By Ryan Maquiñana
Amir Khan is finally making the jump to the full-fledged welterweight division when he faces titleholder Devon Alexander on Dec. 7 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center, and the British star is already raving about the bout.
“Devon Alexander’s a great fighter,” Khan told BoxingScene.com. “I think he’s a two, three-time world champion. He’s tough. He’s beaten a lot of great fighters like [Marcos] Maidana, [Lucas] Matthysse, [Zab] Judah, and them guys.”
Khan (28-3, 19 KOs), from Bolton, England, briefly delved into the clash (or lack thereof) of technical styles with Alexander (25-1, 14 KOs), of St. Louis, Mo.
“I think we have a lot of similarities,” Khan said. “We’re both boxers. We’re both explosive. [We have] speed. What a hell of a fight it will be. It’s a fight that the boxing fans want to see—two young fighters who are going to be explosive and young as well. It will bring boxing alive again.”
Speculation has run rampant that a victory could catapult Khan in consideration to fight pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather (45-0, 26 KOs) in London next year. Khan, however, has chosen to stay focused on the current task at hand.
“I’m not looking too far ahead because, you know, I’ve made that mistake before,” Khan said. “I’m just going to take each fight one step at a time. All my eyes will be on Alexander…on this one fight. I’ll just be taking it from there, really.”
This week, Khan commenced training camp with cornerman Virgil Hunter in the Northern California city of Hayward, which is located less than an hour’s drive southeast of San Francisco.
“I only fight twice a year, and I’ve never trained in between a training camp, but this time, I’ve been training in between camps,” Khan said. “It’s the first time ever, so I flew in my conditioning coach over, Tony [Brady]. He spent five weeks with me on strength and conditioning. I’m already in shape, I feel, and I still have 11, 12 weeks until the fight. I’ve never been so fit going into a fight for a long time. That’s a big bonus.
“There are some things on my conditioning that we’ve never worked on before, like my stability. My balance was so bad. My stability wasn’t the best. I’ve improved that so much in five weeks. I feel so much stronger when I walk, when I stand up. I’m like a different fighter.”
The 2004 Olympic silver medalist and former junior welterweight titleholder also revealed that in retrospect, he should have ascended to welterweight after stopping Judah in July of 2011.
“[Being] at 147 [pounds], 100 percent, has made a big difference in my style. I think you’ll definitely see a new Amir Khan this year—not an Amir Khan that was killing himself to make 140. I should have moved up from 140 after the Judah fight, I believe, but I didn’t."
In his last outing five months ago, Khan defeated former titlist Julio Diaz but had to get off the canvas to capture the decision.
"I made that mistake by staying at that weight, killing myself, and you could see it in my last few fights," Khan said. "I made them harder than they normally should be, really, because I get into wars. My reaction, the movements are not the same because I’m killing myself making weight. I’ll be much fresher and better at 147."
Ultimately, Khan feels the decision will pay dividends in December when he meets Alexander at the new weight.
“When you kill yourself making weight, you’re weak,” Khan said. “You can’t move. Your body cramps up and stuff. My natural weight when I walk around is just under 160. I used to get down to 140, which is 20 pounds [less]. The seven pounds are going to make a massive difference.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a weekly column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and the Ratings Panel for Ring Magazine. E-mail him at [email protected] , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.net, or follow him on Twitter: @RMaq28.