Amir Khan (27-3, 19 KO) is set for his first bout in his native United Kingdom since he scored a technical decision over Paul McCloskey in April 2011.
Former IBF lightweight champion Julio Diaz (40-7, 29 KO) will supply the opposition for King Khan. The man from Bolton has seen his meteoric rise thrown off course a bit since Dec. 2011.
Khan endured consecutive losses to Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia, but now, with a bounce-back win over Carlos Molina in December under his belt, Khan seems ready to take the next step.
Diaz is not interested in the feel-good story, though.
He has seen his own in-ring hardships, and he wants badly to upset Khan in front of the fans at Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, Yorkshire. Someone will leave the arena upset and questioning the next step in his career.
Who will it be?
The fight is taking place at a catchweight of 143 pounds (between light welterweight and welterweight) to allow the fighters to meet halfway. Because both men are almost the same height, it shouldn't be a major factor, but it is certainly worth noting.
American fans will have to wait to avoid spoilers on Twitter and other social media. The fight will take place early in the afternoon for those stateside.
But the replay will be broadcast in the states that evening after the Zab Judah-Danny Garcia championship bout on Showtime.
Here are all the particulars on coverage:
Where: Motorpoint Arena, Sheffield, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
When: Saturday. April 27, 2 p.m ET
TV: Box Nation in UK, Showtime will air replay after Zab Judah vs. Danny Garcia bout.
Live Stream: The stream is available via Box Nation in selected regions of the world.
Highlights of the Hype
Diaz Says Khan Is a Scared Fighter, Among Other Things
The video below is an interview Diaz conducted with ESNEWS on YouTube before the fight was announced. Diaz expressed an interest in coming down from welterweight to take on Khan.
He also called him "a scared fighter" who panics. He wanted the catchweight that the two camps agreed to and a chance to make his mark. Take a look at the conversation from Feb 2013.
In another interview with Leighton Ginn of My Desert, Diaz says, "Beating him, I’ll get enormous credit, and I’ll be back on top of the world. But I see him as not that big of a deal to be honest with you. That’s why I took the fight. Now we have to prove it."
There is a good measure of envy at work here. We’ll see if Diaz can channel that energy into a positive that leads to victory.
Khan Keeps It Respectful
Khan is not the trash-talking type. He lauded Diaz’s courage for coming to England to fight him and acknowledge how tough an opponent he would be (per BBC):
I am not thinking any further than this fight yet. I just want to get through this one and then we will know exactly where we are.
I need to thank Julio Diaz for coming all the way from America. No-one likes to come to me and fight in my home country, so it is great Julio Diaz has shown bottle and come over.
It is clear that Khan is not interested in getting into a back-and-forth confrontation. This is all business for him. Despite what he says about not looking ahead, Diaz is simply a stop on his road to redemption.
That doesn't mean he'll take him lightly, but as he plans on moving to welterweight full time, he has bigger fish he plans to fry.
The Book on Khan
Road to Redemption
As part of Khan's plan to rise to the top of the sport, he is eyeing three major fights this year. Saturday's clash with Diaz is the first.
Khan told the BBC he's looking forward to the homecoming in the United Kingdom, but he acknowledges that this may be his last fight in his home country. Most of the mega fights he has set his sights on would have to take place in the United States.
Because of that, he really wants to put on a show Saturday night. Beyond the pressures of performing for possibly the last time for his hometown fans, a third loss in four fights would deal his career a significant blow.
This is a must-win for Khan in more ways than one.
In the Ring
As far as offense goes, there are few fighters in the sport who possess the tools Khan has. He has electric hand speed and plus power.
The issue with Khan has always been his chin and his reluctance to recognize that his heart is far better than his beard.
I’ve watched Khan get hurt by a punch on two occasions, but he has had too much pride to hold on to recuperate.
It happened against Marcos Rene Maidana in Dec. 2010 in a fight he ultimately won. It also happened in his upset loss to Garcia.
Check out both of those sequences:
Khan is a better fighter than those men, but in both fights, his compound Achilles' Heel reared its ugly head.
Has new trainer Virgil Hunter instilled the appropriate restraint and caution in him?
Khan's last fight against Molina was the first under Hunter's tutelage. It appeared as though he was reinventing himself as a smarter fighter.
He thoroughly out-boxed Molina for 10 rounds before Molina's corner stopped the bout. Out of respect for his opponent's power—and his own suspect chin—he stayed on the outside, content to take what was there for him.
Here are the highlights:
Khan is physically superior to Diaz in every way. If he uses his boxing skill and speed advantage, he can make this a very boring fight.
If he gets careless, he could have another bad night.
The Book on Diaz
Looking for Another Run
Diaz may not crave the limelight, but he certainly wants respect. He seems to want fans to know that he still has something left in the tank.
The 33-year-old has failed in his biggest fights since he was stopped by Juan Diaz in Oct. 2007.
He quit on the stool in that fight and lost his IBF lightweight title, and it is quite possible something broke inside him as a fighter that night. Check out how that fight ended:
His record is just 6-3-1 since.
In his last fight, he fought the athletic and talented Shawn Porter to a draw, but Khan is a different animal. Diaz knows that his career will be revitalized if he wins, but that will be a tall task.
In the Ring
Diaz’s speed is about two notches beneath Khan’s. He does employ decent head movement, but his foot movement is rudimentary.
His lack of hand speed is perhaps the biggest issue in the matchup. Khan could fire a combination before one of Diaz’s power shots finds its mark.
The situation may seem bleak for Diaz, but we must remember that Garcia faced all of these same impediments. He stayed focused, and he used a blind counter left hand to rock Khan’s world.
It changed the course of the fight and Khan's career. If Khan reverts back to his old ways, Diaz will have the same opportunity.
The speed difference is just too great in this fight. I believe Khan has learned his lesson about fighting defensively. If he gets tagged, he will hold until he can clear the cobwebs.
But I don't see this fight even coming to that. Khan will use his speed to make this an easy decision win.
He may not lose a round in this fight.
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