Top Takeaways from Amir Khan vs. Luis Collazo
Amir Khan scored a good win on his full debut at welterweight against Luis Collazo, winning on scorecards of 119-104, 119-104, 117-106—the margin of victory boosted by three knockdowns, one in Round 4 and two in Round 10.
The Englishman probably needed a KO win to put himself firmly in the shop window to fight Floyd Mayweather, especially after Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter managed that feat recently against Paulie Malignaggi and Julio Diaz respectively.
The Guardian writer Kevin Mitchell even suggested that the efficient manner of Khan's victory may have lowered his chance of a Mayweather fight, quoting a Showtime insider who said they "liked the old Amir—the one who gambled."
Given that Ramadan always made a date with Mayweather in September unlikely, and that Marcos Maidana may now get a rematch, Khan is 12 months away from a shot at Money at the very least.
Khan would need another good win before then to force the fight and there are plenty of viable opponents—Porter, Thurman, Robert Guerrero, a rematch with Maidana or a weight-jumping Danny Garcia, an all-British clash with Kell Brook—and that's disregarding the Top Rank/HBO fighters.
By beating Collazo, Khan has proved he belongs in the welterweight division. Now he must prove he belongs at the sport's top table. Here are the top takeaways from Khan-Collazo.
1. Khan Fought a Mature Fight
Perhaps the defining moment of the fight came in the final round. Khan had been holding Collazo, frustrating him and the American threw a low blow that landed where intended.
Khan hit the canvas, obviously in pain. The referee admonished both fighters for their respective fouls and, with Khan having taken to his feet, he was ready to wave the fight back on.
Even though Khan had not been told he could have the customary five minutes to recover, he made a choice, and before the referee could resume the fight he crumbled to the canvas again. The referee had no choice but to allow Khan the extra time to recover.
Why was this the defining moment of the fight? Because it showed a demonstrable change in Khan. He was willing to look a little cowardly to buy time for a full recovery—he was unwilling to take the chance of getting caught with a fight-changing punch late on.
In the past, Khan has suffered from a surfeit of machismo, standing and trading when hurt; fighting to the advantage of his opponent, not himself.
All night long Khan held his discipline and refused to get drawn into fighting on any terms but his own. Thus the fight went to his speed and agility, not Collazo's strength and toughness.
However, Khan has fought maturely before against Marco Antonio Barrera, Andriy Kotelnik and Paulie Malignaggi—fights that followed his first KO loss to Breidis Prescott.
The further Khan got from that loss, the more he lost his discipline, until he lost by KO again to Danny Garcia. This time, Khan would do well hold onto that memory of being knocked out—it may just prevent him from suffering the same fate again.
2. Collazo Fought a Stupid Fight
Before the fight, one of the big questions was if Collazo was really something of a puncher, or if last time out against Victor Ortiz he had just got to a vulnerable opponent at the right time.
Realistically, you do not become a serious hitter overnight aged 33. Prior to the Ortiz outing, Collazo had shown average power at best.
Yet Collazo fought like a man who had the power to hurt Khan badly with one punch, who had no need for the scorecards, and who could end the fight as soon as he landed.
You would have thought an experienced fighter like Collazo would have a more realistic assessment of his own abilities. Unlike Ortiz, Khan wanted to be there and would not wilt at the first sign of trouble.
By looking to land big shots and neglecting to simply try to win rounds, Collazo found himself a long way down on the scores before he began to realise that knocking Khan out would not be a formality.
Collazo also employed switch-hitting, changing stance from southpaw to orthodox, something which he clearly has not mastered and which saw him eat fast rights for his trouble.
Whether Collazo believed the short-lived hype about his own power, or the more long-lived hype about just how terrible Khan's punch resistance is, he should have known better than to put all his eggs in one basket and only target a KO.
At the end of the day, Breidis Prescott and Danny Garcia, the two men who have stopped Khan, are genuine punchers in their respective divisions. Collazo is not.
Collazo coming forward with his hands down trying to one shot "King" Khan was a stupid strategy, and the Englishman would be lucky if future opponents are equally overconfident about their chances of knocking him out that they consequently throw strategy and good technique out of the window.
