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Pacquiao vs. Khan: The Wild Card War

With Roach, Pacquiao would utilize his unique gifts to defeat Amir Khan.
With Roach, Pacquiao would utilize his unique gifts to defeat Amir Khan.
Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images

“It’s hard to see him older and getting worse. Freddie, with the Parkinson’s Disease, he was struggling with instructions and couldn’t move as well.”

Amir Khan, in late Summer 2012 after getting KTFO by Danny Garcia

Wow Amir. That like... it stinks.

I read those comments and it leads you to make that real scrunchy face. The one you make after your 300lb cousin annihilated the bathroom after feeling the effects of Taco Bell.

No spray.

No Warning.

No police tape covering the damn door.

However prescient Khan thought his remarks to be - after abandoning a Freddie Roach who was about as cold as a homeless man caught in a Chicago winter at the time - I wonder how he approaches them now roughly two years later.

Roach wondered then (angrily I might add) about the validity of those remarks, especially in lieu of a unique demand Khan had made to Roach prior to making the decision to leave.

“If that was true, why would he say to me fire Manny Pacquiao and Chavez Junior and they would keep me?” said Roach, now fresh off of reviving the career of Miguel Cotto.

Sometimes it is the question that is in fact the answer.

Khan thinks a lot of himself - too much in fact. A prodigious talent, Khan would've never been able to recover from what Bredis Prescott did to him in September 2008 had it not been for Freddie Roach. And after considering what Floyd Mayweather just went through with Marcos Maidana, Khan's own showing against him in December 2010 looks even better under Roach.

Khan's new trainer Virgil Hunter, someone Roach feels doesn't deserve as much credit as Andre Ward does due to his greatness, pointed out that Khan's major problems lied in the area of conditioning. The discrepancy being how much weight Khan cut and properly recovered (and added) by fight night.

But this is all subterfuge.

What remains to be seen is just how much Khan has gained or lost since his split from Roach, and I thought the version of Khan that just decisively beat a very good fighter in southpaw veteran Luis Collazo, was the best Khan I'd seen since a calculated spanking of Zab Judah in Summer 2011. It seemed to be a good sign of growth.

Then again it might not be.

Many signs seem to point to a clash with friend and former training partner Manny Pacquiao, and he may have even been preparing for just that by facing the left-handed Collazo, who was arguably the hottest welterweight alive following his frying of the weak-minded Victor Ortiz.

After losing what he thought was the winning ticket in the Mayweather sweepstakes, Khan may in fact be all over the radar for the Filipino icon. The reason this is possible is two things:

#1. The recent shake-up of Golden Boy.

Oscar De La Hoya and Bob Arum formed an alliance during Oscar's hiatus, and discussed a number of possibilities [that haven't been] since Al Haymon began infecting the sport with the help of Richard Schaefer. In his 50 million dollar private arbitration suit against Schaefer, it basically centers on his (Schaefer) proclivity for putting Haymon's fighters on major cards even though they weren't Golden Boy fighters. This suggests (to me at least) that Oscar was often deferring to Schaefer and Haymon, and wanted to not only take back control of his company - but help to stop ruining boxing in the process. Khan is still with Golden Boy and will be, despite his new affiliation with Haymon, and this new conflict should actually help make this fight happen - perhaps this fall.

#2. The Juan Manual Marquez situation.

I don't think Marquez will be available this fall, because he seems to be trying to make sure he's not. He's asking for way too much money as a non-champion to face Pacquiao again, owing way too much to his December 2012 electrocution of Pacquiao. I don't think he can do it again, in fact I'm damn near stating it as a fact. Nacho Beristain doesn't either, and has passionately expressed to Juan his desire that he stay away from Manny.

Khan is a narcissist with a passion for glory, and would love nothing more than the opportunity to battle and destroy Pacquiao - which he thinks he can do.

There aren't that many attractive options for Pacquiao besides Marquez this November (all due respect but Luis Abregu and the newly crowned Chris Algieri won't work), and only Khan offers the intrigue and subplots to turn this match-up into a box office bonanza.


In 24 rounds of official combat since Marquez IV, Pacquiao has acquitted himself in sensational - if not spectacular - fashion. His ring gymnastics while getting Brandon Rios spun like laundry last November, can't be trumped by Khan's razor thin escape of the pedestrian Julio Diaz.

