It seems highly unlikely Amir Khan will box in his own country again, and that is a pity.
His courage and skill, never fully embraced by a small but vocal knot of British fans, deserved better than the scattered boos among the greater cheers that greeted his flawed, thrilling points win over Julio Díaz in Sheffield on Saturday night.
If we have seen the last of him here, the Bolton light-welterweight left us with a fight to remember, one rich in pulsating danger — a knockdown, of course — and followed in victory by the ritual promise that he would have to "go back to the drawing board with my trainer".
Virgil Hunter, who took over from Freddie Roach last year, insisted after his second fight in charge of boxing's most fragile money-maker that Khan needs to spend more time with him in San Francisco. Khan agreed, and said he would fly in for longer and more frequent "mini-camps". It could be time well spent, because, despite some minor improvements in footwork and working the angles in attack, he is a knockout waiting to happen.
Still, having negotiated the flying fists of the 33-year-old Mexican — who raised his game to near the best he showed as a lightweight title-holder six years ago — Khan is being steered again back across the Atlantic, where better and younger fighters, with world title belts strapped around their waists, will be waiting for him.
Richard Schaefer is lost in admiration for Khan, as would be any promoter trying to sell a fighter who consistently brings such a kaleidoscope of thrills. To that end, he has promised the former six-time, 10st champion two lucrative scenarios. The least likely is a shot at the IBF welterweight champion Devon Alexander in December — assuming the bolt-from-the-blue substitute for injured Kell Brook, Lee Purdy of Colchester, does not barrel into the applecart when he challenges the American in Atlantic City on 18 May.
More likely is a fight against either Danny García — who had Zab Judah down in the eighth round in New York on Saturday night before shading him on points to retain his WBC title — or the winner of the other big light-welterweight showdown, between Lamont Peterson and Lucas Matthysse, which headlines the Alexander-Purdy bill. There is a chance, also, that García will fight Peterson or Matthysse first, but that is down the line in the summer — when Khan will be absent during Ramadan.
These deals, says the chief executive of Golden Boy Promotions, are just about, "locked on". Khan says he doesn't mind who he fights, although he would prefer García, who stopped him in four rounds to take his title last July. Peterson, who beat him controversially on points in December 2011, would be his second choice — and he thinks the Washingtonian will beat Matthysse, whose only losses were to Judah and Alexander.
Yet some who watched agog on Saturday night — live among the estimated 6,000 paying customers at the Motorpoint Arena or on BoxNation — as Khan's backside thudded into the canvas midway through round four, courtesy of a good but not devastating left hook from the loose-limbed Díaz, might wonder why he is being so indulged.
They will also have worried for him in round eight, when he shipped a thundering right to the head, again in round 10 when a left hook found its wobbling target and, in the penultimate session, as Díaz had Khan bicycling around the perimeter of the ring in a daze, hooks and uppercuts peppering his fuzzed head. That should have been another 10-8 round for Díaz.
However, outside those crisis points, the judges reckoned Khan had done enough to win, nodding towards him with margins of 114-113, 115-113 and115-112. I had it even, at 114 apiece, although, there were at least two very close rounds, so there is no great casefor quibbling.
Audley Harrison woke up on Sunday morning with a dual headache: the one induced by the sledgehammer fists of American Deontay Wilder to bring his28th knockout in 28 fights inside70 seconds — and then the decision about his future. At 41, the former Olympic gold medallist deserves to live on his memories, as not all of them were as bad asthis nightmare.
Anthony Ogogo made a pleasing pro debut, stopping the durable serial loser Kieron Gray in two rounds, nearly a year after winning Olympic bronze in London, as did Amir's brother, Haroon, who outpointed the three-fight novice Brett Fidoe over four rounds.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010
image: © KWDesigns