Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sub-text to Pacquiao-Clottey is Khan-Hatton

After the bathos of a collapsing house of cards surrounding drug-testing disagreements between the respective camps of Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, the gloom lifts slightly.

Although the main pugilistic press event across the pond in the last 24 hours was to promote Manny Pacquiao’s next grievous assault on Ghanaian Joshua Clottey, the sub-text from coach Freddie Roach yesterday was ramping up Amir Khan’s prospects of a contest with weather-worn Mancunian Ricky Hatton.

Boxing lurches from the blue to the red corner in imponderables at times, the rags to riches tales of exponents simply a colour pallet to the complexities that go on above many of the fighters’ heads. Mayweather-Pacquiao had the world expectant, and then punched us square in the jaw. Then the cards collapsed. Bob Arum’s early pronouncement that the super-fight had been made was too good to be true. Now, as ever, the long wait…

But after the smokescreens, Pacquiao – in spite of facing an African opponent on March 13 – insisted yesterday that he believes the contest with Mayweather, expected to gross $200 million and outsell all pay per view buys in history, will happen later this year. Let’s hope so.

But Pacquiao must remain mindful that Clottey will not concur with such a script. Mayweather will toy with Pacquiao’s mind if he should end up as damaged goods against Clottey. Beware the Ides of March, O Filipino idol. Plus, in May, there is the distracting force, of the Philippine elections, in which the boxing whirlwind continues to insist he will meet his next extra-mural challenge.

Yet the undercurrents are now beginning to take shape. Khan’s move under the banner of Golden Boy Promotions can only hasten, according to Freddie Roach, the prospect of a showdown with Hatton, currently in Australia, drinking deep in sunshine.

I spoke with Khan’s father, Shah, yesterday, who told Telegraph Sport that the contest with Marcos Maidana, the mandatory challenger to the Boltonian’s WBA 140lb crown, is not yet decided, in spite of profligate reports to the contrary on internet forums this week. The news was viral, simply based on a WBA statement. Read between the lines. All that statement said was that purse bids were off.

Khan, based in Los Angeles at Roach’s Wild Card Gym, may put his title on the line against Maidana in April, possibly on the 10th, maybe on the 17th, undercarding on the second date beneath Bernard Hopkins. But watch this space.

On that note, it could mean a congested April boxing schedule for Britain’s world champions. David Haye is slated to defend the WBA heavyweight title against John Ruiz on April 3, in the UK, with Carl Froch putting his WBC supermiddleweight title on the table against Mikkel Kessler in Denmark on April 17.

Back on the Golden Boy-Khan axis, I understand there are reservations about Maidana on two fronts. Golden Boy Promotions want Khan’s US debut against “a name” the American public recognises, and against whom Home Box Office can raise the curtain with the launch of a new star.

Maidana may not, for them, have the necessary stripes to his name. Moreover, Roach, in brazen honesty, has concerns about Maidana’s style (26 knockouts in 27 outings), having told Telegraph Sport over the New Year that the Argentinian may be a poor match for Khan at this stage in his career. Brazen. Yes. For Khan might be a world champion, but he is far from the finished article. Roach says Khan is only halfway there.

It is boxing’s raw protectionism, which generates debate, and yet which has been a part of the sport since men licensed to duke it out raised both hands to their chins.

With Khan having left British promoter Frank Warren’s stable to sign with Oscar de la Hoya’s promotional firm, Roach expects an all-British fight with Hatton to be assembled with alacrity.

“Yes, 100 per cent and it’s going to be a good fight. Ricky asked me if I would train him when I was in the UK the last time and Ricky’s a good guy but I can’t say I think he should retire one moment and then train him in the next, so I won’t be training Ricky. But if he is going to fight again I would like Amir to fight him, yes.”

As for Khan’s move to Golden Boy, Roach said: “I think it’s a very good move. They’re good operators and he’s happy with so as long as he’s happy with it I think it’s a good move. Golden Boy has options on Maidana,” Roach said. “We want to build that fight up and make it bigger. Maidana’s a good fighter.”

A good fighter. And right now, possibly a step too far for Khan. But in Roach’s view, Khan’s perfect warm-up would be to dazzle in the lights against Hatton. Khan, even now, may have far too much speed and youthful zest for his fellow Lancastrian.

Golden Boy will announce Khan’s next move soon, at a press conference in the UK – before the 23-year-old sets off for his next 8-week training camp in California, under the watchful shadow of Roach. Intriguing times…


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