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Did Khan Really Show Improvement Vs. Molina?

BY Lee Wylie ON December 20, 2012
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002KhanvsMolinaIMG 5847Last Saturday, Amir Khan managed to get his career back on track with a 10th round stoppage win over Carlos Molina at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Having lost his last two fights -a disputed decision to Lamont Peterson and a devastating knockout to Danny Garcia- it was not only important for Khan to win, but for him to also look good in doing so. During the build-up to the fight, with Khan now under the tutelage of trainer Virgil Hunter, we were assured that we’d see a more measured and mature performance from Khan, one that would see a dramatic improvement in his defense.

Here, I’d like to highlight a few things that I noticed during the fight.

What’s important to understand with Khan is that he doesn’t necessarily have to become a defensive orientated fighter in order for him to improve defensively. Khan just needs to learn how to be more defensively responsible during and immediately after his attack. Hopefully, the astute Virgil Hunter understands this too. Amir Khan certainly isn’t the most technically proficient of fighters, nor is he one of the smartest. What Khan is though, however, is a raw athletic talent blessed with height, blinding hand and foot speed and good punching power. It’s clearly about refining what Khan already has as opposed to trying to transform him into something he’s clearly not. But first, there are some basic mistakes that still need rectifying.

Without a shadow of a doubt, Amir Khan’s most potent weapon is his jab, which he delivers from the outside with great speed and accuracy. Khan’s jab has often been the difference maker for him in the past. And yet, there is still room for improvement.

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Despite Khan’s utter domination of Paulie Malignaggi, many of his technical deficiencies were on show for everyone to see. Take a look at Khan’s body alignment in the second photograph as he’s throwing the jab. Khan is dead central, is over extending and his chin isn’t being offered any protection by his left shoulder or right glove. Khan is also coming in on a straight line. In this position, should Malignaggi slip either side of the jab, Khan would be vulnerable to a counter from either hand –a slip inside for Malignaggi would open up the possibility of a left hook/uppercut or a slip to the outside would allow Malignaggi to come back with a right hand.

Now let’s take a look at Amir Khan throwing the jab against Carlos Molina from last Saturday night.

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Prior to throwing the jab, Khan’s defense looks nice and tight. His chin is tucked and his gloves are high. However, look at Khan’s non-punching hand as he’s throwing his jab –his right glove has strayed away from his chin again. As a result, Khan is available to be hit with all sorts of counters.

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Here’s another look at Khan’s jab on three separate occasions during the fight. Again, as Khan is throwing his jab, look at what his non-punching hand is doing. With his right hand just above waist height, he constantly puts himself in a position to be nailed with a left hand.

Now let’s take a look at how someone with excellent fundamentals, such as Bernard Hopkins, throws his jab.

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Firstly, take note of Bernard Hopkins’ right glove. Felix Trinidad was well renowned for a potent left hook. Because of this, Bernard’s right glove is glued to the right side of his face during the entire sequence. Even though Trinidad slips to the outside of the jab and is in a position where he can throw his left hook, Hopkins’ defense and movement eliminates the threat. Here, Hopkins is perfectly balanced, his chin is always tucked and he’s circling to his left as he’s jabbing –notice the position of Hopkins in relation to Trinidad at the beginning and end of the sequence. His movement suggests he’s always thinking about Trinidad’s left hand.

Khan’s lack of control over his non-punching hand is also an issue when he’s throwing other punches too, and not just when he’s throwing the jab.

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Here’s Khan throwing a left hook to the body. Once again, his bad habit of allowing his non-punching hand to drift has left him wide open for a left hand. This time, Molina takes advantage and makes Khan pay.

Let’s have a look at how the left hook to the body should be thrown.

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Orlando Canizales is one of my favorite fighters to study on film. His technique was absolutely tremendous. As he’s throwing his left hook to the body, look at his non-punching hand. Like Bernard Hopkins earlier, it never leaves the side of his face. He’s always conscious of anything coming back in return.

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This left hook to the body by Canizales is particularly noteworthy because it not only shows him keeping his right glove by his face when he’s not only throwing the punch, but also when he’s rolling out.

