards of, 113-112 & 114-111 (x2) all in Khan’s favour, few were able to complain about the judges of opinions or the quality of entertainment received from Amir Khan’s Vegas debut.