Is Amir Khan a Boxing Superstar in Waiting?

Ray MarkarianFeatured ColumnistApril 25, 2013

Can Khan conquer boxing?
Can Khan conquer boxing?Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Amir Khan has some big plans.

The two-time world champion is the most popular active fighter in England but wants his story told in the United States. This Saturday Khan will fight for one of the last times in his home country against Julio Diaz at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, England. 

He then plans to travel west again to make himself an international superstar. 

If Khan beats Diaz on Saturday, he is in line to face the winner of an unofficial four-man junior welterweight tournament created by Golden Boy Promotions at the end of the year. 

The idea presented by Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer as told to Lem Satterfield of Ring Magazine is to have the winner of Saturday’s fight between Danny Garcia and Zab Judah face the winner of the May 18 bout between Lamont Peterson and Lucas Matthysse. Then the eventual winner of Garcia-Judah and Peterson-Matthysse would fight Khan in a November mega-fight.

Schaefer told Ring Magazine, "My plan would be that the winner of Garcia and Judah would fight the winner of Peterson and Matthysse. And then, the winner of that fight would fight Amir Khan.”

When Great Britain’s Ricky Hatton came to Las Vegas to fight Floyd Mayweather in 2007, he had a following that screamed the walls off the MGM Grand.They chanted his name and sang his song. When Khan fought in the United States for the first time against Paulie Malignaggi, he had an army at his back.

As the fights got bigger, the army grew larger.

After his silver medal-winning performance in the 2004 Olympic games at 17 years old, Khan was an instant sensation in the United Kingdom. 

He turned pro, and won over crowds with his infectious personality and entertaining fights.

Golden Boy pushed Khan to stardom early. Amir followed the win against Malignaggi with victories over Marcos Maidana and Zab Judah. But two straight losses to Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia pushed Khan off course. In the eyes of critics, he went from a possible Floyd Mayweather opponent to a possible disaster.

Khan views the losses as speed bumps. At 26, he still has much room for growth. The loss to Peterson was controversial because the referee penalized Khan two points for shoving. And Khan was beating Garcia until he got caught with a left hook in the third round that sent him to the canvas and eventually knocked him out.

Khan never took punishment in those two fights but got caught making mistakes in the pocket one too many times. 

So, last year Khan ended his four-year working relationship with offensive-minded trainer Freddie Roach to join Virgil Hunter. The Bay Area-based Hunter focuses his strategy on defense and works with Andre Ward, the generally recognized No. 2 pound-for-pound fighter in the world. 

The Diaz fight is Khan’s second with Hunter. Last December, Khan overwhelmed Carlos Molina under Hunter's tutelage and showed great improvements in defense and patience. 

Hunter says Khan has star quality that cannot be taught. The trainer is trying to enforce a more analytical approach with an ambitious youngster who is always willing to trade hits, which makes for rousing fights.

In training camp, Hunter is attempting to change Khan’s natural instincts of turning a sparring session into a slugfest one too many times. Sometimes Khan went to war in sparring because of his history with Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym.

Khan said there were always celebrities and random people in attendance during sparring at Wild Card so he had to continue to prove himself not only to the spectators watching ringside with camera phones and live tweets, but also against his opponent of the day.

Now with the Diaz fight in front of him and the potential 140-pound tournament hanging in the balance, Khan must take care of business to return to top form. 

Khan has stated for years that his sights are set to beat Mayweather. If Khan wins the potential tournament he will again be in line to fight him. 

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