Amir Khan: A Lot Like Oscar

BY David A. Avila ON March 15, 2009
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It seemed strangely familiar as Great Britain’s young phenom Amir Khan in a red hooded robe walked to the prize ring amid boos and cheers to fight Mexico’s great Marco Antonio Barrera.

Very familiar.

Khan (20-1, 15 KOs) used his speed, size and youth to batter the boxing master who was also badly cut from an accidental clash of heads in the very first round. It was almost exactly what happened to Julio Cesar Chavez when he challenged a young phenom at the time named Oscar De La Hoya.

And like De La Hoya, fans in Manchester booed and cheered Khan on Saturday.

“I shut the critics up I hope,” said Khan after winning by technical decision in the fifth round.

Don’t expect the criticisms to end, Khan. Just look at De La Hoya’s career. After 16 years the boos never ended. From his first pro fight to the present, the boos are even louder for the most successful fighter in the history of pro boxing. It’s the price of massive success. You can’t please everyone and that’s a fact.

Not even Muhammad Ali escaped the boos. During his career he heard them too. So did Sugar Ray Leonard, and so did Chavez.

Deja vu

I remember attending the first De La Hoya-Chavez clash amid 120-degree temperatures in the back lot of Caesars Palace in 1996. It was flaming hot. By the time the main event commenced it had cooled down to a mere 100 degrees and De La Hoya walked in with a red hooded robe that looked almost the same as Khan's did several nights ago.

On that same fight card was an unknown Erik Morales.

Though the cut on Chavez was cut by a punch in that mega clash between young and old, it occurred early in the fight just like Barrera’s. Déjà vu.

Now criticism shifts to Barrera (65-7, 43 KOs) who had retired a year ago and was released from his contract by Golden Boy Promotions. He then signed with Don King Productions and chose to fight in the heavier lightweight division.

A sudden bump of heads in the very first round opened up a gash high on the forehead of Barrera. It was bleeding profusely despite the best efforts of ace cut man Tony Rivera, who’s known as a magician with all kinds of lacerations.

Perhaps the old skin just doesn’t heal any more.

Khan continuously used his legs to keep out of range of Barrera’s fists and unleashed quick combinations on the Mexican legend in all five rounds. Perhaps the end of the second round was best for the Guadalajara-based fighter who caught the British boxer coming in. Though Khan wobbled slightly, he easily survived.

“We came ready to fight,” said Barrera who arrived in England with 40 friends and family members. “I didn’t really feel his power, but he has fast hands.”

It mirrored De La Hoya’s two fights with Chavez that happened in 1996 and 1998. In both fights the East L.A. fighter’s hand-speed, size and youth proved too much of an advantage against the ageing Chavez, who was never knocked down but still unable to cause heavy damage to his adversary.

Funny how history repeats itself even in the boxing ring.

Khan, like De La Hoya, also has problems pleasing fans in his native country. Though he won every round on the judge’s scorecards, many still loudly wonder if the former Olympian has the overall fighting talent to become a world champion.

Freddie Roach, the world famous trainer who is now guiding Khan in the ring, says he sees greatness in the lightweight protégé.

“He’ll be my next world champion for sure,” said Roach, who also trains Manny Pacquiao, considered the best fighter in the world by many.

Barrera had hoped to re-launch his career with a win over the talented lightweight and win a fourth world title in a fourth weight division. Those aspirations may be put on hold permanently.

“I’m going to think about it with my family,” said Barrera about his career.

More De La Hoya

Boxing fans are very harsh when it comes to De La Hoya. Despite being one of the true marquee fighters of the sport, fans, at least those who follow him, have been strangely silent after his loss. They’ve allowed the louder anti-De La Hoya fans to frighten them to silence.

Who can forget that De La Hoya helped carried the sport the last 16 years. If you look at the list of financially successful fight cards he’s on a bundle of them. When it comes to pay-per-view fights he’s the all-time leader.

Some are going to argue that he didn’t fight this guy or that guy? That’s all baloney. The kid fought great fighters who brought money and prestige to the sport. When he fought Shane Mosley he didn’t have to do it. When he fought Felix Trinidad everybody said the Puerto Rican bomber would annihilate him. When he fought Ike Quartey, few outside of hardcore boxing fans knew about the Ghanian slugger. Fights against Felix Sturm, Bernard Hopkins were actually physical mismatches that he took on anyway.

If you want to boo, well that’s a fan’s prerogative. But personally I think its bad karma.

Bad week for veterans

Barrera wasn’t the only Mexican fighter who lost. In Tokyo, Oscar Larios (63-7-1, 39 KOs) relinquished his WBA featherweight title to Japan’s Takahiro Aoh (17-1-1, 8 KOs).

Guadalajara’s Larios was a two-weight division world champion with more than 60 pro bouts and was soundly beaten by Aoh last Thursday.

Mexicali

Acapulco’s Giovanni Segura (20-1-1, 16 KOs) blasted out Colombia’s Cesar Canchila (27-2, 21 KOs) in four rounds to capture the WBO junior flyweight title in Mexicali last Saturday and avenge an earlier loss.

In the first round Segura landed a right hand that floored Canchila and left him unable to stand without use of the ropes. But the referee allowed him to continue and Segura continued to batter him.

Another knockdown of Canchila occurred in the second round and still the referee kept the fight going. Though the Colombian never quit punching, his reflexes were dulled and Segura was able to land heavy blows.

Finally, after Segura fired some pinpoint bombs on Canchila, the referee stepped in between the fighters at the end of the fourth round to give the win to Mexico’s Segura. The heavy-hitting fighter dropped to his knees with excitement and wept. An added gift was getting congratulations from Julio Cesar Chavez who was doing commentary for the television network covering the fight.

One footnote to the fight: Javier Capetillo who was suspended from working the corners in the United States, was in Segura’s corner during the fight. Capetillo was banned for putting illegal substances in Antonio Margarito’s gloves before the fight with Sugar Shane Mosley last January. Mosley stopped Margarito in the ninth round and then the California State Athletic Commission suspended both Capetillo and Margarito for one year.

Capetillo’s appearance in Segura’s corner could endanger his working in U.S. fights beyond one year.

Fights on television

Fri. ESPN2, 6:30 p.m., Fernando Beltran (31-3-1) vs. Miguel Roman (25-4).

Sat. ESPN, 2 p.m., Vitali Klitschko (36-2) vs. Juan Carlos Gomez (44-1).

Sat. Azteca, 8 p.m., Miguel Espino (19-2-1) vs. Alex Garcia (26-4-1).

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