3. Khan's Power Is Just Enough
As you can see from the pictures, Khan looked a fully-fledged welterweight in his first fight at the weight. According to Showtime's broadcast, Khan weighed 161 pounds on the night, which adds substance to the idea that he was struggling to make 140, the light-welterweight limit.
Khan has always been more likely to stop opponents after wearing them down rather than with one punch, and his power looked in the same league as before at welter—if anything a little less.
Although Collazo was down three times and definitely hurt in Round 10, he did not show Khan's power much respect, dropping his hands low as early as the fourth round.
Collazo is a proven tough guy, but given the disparity of class in the contest and the amount of shots Khan landed—201 of 404 power punches thrown according to Showtime—any puncher of note would have got the stoppage.
Certainly if Khan did land a fight with Mayweather, it is hard to see him stopping the Money man, and given the way Floyd can adjust during fights to nullify opponents' most successful weapons, as he did versus Maidana on Saturday, it would make it a long night for Khan to try to keep his nose ahead on the cards.
Khan's most damaging blows remain body shots, the type that nearly stopped Maidana early in their fight. There was a big body blow in the tenth that set up the two knockdowns, but Khan did not throw many of those shots.
It may be that trainer Virgil Hunter doesn't want Khan committing to the body too much, because those swings lower his hands and could leave him vulnerable. But, if Khan is to have a chance in a kill-or-be-killed fight against the likes of Thurman or Porter, he may do well to bring those punches to the fore of his arsenal.
4. Khan and Hunter Could Make a Good Team
First off, there can be no question that Khan's previous coach Freddie Roach is a great trainer. For a time, Roach and Khan made a good team and had some memorable nights together.
Is Khan's new man Virgil Hunter a better trainer than Roach? Probably not, although the two undoubtedly have different strengths.
However, the problem with Roach was that, for whatever reason, Khan had stopped listening to his advice with suitable diligence. With Hunter, it is as much that Khan is offering his ears anew, as it is that there is a new voice offering him advice.
In the fight with Collazo there were some noticeable changes—Khan was notably better at getting off the ropes and not allowing himself to be cornered there and forced to taste heavy leather.
Khan also fought more off the back foot, keeping better balance, and throwing two or three punch combinations rather than the five or six he has thrown in the past. These shorter, more compact flurries were controlled and therefore safer, if less eye-catching.
Hunter's game plan contained an unorthodox logic as he had Khan circling right against a southpaw instead of left. That was probably because they calculated that Collazo's right hook—the punch which stopped Ortiz in his tracks—was more dangerous than anything he throws with his left.
One thing we didn't see was the extent to which Khan and Hunter can make adjustments mid-fight. Because Khan was always in control and Collazo could do nothing to change the tone of the fight, Khan did not need to react to circumstances. Against tougher opposition, Hunter's ability to give on-the-fly advice could be the difference between victory and defeat.
5. Excessive Holding Could Lose Khan Fights
Khan was deducted a point for repeated holding in Round 8, after Collazo has previously lost a point in the same round for low blows.
The Englishman was warned again for the same foul and committed fewer such offences as the fight wore on, without ever stopping the practice.
In this course of the bout, Khan gained a lot more from the tactical advantage than the single point he lost on the scorecards.
Khan is not much of an inside fighter and has employed holding before, but never as professionally and consistently as he did against Collazo.
It brought to mind another fighter with a questionable chin who has made good adaptations to protect his chief weakness—Wladimir Klitschko in the heavyweight division.
Fighting as the house fighter in Germany, Klitschko gets away with an awful lot that is technically against the rules, most particularly in last year's fight with Alexander Povetkin.
Khan was the house fighter against Collazo, and he was probably lucky not to lose a point earlier than he did and more later on in the fight.
When Khan fought away against Lamont Peterson in the latter's home of Washington D.C. he lost two points for pushing, points which proved decisive on the tight scorecards.
The use of holding and clinching is worthwhile for Khan because it conceals his weak chin and weak inside game, but the price of points deducted may cost him close fights in the future.
In particular, were he to land a fight with Mayweather, he could not expect such latitude from the referee, as his compatriot Ricky Hatton found to his detriment having enjoyed preferential treatment back home in Manchester.