It is hard to know where to begin any reconstruction of the shattered remnants of Amir Khan’s carefully constructed reputation. Following four years of cautious match-making, three trainers and a deluge of column inches, platitudes, award ceremonies and celebrity television appearances, the 21-year old demonstrated holes in his fistic education large enough to drive even his own ego through.
In a slip of the tongue, Khan suggested, by way of earnest explanation, “nobody is invisible”. He meant invincible of course, but invisible seemed to fit very well too.
Breidis Prescott certainly found him easily enough.
Factor in his tremendous physical gifts, the expert tutelage he’s been afforded, the remuneration he’s enjoyed and the ‘cotton wool’ he has been wrapped in, and the naivety he demonstrated on Saturday is barely digestible. Or perhaps entirely predictable.
Just how can a fighter of such pedigree be so tactically juvenile and so porous in defence? What on earth has Khan been focusing on during those hours in the gym? Despite superb hand-speed, height, reach and natural weight he has been unable to avoid punches almost from the outset and there has been precious little improvement in four years and 18 bouts.
If Khan is the ultimate manifestation of the Frank Warren “How to develop a fighter without taking a risk” managerial plan then the plan is flawed. A collection of Super-Featherweights isn’t the best grounding for even a fighter of Prescott’s hunger and ambition. Lest we forget, this was only Prescott’s third professional excursion beyond Colombia’s borders and his second scheduled 12 round fight. He also only turned professional in 2005. The revisionism now being applied to his standing and ability is unhelpful.
Prescott is merely an eager young puncher, who lives the life of a fighter, he isn’t the new Tommy Hearns or even necessarily, the new Ricardo Torres. Perhaps it is on the unquantifiable emotional facets of a fighter’s make up, alluded to by Sky Sports in their promotional clips, that the battle was lost. After all, like his much-maligned Olympic predecessor, Audley Harrison, Khan has had a lot of reward before meaningful combat. Prescott, as the sugary-sweet SKY trailers encouraged us to notice, is from humble surroundings and is entirely focused on improvement and the chance to escape poverty. Could Khan really ever be as dedicated as his unbeaten rival? Can a 21-year old, probably a millionaire already, really be told what to do? Could Khan ever find the drive to devote himself to improvement with shiny cars to drive and reality shows to make?
Those subjective factors certainly fit with the swirling whispers about his dedication, the comments from promoter Frank Warren pre-fight about the type of purses Khan now expected – numbers forcing Warren to make Khan a PPV star prematurely – and Khan’s own predilection for referring to himself in the third person. A habit he was unable to drop during the post-fight interviews.
In terms of calamity, promoter Frank Warren has experienced few more unwelcome results and though he may, on reflection, appreciate the reality check this will hopefully force on the Bolton fighter, it will rankle that his judgement on opponents will be questioned. He distanced himself from the selection of Prescott and one begins to wonder how much control Warren has exerted over Khan intent, direction and decision-making in recent months. If Khan picked his own trainer (who picked the opponent) and forced Warren’s hand on purse demands one wonders with whom the power lays. It certainly doesn’t appear to be Warren, though a sea change in that relationship would now seem inevitable.
Like Hamed and Hatton before him, Khan has increased the influence and quantity of family members and associates in “Team Khan” and the dismissal of Oliver Harrison two fights ago whiffed of the type of amateur mismanagement oft-associated with family concerns. Not that Harrison is exonerated in the downfall of Khan, given his input across more than three years of his development, but he surely represents a more in-tune British voice than a Cuban far removed from the professional sport.
Khan needs a tough disciplinarian; someone who can teach him to throw a jab, keep his chin down and instruct him on the benefits of understanding the other guy is allowed to throw punches too. Despite incredible hand-speed Khan has no instinctive reflex in the manner of Hamed or Graham, nor does he have the lateral movement to underpin his kamikaze style.
In the 54 seconds he demonstrated every flaw he had, poor tactics, over-eagerness, low hands, a chin stuck in the air and a lack of respect for an opponent’s ability. And finally, that he doesn’t hold a shot too well. Hamed had equal contempt for the offence of opponents, it too grew into hubris, but he had power that Khan doesn’t possess and a greater instinct and reflex for avoiding shots. If Khan continues to sacrifice his natural reach and hand-speed by putting himself on top of an opponent with his chin exposed he will never escape domestic waters.
He must drop the razzmatazz, over-eager style, the pursuit of the glamorous coach selection and get back to the sport’s roots. That is, after all, the type of environment that moulded Prescott into a far more formidable opponent than Khan is ever likely to be on present trajectory.
Warren meanwhile, needs to re-evaluate his whole stable following the departure of Calzaghe, Hatton, Nelson and Scott Harrison in recent years, the defeats of Gavin Rees, Maccarinelli, Matt Skelton and Alex Arthur coupled to the unravelling of Amir Khan and Paul Smith and his usually well stocked cupboard looks uncharacteristically bare. The value of Nicky Cook, Michael Jennings, Bradley Pryce and Kevin Mitchell probably trebled over the weekend.
And three unsigned British Olympic medalists were ringside. All of whom will look to their letterbox and voice-mails for news of the ABA’s offer to remain in the vest with a touch more interest than they did before Saturday.