By Andrew Winterbottom
April 20th see’s Bolton’s Amir Khan travel to Madison Square Garden in New York for his mega clash with WBO Welterweight unbeaten champion Terence Crawford.
The former Olympian goes into the mega fight as heavy underdog with very few expecting the Brit to upset the odds. Khan enters the fight off the back of a decision victory against Samuel Vargas, in a fight which he had to pick himself up off the canvas, eventually winning on points.
Ahead of the title clash, I spoke to a former sparring partner of Amir’s, Alex Matvienko.
Alex spoke of Khans qualities and what he thinks is going to be his main chance of success: “I think Amir has to go in there and let himself settle, he can’t go in all guns blazing, with his age now he has to preserve himself more and try and grow into the fight more. His speed is obviously well known and if he can save his high tempo for the later rounds then he’s definitely got a chance”.
Khan has a huge amount of experience in the states, having fought there eleventh times already. However he has only had one previous appearance at the Madison Square Garden defending his World Super Lightweight title against Paul Malignaggi.
With Khans highly documented popularity in America, Alex believes this could also give him a boost. “Yeah, he’s got a good following in America, done quite well there and fought some huge names, when you go to somewhere where you’re appreciated and supported it definitely puts you at ease a little bit.”
“He’s beaten some really good fighters over there, Collazo, Alexander, Maidana, some seriously good names.”
I was interested to know what it was like Sparring Amir in his younger days and if he had any weaknesses that he thought may cause him problems further down the line. “He was winning a lot of stuff off natural ability, he’s naturally fast, naturally powerful, a lot of it’s the speed of the punch, obviously there’s always room for improvement but he got away with a lot bad habits due to the speed.”
Khan hasn’t fought for a title since his loss to Saul Alvarez in 2016, a fight where the Englishmen suffered a huge knockout, where many questioned if he would ever make his comeback to the ring.
“Obviously, it was a heavy knockout, but up until that point he was well in that fight, everyone knows of Canelo’s quality and I think that hit would have knocked most fighters out, it was huge.”
“Since his comeback he’s looked good, the Lo Greco fight he came out and finished him straight away and looked like the Khan of old with his unbelievable speed, was really good to see.”
The Crawford announcement came as quite a shock for fans as it seemed Crawford may have bigger fish to fry with many expecting and perhaps hoping that he would face fellow countryman Spence. It had been heavily suspected that Khan may have finally taken the step of taking on rival Kell Brook however that fight continues to wait in line. Alex spoke of his thoughts on that potential clash happening.
“It could do if they both just want the money, both will probably be past their best when they do do it, you see it happen a lot, so it could do, money talks.”
During the pre-fight build up, the former Olympian silver medallist has spoken of his lack of credit from the British public. Khan believes he has “done everything he can” in order to give the public what they want however “nothing seems to work”.
Alex believes that Amir is and always has been under appreciated by the British public. “He never gets the credit for fighting like your Zab Judah, Devon Alexander, Danny Garcia, Lamont Peterson, his fight records like a CV of who’s who in the last 10, 15 years or however long he’s been pro.”
“Even from his early days, he went in with Graham Earle in his first senior fight I think it was so yeah very under appreciated, he’s never really avoided anyone, people say he’s avoiding Kell Brook but gone in with Crawford now so you cant really say he’s avoiding him.”
Its sure to be a huge task to overcome Crawford and one that you have to give Khan a lot of credit for taking on. The unbeaten American has showcased time and time again his pedigree and continues to be spoken about amount the best pound for pound in the world. Could Khan shock the world come April 20th?
“My heart obviously goes with Amir Khan, you know, it would be a huge scalp and then who knows where he’d go? But realistically my brain probably says Crawford. He’s a fantastic fighter in his prime.”