Can Amir Khan Save British Boxing?

Joe OneillCorrespondent IIMay 13, 2010

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 05:  Amir Khan gets ready before his fight against Dmitriy Salita of the U.S. for the WBA Light Welterweight title on December 5, 2009 in Newcastle upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by John Gichigi/Getty Images)
John Gichigi/Getty Images

Britain has a lively and loyal boxing scene. Little more than club fighters have massive followings across all of England, and boxing carries on a rich tradition dating back, literally, centuries.

Wee lads in her Majesty's kingdom are taught from the age of four to settle their battles with their fists, to shed nary a tear in the heat of battle, and a good bollocking over a plate of pudding is worth its price in shillings.

Sadly, England has fallen short on the world stage as of late.

Not since Lennox Lewis dominated the heavyweight division has a Brit been at the top of the boxing game. And, let's face it, Lewis never received the adulation and respect he should have in the U.S. There's no doubt he's one of the best heavyweights of the past 30 years—the only question is where he ranks with the all-time greats.

For my money, I think Lewis beats Mike Tyson in his prime.

But that's neither here nor there.

In the past few years, England fighters have come up decidedly short on the world stage. They're similar to their national soccer (football) club, who have repeatedly fallen flat on their faces on the world stage.

At this point, British boxing is hitting a dry patch from which it may never recover.

Carl "The Cobra" Froch is the latest limey to be exposed by none other than Mikkel Kessler. Froch, previously undefeated, showed he has serious kinks in his arsenal against both Andre Dirrell and Kessler in his last two fights. If he'd been on neutral ground, he probably loses the Dirrell fight. Kessler stood toe-to-toe with him and went away with a victory.

Froch, who had been saying he could have beaten Joe Calzaghe in his best days, is suspiciously quiet on the subject since his defeat at the gloves of Kessler.

Speaking of Joe Calzaghe, he may as well be Britain's version of Floyd Mayweather Jr.

OK, technically he's from Wales, which is still part of the UK. So, I'll include him in this article.

For my money, he's one of the best super middleweights of all time, if not the best.

Yet, he rarely receives the praise he so richly deserves. In fact, he's practically persona non grata across the UK. People point to the holes in his record against great fighters within their prime, as well as a somewhat aloof attitude for his decided non-popularity among the rank-and-file.

Which can't be said for Ricky "The Hitman" Hatton.

Ricky was beloved with a cult following across all of England that rivaled any Oasis or Spice Girls following. He's a blue collar bloke, who would just as soon side up to you in a pub to a side of fish and chips and a pint and talk a bit of Manchester City football.

Alas, Hatton was exposed by Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao for exactly what he was—a good fighter, perhaps top 10 in the world, but by no means a world beater.

Not since the days of Naseem Hamed has a British boxer dominated the lower weight classes.

But Amir Khan has a chance to shine Saturday night in his fight with Paulie Malignaggi.

Khan is an enigmatic figure. He has his share of fans, but bolted the UK to train in Los Angeles with Freddie Roach. He cites a lack of respect among British fans and good old fashioned racism for his departure.

Many in England cite his boorish behavior and arrogant attitude for his lack of an ardent following.

Khan is good, very good. He's long, athletic, and has good power. He'll have his hands full with Malignaggi on Saturday night on HBO.

If Khan makes a good showing in this fight, no doubt it thrusts him upwards in the light welterweight or welterweight ranks. While not in the stratosphere of a Pacquiao or Mayweather, he could be looking at a fight with Timothy Bradley in short order.

My judgement is reserved on Amir Khan.

I really liked him a few months back, and applauded his decision to work with Freddie Roach. However, as more stories come out about his poor and entitled attitude, it makes it difficult to root for him.

l think Malignaggi wins this fight. I just don't know if Khan has the heart to survive a very close fight. It seems he's already anointed himself as "the special one," without the resume to back it up.

If Khan loses, then he definitely takes a few steps down on the light welterweight ladder. It will take a massive win for him to win the hearts and minds of the British boxing public, perhaps only a win over Manny or Floyd will allow him to win back any loss in stature, should he lose to Malignaggi.

After Khan, the British boxing cupboard is practically bare.

There's nobody on the horizon who provides a glimmer of hope for Britain on the world's boxing stage. I'm unsure if they'll ever gain back their halcyon days of Randy Turpin or Freddie Mills, and will slowly fade into the mist with the likes of once-great boxing powers that include Germany, Italy, and even my ancestors' homeland of Ireland.

Like the brave British pilots who defended London from the German blitzkrieg in World War Two, Khan faces an uphill and lonely battle.

I wish him the best of luck.


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