With this in mind, another problem that I’ve found with Amir Khan is that instead of ducking or rolling out after punching, he moves back in a straight line, often leaving his chin exposed as he moves away. One of the key areas that Khan still needs to work on is his ability to stay elusive immediately after punching.

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Here’s Khan coming in from the outside with a low jab. Again, he approaches in a straight line. Khan has phenomenally fast feet, so he should be looking to come in from one angle and leave at another. In this instance, Khan comes in straight and leaves straight. As a result, Molina is able to land a short left hook as Khan’s stepping in and nearly lands a follow up left hook as Khan’s exiting too.

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In this sequence, instead of sliding off at an angle or rolling out after he’s finished throwing, Khan is leaning back. As a result, Khan is off balance and Molina easily pushes him back, landing a right and left hand. This could easily have been avoided had Khan performed a simple evasive maneuver such as a duck or a roll after punching.

Let’s take a look at what Floyd Mayweather does in a similar situation.

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Many have put Mayweather’s defensive skills down to God-given talent, when really it’s just a result of good technique and knowledge. First, look at Mayweather’s body alignment as he’s throwing a straight right hand. His head is off to the side and away from the center {extinguishing any chance of a counter jab} and his non-punching hand is protecting his chin. After landing the right hand, notice how Mayweather exits. Instead of moving back in a straight line, Mayweather rolls under and out. Look at Mayweather’s posture in the last photograph –his lead shoulder is protecting his chin and his right arm is wrapped across his body in such a way that his right glove is protecting his chin. The whole time Mayweather is on the attack, he’s thinking defense.

Here’s another look at Khan struggling to keep Molina off him because of an inability to move away at an angle.

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As Molina goes on the attack behind a barrage of lefts and rights, Khan has no idea how to blunt the attack. As a result, he’s unable to prevent Molina from forcing him back towards the ropes. Instead of bending at the waist so that the attack comes over the top or pivoting clockwise on his front foot so that he’s turning Molina, Khan backs up in a straight line and quickly finds himself in trouble.

Amir Khan’s hands are among the quickest in boxing. In fact, there were moments during the Molina fight when I was wondering if I’d seen quicker. Nevertheless, whenever I watch Khan throw his punches, I can’t help but feel he’d be better off trading in some of that speed for a little more variety. Khan’s combinations are far too predictable. It’s rare you see him throw anything other than a left, right, left, right combination, which is always aimed up top. When I think of brilliant combination punchers like Ricardo Lopez or Juan Manuel Marquez, who were/are far from the fastest I’ve ever seen, I think of their fluidity, variety and punch placement.

Throughout this video, you’ll see Marquez throwing just about every punch in the book in combination. Although he’s reasonably fast, it’s not all about speed for Marquez. Notice how he places every punch as a precusror for his next. Notice his angling and stepping to the side which sets up his right and left uppercuts. Instead of head hunting with straight punches, Marquez throws multiple types of punches {hooks, uppercuts and straights} aimed at different targets {either side of the body and head}.

It’s not just Marquez’ offensive variety that makes him a special combination puncher. Because Marquez is thinking angles, his upper body is always moving and as a result, his head is often taken away from the center line. Marquez is also defensively responsible with his non-punching hand when he’s banging to the body too.

For me, Amir Khan’s biggest problem in the ring is his vulnerability to counters while he’s throwing his combinations.

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Here’s a classic example of Khan’s vulnerability while he’s throwing his combinations. Here, as he throws a left/ right, notice his shoulders and head. Khan’s head is dead central and his shoulders are square. There’s no concern what so ever for what may come back in return. Look at Garcia in the third and fourth photograph. He’s not even looking at Khan. But because Khan doesn’t move his head and leaves his chin sticking out as he’s punching, Garcia knows there’s a good chance he’s going to connect.

Despite all the talk of technical improvements before, during and after Khan’s fight with Molina, I saw the same old defensive lapses rearing their ugly head.

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In each of the three sequences above, Khan is the one initiating the attack, but ends up coming off worse. Khan’s blinding hands do not equate to good combination punching technique. Khan always leaves himself wide open during exchanges. Look at Molina’s head in these photographs -as was the case with Garcia, he’s not even looking at Khan, but because Khan leaves his chin sticking out, never takes his head away from the center line or comes in from any sort of an angle, any opponent who throws a wild, swinging punch aimed towards the middle, will have a good chance of landing cleanly on him.

