Amir Khan: Has Freddy Roach Found His Future Replacement for Manny Pacquiao?

Martin SaltCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2011

LAS VEGAS, NV - JULY 19:  Amir Khan arrives with Freddie Roach (L) and Alex Ariza (R) at Mandalay Bay Resort for the Grand arrivals on July 19, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Amir Khan makes the fifth defence of his WBA Light-Welterweight title against IBF Light-Welterweight champion Zab Judah this coming Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas.

Khan has come a long way since his silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. After going pro in 2005, Khan fought in mediocre contests for several years against average journeyman fighters. Until 2008 there was no increase in the level of competition.

Khan got destroyed by Bredis Prescott in one round during their bout on 6th September 2008. Then Khan found redemption in the form of new coach Freddie Roach.

In the UK, Khan was already being unfairly compared to Audley Harrison and it was clear that Khan needed to step it up in order to hit the boxing big time.

Khan bounced back from his sole loss and defeated Oisin Fagan on 6th December 2008 and then Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera three months later. On 18th July 2009, Khan defeated Andreas Kotelnik to become the WBA Light-Welterweight champion.

Khan would go on to defend his title against Dimitry Salita and Paulie Malignaggi. His victory over Marcos Maidana would become a candidate for best fight all year. His recent win over Paul McCloskey was quick and easy.

The brilliance of Freddie Roach had worked magic after the Prescott defeat.

But most telling is the similarity of Khan's build up in class to that of Manny Pacquiao.

Manny Pacquiao was untapped talent when Roach became his trainer. Pacquiao had a suspect defence, average footwork and was easily tagged. Roach came in and tightened everything up. A boxer monster was then unleashed.

Khan was in a similar position after Prescott. He had no solid defence and a relatively poor chin. In boxing nothing can cure a suspect chin, but it can be defended more effectively.

Most importantly, Roach decided Khan was fighting at the wrong weight.

Khan quickly improved after Prescott. The defence was reminiscent of Pacquiao's guard. The Maidana fight proved was that he could take a punch.

Khan will be tested against Judah, but it is likely he will blow him away quite easily. Khan's biggest tests will come over the next few years at the hands of the pound-for-pound champions of the light-welterweight and welterweight divisions.

But what does all this tell us about Freddie Roach and his future plans?

It's clear that Manny Pacquiao won't be fighting for much longer. There is little left for the Filipino to accomplish other than the illusive fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Pacquiao will likely give up boxing to pursue his political career.

Roach must be thinking long term and could see Amir Khan as the answer to Pacquiao's impending retirement. The next few fights for Khan will be a big test to see if the British pugilist is ready to begin the ascent to the top of the pound-for-pound rankings. 

Could Khan then take over the mantle of Pacquiao as the greatest boxer on Earth?

If he fails against Judah Khan's road back will be tough but not impossible. It will be unlikely that he would be ever seen at the top of the pound-for-pound rankings.

Roach would then need to find his next champion boxer, capable of being the successor to his greatest ever fighter.