This is a letter from a fan. I’d like to think I will word this more eloquently than many of your haters out there. And there are many. So here goes.
You do seem to divide opinion among boxing fans. I do believe that an element of this is based on your race and religion. That is sad. You undoubtedly suffer from racism and islamophobia which is deplorable and inexcusable. The reasons that you frustrate and annoy me however are nothing of the sort. As an atheist, I don’t care what religion someone is, and as a (self-appointed) decent human being, your skin colour doesn’t help me form an opinion of a professional sportsperson, or anyone else for that matter.
As I alluded to, there are parts of your career that annoy me. I appreciate you probably don’t care, however after your recent tweets I feel compelled to get this off my chest.
I am thirty years old, like yourself, so I was also seventeen in 2004 when you won your Olympic Silver medal. That may be one of the reasons I followed your career so closely from turning professional to where we are now. Turning unprofessional perhaps. You turned pro to much fanfare and excited fans as you marched towards your ambition of capturing a world title by the time you were twenty one. I’m purposely going to gloss over your first defeat. As you so often say, it’s boxing and anyone can get caught. I’d probably focus on this more if it had been a watershed moment where you learned from your mistakes but that seems far from the case.
After that upset defeat you parted ways with your coach of one whole fight. Rather than accept some portion of blame for trading with a fearsome puncher, you and your promoter moved on. Admittedly, to a world class trainer in Freddie Roach who clearly knew what he was doing in guiding you to that world title. Some would note that your maiden world title shot was your first actual bout at the 140lb limit and could be construed as undeserved. That a win over a blown up featherweight legend wasn’t sufficient to qualify for the opportunity to box a champion. Who knows? Maybe this is where your sense of entitlement was born. I honestly couldn’t say. Nonetheless, you comprehensively outboxed a limited, yet capable, champion in Andreas Kotelnik to win the WBA crown.
Following this you defended in Newcastle, undoubtedly a highlight of your career, before heading stateside to further enhance your legacy. Wins over Conor McGregor’s sparring partner and Marcos Maidana are definitely worthy of respect. At this point in your career you had seemingly exorcised your demons and were well on your way to the top. A successful home defence against then undefeated European champion Paul McCloskey further cemented your position within the upper echelons of what is now the Super-Lightweight division. What came next, was possibly your most impressive achievement, and is arguably your last relevant victory. The world was seemingly your oyster in 2011 as you partially unified the division, adding Zab Judah’s IBF strap to your WBA version. Could the illustrious Floyd Mayweather Jr be lured into a contest, despite you never having boxed in his division? As you’d shown, actual competition at the actual weight class is irrelevant for Amir Khan (third person reference alert).
From here onwards your career has seemingly lurched from one disaster to another. I thought long and hard about whether to include some of your, shall we say, extra-curricular activities but this is a boxing blog, so let’s focus on the boxing.
A close, competitive fight against Lamont Peterson saw you lose your belts to the Washington native, in his hometown lest we forget. To be honest, I can see why you felt aggrieved losing such a close fight. However, your failure to acknowledge your part in the loss was infuriating as a fan. The man in the hat, the referee, the judges all took verbal bullets from your post-fight tantrums. Not your inability to avoid Peterson’s type of scrap, or your refusal to acknowledge the referee’s warnings which resulted in losing a potentially pivotal point. A theme that we may see again.
When Peterson failed a drugs test that scuppered the rematch, another Al Haymon man stepped up. The relatively unheralded Danny Garcia. Again, there were Neanderthal racial slurs to contend with in the build-up. You lost your cool and uncharacteristically promised to knockout the Philly boxer. After two rounds of stunning boxing, your bold prediction looked likely. We all know what happened next. I vividly remember standing cheering as you boxed yourself into an early lead. I, like you, didn’t see what was coming next.
Still, any boxer can be knocked out. All it takes is a second and one shot can change a fight. If, biggest if in boxing, you learned from this, then the future could still be bright. That elusive Mayweather fight could still be on the horizon… So, at this point you accepted that it was you in the ring that momentarily dropped his guard and paid the price. Surely your trainer didn’t tell you get overconfident in there, which allowed you to get tagged with big punches. Back to the Wild Card to work on concentration and other flaws that still needed addressing. Right?
Wrong. Another stoppage loss, another new trainer. On the face of it, a boxer who lacks defensive intelligence teaming up with the Godfather of one of the best technical boxers on the planet makes a great deal of sense. Virgil Hunter would be right up there with many to help add defensive layers to a boxer that possesses lightning hand speed and Olympic level skill. The problem is that we are now five years removed from the Garcia loss and we are still none the wiser to what you have learned. Molina was a good tune up to put new practices in place and move onto bigger things. Julio Diaz followed. Not the greatest opponent but another good opportunity to showcase the subtle improvements made. Even getting dropped by a career lightweight wasn’t the end of the world. You showed courage to get up and outpoint him. It showed boxing ability, durability and heart. Qualities you had already shown. So nothing new learned but the old positives remained.
The main issue I have with the Diaz fight is that it was your only one in 2013. In fact, it was your only fight in 14 months! You came back in May 2015 against Luis Collazo. A potential banana skin against an experienced southpaw who had just stopped Victor Ortiz. The fact that your most dangerous opponent in several years was an ageing Collazo speaks volumes about this stage of your career. I’d give more credit for your near shutout of Devon Alexander if you hadn’t already turned him down by this point. It was a classy performance but lets not pretend you hadn’t taken some unnecessary shots, as usual, it was just that “The Great” only had enough power to bruise, rather than brutalise you.
Six months later against an even lighter hitter in Chris Algieri saw another unanimous points win. The lack of power aside, this was another solid enough victory in the welterweight division. A potential increase in momentum ahead of an assault on all comers at 147. Not quite. A whole year would pass by before you gallantly moved up to face Canelo at “middleweight”. You’ve happily told us that you were outboxing him, blissfully unaware that this counted for nothing (see Garcia, Danny) as your concentration, defence and chin once again combined to leave you on the canvas.
You were brave in stepping up to face the Mexican, however I can’t help but mention the lack of courage, or sense, you showed in avoiding the most obvious match available to you. No, not Floyd! That wasn’t realistic to anyone other than you and your most ardent of fans. I’m not saying Kell Brook would’ve beaten you had it taken place or that you were scared of him. I believe you saw yourself as above him. Too big a name. Too good, too fast. That the risk of losing to him far outweighed the potential reward in your eyes. All nonsense. Had your career continued on the unified champion trajectory then you’d have had a valid point. The reality is somewhat different however. And this is seemingly where you and reality differ. It was the only fight many UK boxing fans wanted to see you in. Kell had, and has still, achieved more than you at welterweight. A win over your domestic rival at world level would probably have reignited your stalling career. Yet, the excuses and ego, got in the way. From both parties, however he stayed active.
In my eyes, and the eyes of many other impartial observers, you have wasted what should have been your prime years sitting out meaningful fights (in your actual division) in the hope that Mayweather would choose you. I have zero doubt that somewhere along the line The Money Team led you to believe you were in with a chance. I can’t blame you for hoping you’d be the one to snap his unbeaten streak. I can, and do, blame you for repeating the same mistakes over and over.
Following your recent Twitter posts, which inspired this letter, I implore you to think long and hard about what you want for your future. If you want, or need, to continue boxing go away, train hard (away from the public glare), choose a challenging opponent (there are plenty at welterweight) and come back. Don’t price yourself out of meaningful fights based on your past standing in the sport, don’t sit out in the hope a 40 year old man chooses you.
If you choose to walk away from the sport, then do so with your head held high and remember the good times, for there were many.
British Boxing Blog