BOXING: Barrera gamble to backfire on Khan and Warren?

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by Stevie Kearney, Head of News

March 14th is going to be a defining day for many involved in boxing.  It represents a major gamble from Frank Warren, and one he may live to regret.  Yes, March 14th is the day that Warren’s protege, Amir Khan, takes a huge step up in class as he fights Mexican legend Marco Antonio Barrera, a former world champion on 7 occasions, at 3 different weights.  The outcome will likely define the rest of Khan’s career.

Now, the background makes this an intriguing fight for sure.  Khan, long tipped for the top, was soundly beaten just two fights ago by Bredis ‘Two-Jabs’ Prescott.  The unheralded Colombian was a complete unknown in this country and wasn’t expected to trouble Khan at all.  However, in one of British boxing’s most humiliating defeats, the over-confident Khan was stunned by the first punch and finished off  just 54 seconds into the fight.  A possible glittering career now only showed the sparkling reflection of a glass jaw.

But Frank Warren is not a promoter to let a cash cow walk away (as the current court battle with Joe Calzaghe demonstrates).  He realised that Khan needed a top quality trainer to patch up his leaky defence and so world renowned Freddie Roach was brought in.  It was imperative to get Khan back to winning ways as soon as possible, and that is exactly what happened in his first fight since the knockout loss.

And give him credit - Khan looked good in his last outing.  But Khan has always looked good against hand picked opponents designed to build up his record and edge him safely towards the big bucks.  The one time a genuinely big puncher sneaked past the defences, Khan was badly exposed.

[caption id=”attachment_1935” align=”alignright” width=”150” caption=”Barrera is a true ring warrior”][/caption]

That is why, with just the one confidence building fight since the defeat to Prescott, it came as a great surprise when Marco Antonio Barrera was announced as Khan’s next opponent.  At 35, Barrera is far from a spent force.  His knockout power isn’t what it was a few years ago, but he is still a top class performer and a very tough nut to crack.  For those who remember watching Barrera destroy Naseem Hamed as few years back, no warning will be necessary.

Have no doubt, this fight is for real.  Khan will have to prove once and for all whether he can back up the promise and the hype.  This fight is a real gamble; win and the Prescott defeat can be dismissed as an off night and Khan will join those competing for world titles.  Lose and it seems unlikely that many will believe the hype again.  And in boxing, once you lose your box office appeal, you’ll find the title opportunities vanish pretty quickly too.

I’ve often been irritated by Khan and his hype.  I have said for a while that his defence is sloppy and that a good fighter will knock him out.  Bredis Prescott isn’t even a top ranked performer, but the manner of Khan’s defeat was resounding.

I regard Khan as a sort of spoiled child - he has everything a young boxer could want, but doesn’t seem to understand the value.  In Frank Warren, he has a promoter who can get him the big fights.  In Freddie Roach he has arguably the best coach in the world; a man who has trained Mike Tyson, Oscar de la Hoya and who currently trains the world’s top fighter Manny Pacquiao.  Khan has had everything other young fighters in this country crave.  And yet, like his hero Naseem Hamed, he seems more capable of causing damage in his car than in the ring.

So, on March 14th, Frank Warren’s gamble will likely make or break the career of Amir Khan.  I, for one, feel that Barrera will have too much experience and too much durability for Khan.  Even without his punching power of previous years, a couple of accurate shots from the Mexican will be too much for the glass jawed youngster from Bolton.

Then perhaps we can get on with discussing some of the great prospects for the lightweight division, like John Murray (25-0) or Frankie Gavin.

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