วันอังคารที่ 31 กรกฎาคม พ.ศ. 2555

Amir Khan - On the Road to Freddie Roach!

Amir Khan is potentially the best boxer ever to hail from the UK, up there shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Ted 'Kid' Lewis, Jimmy Wilde, Joe Calzaghe and whoever else you care to mention. Amir was a superbly talented amateur who entered the paid ranks to great fanfare and carrying the weight of expectation on his shoulders. However, within the space of 10 pro fights he had arguably developed more technical flaws than were ever present when he was competing in the amateur code. In my view, he was making fundamental errors the like of which he would have been rightly reprimanded for by his amateur boxing coaches. In this article, I want to explore in very specific terms what these technical problems were, how they affected his ring performances and what Freddie Roach may have rectified during Khan's time at The Wild Card Gym in LA.

Amir Khan - The Amateur Years

Transition Coaching

Amir Khan was clearly a boxing prodigy from the outset of his amateur career at the age of 11. By the time Khan really got into his stride, he had won multiple domestic titles and progressed to become World Junior Champion, European Youth Champion and Junior Olympic Champion. This glittering march culminated in his attendance at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens where he, at the tender age of 17, reached the final and was prevented from winning gold only by uber-boxer Mario Kindelan,the mesmerizing 3 time Olympic champion from Cuba.

Amir Khan - On the Road to Freddie Roach!

If you get the chance, take a look at one of Khan's bouts from the Athens Olympics, maybe his quarter final bout against tough Korean Jong-Sub Baik. Khan is aggressive from the outset, but is happy to fire intense barrages of shots on the back foot. The Korean is floored once and is ultimately stopped before the end of round 1. Notice the perfect balance of Khan, his body weight remaining central or on the back foot. Notice also that whilst he is unloading shots with power, he is doing so under total control and is comfortable moving in and out of range with speed and aggression.

9 months after his Olympic exploits, Khan was ready to enter the professional ranks. Amir Khan was primed by the amateur game to accelerate toward paid glory. Surely nothing could go wrong, could it?

The Transition

In May 2005, Amir Khan signed his first professional contract with Frank Warren. His coach was Oliver Harrison who guided him through his first 17 pro contests. Harrison and Khan parted company in 2008 and Harrison was replaced by Jorge Rubio, former coach of the Cuban national squad, who was to guide him through his next 2 contests. These 2 contests were against Michael Gomez and Breidis Prescott, Gomez an experienced (if a little long in the tooth) campaigner who could punch a bit, and Prescott a fast, hard-hitting Colombian. These 2 contests were arguably the worst that Khan had been involved in, certainly in his pro career, the contest against Prescott culminating in a devastating one round KO.

So what actually happened to Khan during the formative years of his professional career? There were insults exchanged between the Khan camp and Harrison, and Harrison and Rubio, all of whom pointed the finger of blame at each other when it came to explaining Khan's apparently inexplicable loss of form. OK, in the same way that scientists analyze an ice core to examine the conditions in the world at a particular time, lets look at some of Amir's contests and examine his technique.

Check out Khan's 2006 contest against Colin Bain (his 8th paid outing.) Bain held a record of 11 bouts with only one loss, so a reasonable opponent for Khan early in his career. I have some issues with the changes in Khan from his late amateur days to here. I'd like to draw your attention to 3 specific issues when you watch this fight:

Amir's body weight, for significant periods of the contest, seems to be over his front leg. This weight distribution causes massive problems and for me this is a critical fault in Khan's boxing technique. Avoiding an opponent's oncoming punch is a bit like trying to dodge a bullet fired from 3 foot away! When Khan throws his jab, he seems to be launching his weight behind the shot. Throwing the body weight behind a jab is fine if the shot lands, but if it misses then any shot fired back by the opponent will have increased power. This issue of trying to hit too hard seems to be a problem for many UK-based professional fighters, so Khan is not alone here. Amir seems very willing to drop his hands, particularly his left hand, when he is within the 'strike' range of his opponent.

It has to be said here, these are the type of errors that Khan would simply not have made as an amateur. So what's gone on here? I mean, it's only 12 months into his professional career! That's a very short period of time in which such dramatic and fundamental technical problems should become evident in the style of an Olympic silver medalist. Shouldn't someone be identifying this? Well, I felt sure at the time that he'd eradicate these nasty habits as his career progressed, and anyway, he took out Bain in round 2, so what was I worried about?

No Longer a Newbie!

We've jumped ahead a couple of years here, to Khan's 17th fight against Denmark's Martin Kristjansen. Now, I'll give you a tip. Khan wins the fight via a 7th round TKO, but right from the outset it is apparent that the same 3 problems as described previously are still in evidence, and if anything the over-commitment with the jab has become more pronounced. You can watch the whole fight, but to get the point you need only watch the first few minutes. By the way, this is the last fight that Khan has with coach Oliver Harrison before moving on to Jorge Rubio, and he's been a professional for 3 years.

The next fight we see (after Khan's lackluster performance against Gomez in which he was wobbled on more than one occasion) is the tipping point in Khan's career, his September 2008 fight with Breidis Prescott. Now, Prescott is a whole different ball game than any of Amir's previous opponents in that he can punch...hard! After this fight, more accurately described as a one-sided thrashing, Khan takes stock and realizes that there needs to be a sea-change in his approach if he is to fulfill the massive potential he was was showing as an amateur.

The Road to Roach - America Here I Come!

After the Prescott fight, it's unsurprising that Khan felt like a change! He joined Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym, looking to re-ignite his career and rediscover the depth of talent that he undoubtedly possessed. So, without dragging this out anymore than is necessary. Take a look at Khan's 2010 clash with Paulie Malignaggi. OK,you spot any of the critical 3 errors (left hand dropping, weight going over the front leg, over-committing with the jab)? I certainly don't. I'll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

Was the problem Khan getting carried away with himself early in his career? I find this scenario unlikely as Amir Khan is a self-effacing and modest character. Did he just plain forget how to box properly? Again,unlikely. What about this for a scenario; Khan had 3 fundamental technical errors that had developed within his style during his first 19 fights, and after a short period with Freddie Roach these flaws were identified and rectified. Could this have been a failure in the coaching setup during his early pro years? Maybe, just maybe!

Freddie Roach, as the great coach that he is, knows that a great boxer does the simple things, but does them very well. He has reinforced the basics with Khan, and now Khan can look ahead to a great career. Will Khan be involved in the kind of historic fights that have made many other fighters? Unlikely I think because the more conservative style he now employs means that he will seek to 'manage' opponents as opposed to blowing them away. Freddie Roach is teaching Khan to fight to his strengths.

Whatever happens though, it will surely be an interesting ride!

Amir Khan - On the Road to Freddie Roach!