On Saturday night the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California, hosted boxing’s version of Celebrity Rehab. Amir Khan, with new trainer Virgil Hunter in his corner, halted his two-fight losing streak by stopping Carlos Molina after ten rounds,
Looking to put the bitter memory of his last appearance behind him, Khan, Bolton, England, came out blazing in the first round. Peppering Molina from the outside, Khan traded his typically perilous winging for purposeful, accurate combinations and a crisp jab. Each outburst was followed by a short walk to safe ground, and Khan fought with a composure that seemed the product of a new sense of security. Molina, Norwalk, California, borrowed the strategy of Danny Garcia—whose left hook sent Khan reeling to defeat in July—throwing and landing his own left hook during Khan’s attacks. The only damage done in the round however, was by Khan, who opened a cut over Molina’s left eye.
The first round set the pattern for the remainder of the fight. Khan, 139 3/4, piled on punches at a rate nearing the Fibonacci sequence. No more running from aggression like he was looking for shelter during an air raid, or clinging to his opponent like a life ring in a shipwreck; Khan stepped just out of Molina’s range after unloading, and in the rare moments when he was pressed against the ropes, he landed quick combinations before sliding away.
Molina, 139 3/4, had his moments in the fight, but they were few and far between. He tried to trudge through Khan’s stinging swarm of punches while throwing straight rights and left hooks, but was hopelessly outclassed. The few punches Molina landed had no effect on Khan—or his widely denigrated ability to absorb punishment—and he lacked the foot speed to corral his fleet opponent. Forced to follow Khan around the ring, Molina either walked into punches trying to close the distance or was handcuffed by the incoming fire long enough to be kept out of range. At the end of the tenth round, with his face a bloody mask and the prospect of victory wiped from the horizon, Molina’s corner stopped the fight.
Considering the limited time Khan had working with Hunter—and the caliber of opponent—it is difficult to assess the product of this new union. But just having a new presence in his corner may have had a positive impact on Khan’s performance. Khan fought confidently, maintaining the composure that often abandons him. If the goal of this fight was to restore Khan’s confidence and give him some live rounds with Hunter, then it was a success.
Still, questions persist about Khan’s ability to leave his concussed days in the past. Like Garcia, Molina was able to tag Khan cleanly when he threw punches with him. Khan may have risked the return fire, knowing that Molina wielded lesser artillery; but it is just as likely that Khan, 27-3 (19), will always be hittable by a fighter willing to exchange. There is also the issue of Khan’s power. His punches can be discouraging, and his power is augmented by his speed, but the undersized Molina was able to stand in against Khan. Bigger punchers like Danny Garcia and Lucas Matthysse will gladly gamble on their ability to give better than they get in exchanges. Whether Hunter can keep Khan from toeing the abyss against more pernicious foes remains to be seen.
Thankfully, whatever changes Hunter is implementing have not dulled Khan’s zest for fighting. In the post-fight interview Khan blamed luck for his loss to Garcia, stating that he would have knocked Garcia out Saturday night, and that he would be willing to face his new nemesis, “anytime, anywhere, anyplace.” Garcia, who was in attendance, seemed willing to oblige him, and a rematch of their July firefight is a welcome event. Before seeking revenge, Khan will step up his competition against applecart saboteur Josesito Lopez in April.
Molina, 17-1-1 (7) has less auspicious prospects, but Khan’s opponents usually see their bandwagons fill, and it is likely that a few kept their seats on Molina’s after his gutsy performance.