Matchmaking is a funny business. Not funny “haha”, funny “ooh”. As my Grandad would often say. There is simply no right and wrong methodology or barometer for matchmakers. If the house fighters wins, you’ve got it right. If the house fighters wins easily you’ve got it right but perhaps too right, because the audience want competition not a procession. In fact, getting it ‘too’ right can sometimes be wrong. But still better that, than simply getting it wrong. Are you keeping up?
And getting it wrong when contemplating the career of British boxing’s most valuable and well known asset, Amir Khan is simply not an option. The job of matchmaking, and latterly, training the Olympic prodigy falls to Dean Powell under the watchful gaze of Khan’s promoter Frank Warren – a man who chartered an unbeaten course for both Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe.
In interview, Frank Warren openly admitted he would never put one of his fighters into a fight without a better than 50-50 chance. Some were startled by the sentiment, but in reality it is an accurate summary of the job Warren, via his matchmaker, take on. Particularly as the custodian of most of British boxing’s most established and gifted practitioners.
Through Amir Khan, Warren clearly hopes to plot a course similar to those navigated for the Bolton lightweight’s predecessors Hatton and Calzaghe, taking small learning steps to build and mobilise a fan base, introduce him to a television audience and polish the goods before any big test. In short, Khan could prove the ultimate demonstration of the Warren blue-print for success. Success, to Warren’s credit, being marked by a damage free career, decent wages, a belt or two and clutch of happy memories.
Even Warren’s fiercest critics would struggle to suggest he hasn’t minimised risk, provided good reward and built the likes of Joe Calzaghe into respected, household names; he probably would have done it three years ago but for Joe’s injury problems. Along the way, Warren, Powell and the fighters they represent are forced to the bomb-shelter when the likes of Pederson or Pudwill turn up at the last minute. You can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Amir Khan’s 17-0 (13) ledger, his ranking, albeit prematurely in my opinion, by most of the sanctioning bodies and strong ticket buying support has failed to dissuade many that Warren has moved the Commonwealth champion too cautiously. A rumour further fuelled by the breakdown of communication in the Khan camp, Oliver Harrison found himself dumped this week, and the forthcoming conclusion of Khan’s contract with Sports Network.
Among the chattering classes on Internet boxing forums contributors discuss and debate the types of test Khan could or should be tackling, often bemoaning the casual fans attracted by Khan’s terrestrial broadcaster ITV who fail to recognise the natural disadvantages most of his first 17 opponents have faced. Whether it be age, pedigree, weight, form, height or time to prepare precious few oppose Khan with the type of tools fight fans would like to see the 20 year old overcome.
The next in line, erratic puncher Michael Gomez is of a similar ilk. “Shop worn” if not “shot”, naturally “smaller than Khan” – he pursued the British Super-Featherweight belt in his last encounter of significance and was stopped after 7 characteristically high octane rounds – and a long way from a prime that drew big crowds in Manchester and famously saw him dump a naive Alex Arthur on his touted backside.
But boxing, even the matchmaking of its notable prospects, isn’t science. It isn’t chess. Occasionally, even ardent purists must just embrace the entertainment value of a fight. Boxing is, after all, entertainment. Gomez for all the miles and lack of form will undoubtedly be as focused as possible with the assets he has left. The press conferences, weigh-in ands stare downs will be exciting, absorbing events in their own right because Gomez is, and will always be, as mad as fish.
That, coupled with his still damaging hooks will entice even the sceptics who have already written Gomez off as a shot fighter and a cynically selected opponent at this stage of Khan’s development to perch themselves on the edge of the sofa when the first bell rings.
He may get flattened as Graham Earl did before him, but one thing is certain – he’ll have a go.
For a host of unique, unofficial, unendorsed tribute wear, made to order and shipped within 48 hours visit www.boxingwriter.spreadshirt.net or click on the image below.