In all honesty, I believe Khan would probably be more effective with his speed if he were to throw less in the way of combinations and more in the way of single shots. If you look at fighters like Floyd Mayweather, Andre Ward and Bernard Hopkins, they seldom throw combinations. Instead, they prefer single, intermitting shots. Although Floyd Mayweather is pretty much a jab/straight right hand fighter, he’s difficult to time because of his natural hand speed and the sporadic nature of his punches. It’s the same with Bernard Hopkins, who’s always has underrated hand speed but throws little more than a straight right hand. Have you ever seen Amir Khan lead with a straight right? Khan’s offense would likely be less predictable if he actually threw a lot less and mixed his punches up more. It’s highly likely his punching power and accuracy would benefit from throwing a lot less too.

Although I’ve been quite brutal in assessing Khan’s performance here, all in all, I actually thought he looked pretty good. Like I’ve already said, Khan’s speed at times is breathtaking and as defensively flawed as his jab is, he dominated the fight with it -it’s lighting quick and it also has decent power behind it. However, Amir Khan has, and always will, look good against lesser opposition. Without being too disrespectful here, Amir Khan is the ultimate front runner. Once he’s on top against a certain type of opponent, Khan will look as dazzling as anyone in boxing. Carlos Molina is certainly no bum, but stylistically and physically, he was always going to struggle to have an answer for Khan’s length, physical strength, far superior hand speed and volume. Simply put, Molina didn’t possess the physical strength to back Khan up the way Lamont Peterson did nor did he have the punch power to turn the fight on its head the way Danny Garcia did either. We already knew what Khan does to this type of opponent. The real challenge for Khan comes once he’s faced with someone who has the ability to make him pay for his mistakes by turning his lights out. For me, this fight was like a fire drill. Khan looked comfortable going through the motions without a real sense of danger present, but let’s wait and see what happens once he’s in there with someone throwing smoke and flames.

Comment on this article

ali says:

Great breakdown of Khan...I like Hunter as a trainer but I didn't see any improvement in Khan. If he fights Garcia again he will be knocked out again its just a bad match up for him.

Radam G says:

No! No improvement yet. Trainer Virgil Hunter was getting Khan back in the groove. In time, Khan will improve. He is a work in process. Rome was not built in a few months. In fight two against Pretty Danny Boy, Khan will look like Superman Roy. If Zab Judah doesn't straighten up and upset Danny, Khan will probably beat Danny in fight two. He was schooling Danny until he got caught in the right spot.

I doubt that lightning strikes twice in the same place against Khan. Anger, more than a punch, got him. Angel Garcia beat Khan before the bout long started. Holla!

JaketheSnake says:

Appreciate the hard work that came with this breakdown! All the pictures and even the Marquez video must have been time-consuming to hunt down, you even have a Canizales screen grab. This is a gold mine of information, especially the backing up straight habit. It's something that boxers with an amateur background tend to have. Maybe it's because the footwork is so exaggerated in the amateurs?

MisterLee says:

I saw some some improvement (though they may prove to be irrelevant agst. an elite opponent): 1.) He is circling to the right now away from an opponent's right hand. 2.) His elbow is more tucked on the delivery of the jab 3.) I thought his 6-8 punch combinations were surprisingly accurate, crisp, and well-timed. What EM said does hold to be true, but I also saw some other things too. It's not bad for a few month training camp with a new trainer, and being a Ward fan... I feel Hunter can help Khan... though the rest is up to Khan when the moment counts. I do think he's getting more attention than at the Wildcard... and I did see Khan do a few Ward imitations for what it's worth (no more glove clapping; though not valuable, they're just tendencies he copies) including holding out the jab hand to measure range, and having a modified shoulder roll in fighting stance at times. Those are Ward-isms... but yeah, we don't know until the sh*t hits the fan... oh yeah... Khan's guard got tighter b/c agst Peterson he would lay on the ropes with his gloves open for: uppercuts down the middle, and hooks that wrap around the guard. Khan was able to cover up for those and I saw a little more head movement on the inside when he used to have NONE. Anyway, not a bad first fight. Holler!

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