And while Khan looked great against Collazo, showing a poise and dexterity I've not seen from him before, its not quite on par with Pacquiao's dismissal of Timothy Bradley in a "gimme-my-damn-wbo-welterweight-title-back" performance.

But Manny is 35 and approaching twilight, while Khan is (at age 27) in his athletic prime with the sun still rising. Is he an "A" list fighter and does he have what it takes to defeat an all-time great? How relevant are those gym wars with Pacquiao and could he use that experience to turn that into victory? How would the minds of Virgil Hunter and Freddie Roach impact this fight?

No more f*cking questions, let's get into this.


"There are talks about Manny Pacquiao happening in the future - may be next, Khan stated. So I have left my team, Al Haymon and my team Khan Promotions to do everything."

He wasn't done.

"The fight between me and Floyd Mayweather is going to happen one day. As long as I keep winning and putting on great performances, it is definitely going to happen. But I cannot do September because of Ramadan. The next time that it could happen is in May. I can fight then so it could be Floyd's next fight after September."

Understand that what he's really saying there, is that there is no doubt in his mind that he'll beat Pacquiao and that he's basically an afterthought. His arrogance can't be any clearer - which its why its always been a major weakness.

But lets go back a little bit...

***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

When Amir Khan walked into Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym, he did so in the latter portion of 2008 needing to recover in all kinds of ways after being massacred by Bredis Prescott. Ironically, he felt he was in the same position 4 years later after being mauled by Danny Garcia, when he ran to Virgil Hunter.

He walked into the training camp of a Manny Pacquiao being assisted by strength trainer Alex Ariza (someone he also abandoned in tacky fashion), as he was preparing for his superstar-making performance against Oscar De La Hoya. Khan received a huge psychological boost during that camp as he was gearing up to take on an all-time great in Marco Anonio Barrera in early 2009.

I have a friend of mine in California that filmed virtually all of Khan's encounters with Pacquiao around that time and leading up to his Spring 2009 fight with Ricky Hatton. I focused most of my attention on these sessions - and then the ones in late 2010 leading up to Pacquiao's destruction of Antonio Margarito.

In both of these fights, Pacquiao was not only completely focused, but he was in my opinion the absolute best fighter on the planet. Pacquiao was highly motivated to beat De La Hoya in a way Mayweather never could, and to destroy a fighter (Hatton) trained by his father.

That said, Khan sparred with the very best versions of Pacquiao between late 2008 and late 2010, and it helped to forge his own rise to championship heights and gains. He presented a tall, fast, powerful and athletic figure to Pacquiao, and more than held his own against the Filipino marvel. Every round I saw - and there were a lot of them, were extremely competitive and close. He handled Manny's footwork and unpredictable offense rather well.

There was very little holding back, they would stun each other on occasion, and I can honestly say that Khan won most of the rounds if you're scoring in principle. But there were two moments that stood out to me, and neither was good for Khan.

One was realizing that Pacquiao was indeed doing some holding back during their sparring sessions, and on another very memorable occasion- Manny unleashed a straight left that absolutely froze Khan. The session ended immediately, as Khan was essentially a knocked out fighter.

It was important for Khan's progression into a world champion that his mind be strengthened enough to bring out the best in him, while protecting his vulnerabilities- which are his chin and mental state of mind.

In circa 2014, with all of those experiences in mind while settled into his tenure with Virgil Hunter, a smarter and much more physically imposing Khan would pose as a nightmare of sorts for Pacquiao. His physical ascension combined with Pacquiao's slight regression, would show up early and fairly often during this fight.

So much so, that I think Khan would be dominating Pacquiao over the first half of this fight - even beating the sh*t out of him at times.

But fights at the very highest levels are often determined by intangibles, and the chin and mental states would determine this one. The quality that often separates a great fighter when paired with an all-time great during a bout is "will". I watched Pacquiao break and then take Timothy Bradley's will to take back his title, and he would break Amir Khan's as well.

Losing most of the rounds heading into the 9th round while bleeding and cut, Pacquiao would finally land that lethal left hand that froze Khan during their sparring sessions, and he would never recover. It would carry over into the 10th round where Pacquiao, flashing an old killer instinct for his former friend turned foe, finishes and flat-lines Khan in an absolute thriller.

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