When Amir Khan sits alongside the cream of American sporting royalty at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night, in a ringside seat worth around $100,000 (about £66,000) on the black market, he will be there as a guest of Al Haymon, the adviser he shares with Floyd Mayweather.
That ought to be as clear an indicator as is reasonably logical that the boy from Bolton is at the head of the queue to fight the winner of Mayweather’s potentially epic battle with Manny Pacquiao, given that Khan trained with the Filipino, but history suggests Khan will be sweating for a little while yet.
It should come as no surprise that Khan picks Mayweather to win and leave the building with Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight belt, to hang alongside the ones he already looks after on behalf of the WBC and the WBA, as well as his blemish-free CV. Then, Khan says, he hopes finally to be in position for the fight to define his own career (Haymon and Mayweather having reneged twice already): a chance to stop Mayweather equalling Rocky Marciano’s career record of 49-0 in what might not be the American’s farewell appearance in September.
“I really think Floyd will win this fight,” Khan said from his San Francisco training camp, where he is preparing for the New Yorker Chris Algieri in Brooklyn on 29 May, a marking-time assignment that should not detain him long. Pacquiao knocked Algieri down six times on his way to a one-sided points win in Macau last year.
“Floyd is the No1 in the world and I’ve always wanted to fight the No1. My style is different to Pacquiao’s – the range, the length, the size, the speed, and the power and the footwork as well. That is what will give Floyd Mayweather the biggest problems.”
Despite his self-interest in the outcome, Khan’s analysis nevertheless is well-informed. He has been impressed after watching Mayweather spar – “he is stronger, different”, was his odd description – and has heard reports of problems in the Pacquiao camp.
“I favour Mayweather, because he’s not been beaten and I think he’s a better boxer. A boxer will always beat a fighter, and I think Manny’s more of a fighter.
“Mayweather has probably been with every [sort of] fighter, with different styles – come-forward fighters, backward fighters, quick fighters, guys who are quick on their feet, who are slow on their feet – and he’s answered all questions and beaten them. We know Floyd can handle a southpaw style, so I don’t think that will be much of a problem for him.
“The first four or five rounds will be competitive. I think then that’s when Floyd will take the lead and start creating that distance [between them]. He’s a taller guy, he’s a longer guy, he has a longer reach, he’s got quick hands. And I’ve said from day one that the type of opponent who could beat Manny in style is a good single-shot fighter.
“[Juan Manuel] Márquez knocked him out with a single shot; when [Timothy] Bradley beat him, he threw a lot of single shots; and, as we all know, Mayweather is going to throw single shots, and very accurately.
“Then you’ve got Manny, who four, five years ago was doing the same as Floyd has been doing. He was beating everyone they put in front of him, beating them comfortably, knocking them down and knocking them out. But in the last year or so, you could see Manny has had a little decline. Yes, he’s come back from it, and people think now he’s got a great chance of giving Floyd the toughest fight in his career, or even beating him.
“I’ve not talked to Manny. I’ve been hearing how he’s been training and they say he’s looking sharp and strong. You hear things – but I heard there were problems [with] some sparring partners, and he brought different guys in because the [others] were a bit too strong.
“It’s going to be the biggest fight ever. I’m going to be there myself for the day. I will go to the fight and then return [to San Francisco] because I’m in training camp myself.”
After Pacquiao’s win against Algieri, Khan has great material to work with if he is to make an impression.
There are no obvious holes in Khan’s view of the Fight of the Century and it is hard to disagree with his prediction. However, I want to see how both fighters handle what will be an extraordinary fight week before I make my own.
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