Amir Khan and Marcos Maidana, two of the top junior welterweights in the world, finally meet in a potentially explosive bout on December 11 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. Khan, who won a Silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, will be looking to silence critics who have accused him of ducking not only Maidana but punchers in general in the wake of his humiliating first-round KO defeat at the hands of commonplace Breidis Prescott two years ago. Indeed, that Khan has been hesitant to meet Maidana is less rumor than an almost-fact—about as close to the truth you can get in boxing.
The Cruelest Sport noted this odd situation a couple of months ago:
The strange case of Amir Khan, Marcos Maidana, and Golden Boy Promotions – -where GBP has contractually obligated Maidana to avoid Khan for three fights or a calendar year, whichever comes first – – has been compared to the way Top Rank is building a potential bout between Juan Maunuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa by expert after expert. Ummm, no. Gamboa is not the number one contender to Juan Manuel Lopez, or vice versa, and is not obligated, at least theoretically, to face Lopez or be stripped of his title. Maidana, as BMX Interim Satrap, is a mandatory to Khan, whose handlers appear wary of matching him up with the crude but destructive Argentine. Maidana, in effect, has accepted one of the most comprehensive step-aside packages in boxing history. Rumors that a 401K plan and stock options in GBP are included have not yet been verified.
Maidana was frustrated enough by the situation to force a purse bid, where other promoters might have had the opportunity to stage the fight. Golden Boy Promotions had to work hard from having Maidana throw a monkeywrench into the Amir Khan Express. In the end, as much as Richard Schaefer would like to pat himself on the back and Khan would like to posture via Twitter, it was Maidana who pushed for the fight. Purse bids are risky propositions and for a fighter to insist on one is unusual. Eric Morel tried it for a bout with Fernando Montiel and came out of it—money-wise–looking like a man who fell under a threshing machine. He withdrew from the Montiel fight with an injury of dubious origins. A purse bid might have also been a disaster for Golden Boy since Khan is reportedly guaranteed a minimum of $1.25 million per fight, allowing another promoter insight into just how much he would have to offer to win the rights to a promotion that common sense says belongs in England. To a wily promoter, say Frank Warren, for example, it would have been the equivalent of a poker player knowing one of the hole cards of his opponent. In addition, Maidana would have been entitled to 45 percent of the purse bid under WBX rules, which would have been a few pence shy of what Khan expects from Golden Boy.
As for the fight itself, humdinger, doozy, lulu, peach, and crackerjack should suffice to describe it in the short run. In fact, the likelihood of this bout going the distance in minimal. “The reason that I want to fight Maidana so badly is that people have been saying that I have a suspect chin, and this, that and the other,” Khan told Lem Satterfield at Fanhouse.com. “But, I can honestly say that I’m going to go into this fight, and I’m going to win this fight. And I’m going to knock him out. Because I know with the style I’ve got, he can’t come with the style that I’ve got.”
Khan, the superior boxer, will be looking to assert his jab and run off combinations from the outside. If Maidana flounders at mid-range–as he often does, with his feet parallel or even crossed–Khan will be able to nail him with long rights hands and hooks. Maidana gets hit more often than a windshield does with gnats on a cross-country drive.
As crude as he looked against DeMarcus Corley last month—a fight that might have been scored for the underdog—Maidana still has the kind of power that can turn out lights quicker than an electrical outage. “Chop Chop” had the advantage of being a southpaw, but no topnotcher should be struggling with Corley at this point. It could have been an off-night for Maidana, or it could have been a sign of things to come. According to reports from South America, Maidana was lax in camp and struggled to make the 140-pound limit with a late burst of overtraining. “Maidana, for his part,” wrote Sebastián Contursi of ESPN Deportes, “could not measure up physically, the byproduct of rapid weight loss in recent weeks after also going through prolonged inactivity as a result of problems with his ex-manager.”
Every now and then Maidana looks so clumsy in the ring–flailing away with his feet empretzeled and his chin exposed–that it seems impossible that he should trouble a world-class fighter. Khan is skilled, no doubt, but Maidana probably feels he will only have to land a handful of punches to send Khan into the Land of Nod. Demarcus Corley claimed that Maidana was not as big a puncher as generally thought. If so, then perhaps his reputation as a bonecrusher–solidified when he nearly turned Victor Ortiz into mulch last year–has more to do with how frangible Ortiz may be. After all, Ortiz had already been suspected of having some tinkle in his jaw and there were even reports of him being smacked out of sorts during sparring sessions in California. Either way, Maidana remains the biggest puncher Khan has ever faced; Breidis Prescott looked like Earnie Shavers against Khan, but has looked less than threatening since shocking the M.E.N. Arena in 2008. Maidana will also have to bore in on Khan and start roughhousing on the inside. Khan, like many contemporary fighters, is clueless in the clinches, and Maidana will have a serious edge in close, where he can use Khan as a tambourine.
According to the experts out there, those who spout on about quick twitch muscles, Khan has resurrected, redeemed, and rejuvenated himself since the Prescott debacle by defeating a schoolteacher (Oisin Fagan), an ancient ex-bantamweight (Marco Antonio Barrera), and three punchless fighters: a solid if unexceptional titleholder without power (Andrei Kotelnik), and Dimitri Salita and Paul Malignaggi, neither of whom could disturb a flowerbed. Suspicions about his chin–dented by a ragtag bunch whose membership includes Prescott, a completely shot Michael Gomez, Willie Limond, and Rachid Drilzane–will be confirmed or refuted by Maidana in December. So will his “superstar” status.