There are certain people we meet throughout our lives that seem to get far too many chances. Normally they get chances we feel we deserved and it engenders resentment. The more chances they get, the more the resentment grows. It’s not only the belief that they are unworthy of the opportunities but also the gnawing suspicion that they’ve simply sold a bill of goods that we don’t have. These are the people who sell themselves more than they sell their abilities. They seem frail and unqualified to us because they are quite clearly human and flawed. They wear their imperfection as armor, to our continued consternation. What’s worse is that in the social media age, they’re winning the battle for the hearts and minds of the public, and they’ve long since won over a pliant media obsessed more with fame than truth or accomplishment.
I tried to think of another fighter who embodies that description more than Amir Khan, and I couldn’t do it. It’s been 11 years since Breidis Prescott revealed to the world that the chin Khan makes no attempt to protect as he jumps straight back is actually made of porcelain. Despite the seemingly prodigious physical gifts he has, Khan (33-4-0, 20 KO) never learned to become a complete fighter. His last victory of any real note was against Zab Judah. In 2011. His sleight of hand and flashy speed were really all he ever had, apart from a brass set of balls, but that didn’t stop him from racing forward nonetheless, and here we all are. In the last several years, Khan has maintained his fame because of a loyal contingent of fans and a ravenous British media that dissects his personal strife.
None of that qualifies him to be headlining Madison Square Garden tomorrow night on ESPN pay per view against the best welterweight in the world, Terence Crawford. But Khan isn’t facing Crawford because he deserves it, or because he’ll make an entertaining fight. Khan finds himself in this position because he has a marketable name, the bout will do decent business in the UK, and putting together a dumpster fire main event is apparently a lot easier than dealing with Al Haymon if you’re Crawford’s promoter, Top Rank. So Khan will make money, Crawford will make money, Top Rank will make money, ESPN will make money, and anyone silly enough to part with $70 to see it will foot the bill.
This fight is galling in all the banalest ways. Doubly so because if you actually enjoy boxing, you desperately want to see Terence Crawford fight the best opposition available. He’s a spectacular ring technician and has a decided mean streak that he sees absolutely no reason to hide. Where Amir Khan’s style and personality are frantic, like an exposed nerve that can be cauterized at any time, Crawford (34-0, 25 KO) is the exact opposite. He’s measured, clinical, and totally unconcerned with what anyone thinks. Watching him do a television interview is a case study in boredom. The imbecilic questions lobbed at him by talking heads desperate for him to seek their approval most often elicit a detached shrug. He’s not going to give anyone any more of himself than he chooses. His ring style is much the same. He absorbs all the information coming toward him and gives back almost none in return. He switches from orthodox to southpaw fluidly and subtly, and it most often gives him even more information. A new angle finds new weaknesses, and few fighters at the top are more adept at exploiting an opponent’s weakness than Crawford.
Further galling is where the antagonists go from here. Should Khan win, (he won’t) he can make a truckload of cash fighting Kell Brook in England. If he loses, he has the exact same option. For Crawford, it may very well be a holding pattern indefinitely, fighting and destroying inferior opponents out of sight because boxing politics being what they are, some cash today will always be grabbed instead of more cash tomorrow, and no one is more egotistical that promoters who’ve decided to fuck everyone, as long as they can ensure their rivals at least get the tip. Just for a second. Just to see how it feels.
Crawford may have a moment or two of trouble with Amir Khan. He’s often a slow starter and is more than willing to let an opponent believe they’re doing well as he studies them at close range, but it’s always an illusion. Even in maximum passivity, Crawford is gently steering his opponent toward their own demise, and Khan will be no different. Crawford and Khan are just about the same height, but the reach advantage Khan normally enjoys will actually be a deficit. Speed? Crawford has it there as well. He moves fluidly and snaps out his shots with viper quickness, always perfectly balanced. Khan often appears as though his stork-like legs aren’t fully connected to the rest of his body, and that’s before he gets his brain rattled. Defense is clearly all Bud, since he’s the only one who actually bothers to practice it at all.
My prediction is about the same as everyone else’s: Crawford by mid round stoppage. I expect he’ll turn Khan into a human lawn dart with a counter punch, but don’t sleep on the referee or corner needing to save Amir from taking any more of a cognitive life-shortening battering.