By Jake Donovan
This weekend doesn’t pose the ideal situation for Amir Khan. The 2004 Olympic silver medalist and former unified 140 lb. titlist hasn’t fought since last December and isn’t even facing his desired opponent once he steps into the ring to face Danny Garcia at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Khan was hoping to avenge last year’s loss to Lamont Peterson. Plans were in place for a May 19 rematch but were canceled once Peterson tested positive for synthetic testosterone during pre-fight random drug testing. Comments were made by Khan and his handlers, questioning the validity of the first fight and filing even more protests over a verdict that never sat well with the Brit.
Rather than continue to stress over unfinished business, Khan now focuses on what lies immediately ahead. There’s no concern about what can happen with a win, a tactic the British star has employed far too often in the past. Instead, a maturation process has set in as all of Khan’s attention is placed solely on Garcia and the best means of victory over the Philly fighter this weekend.
“I need to stay focused 100% for this fight because we know when we start thinking ahead and looking too far ahead you can make mistakes and we don't want to do this,” Khan admits, a change of pace from his past behavior. “I'm at my peak now where I like to be very professional because in the future there are some super fights out there, so it's all about winning this fight, taking fight step out time, and not really looking too far ahead.”
While refusing to look ahead, it’s impossible to blame Khan for dwelling on the past, in light of what has transpired in recent months.
With Peterson testing positive and admitting to beginning the treatment prior to their fight late last year, the validity of his performance is now subject to reexamination. Khan’s initial goal was to gain revenge in the rematch, the most fitting way to reverse an outcome.
After having filed countless protests both before and after such news came out, Khan has finally comes to grips that the matter is best left in the past.
“[Y]ou still think about what happened and stuff because I would have kind of preferred to settle the score properly and gone in there and fought him.,” Khan admits. “I mean even when he got caught positive I thought there was still a chance of me fighting him and I told my team and my team still advised me not to because it's not fair, but I would have like to have settled the score properly. But now I've just put it behind me because this is another tough fight.”
Garcia (23-0, 14KO) has proven his mettle over the past couple of years. Wins over Ashley Theophane and Kendall Holt helped elevate the unbeaten Philly fighter to legitimate contender status in the always loaded 140 lb. division. A points win over faded Erik Morales this past March helped earn Garcia his first major belt.
That very title will be on stake this weekend, as will one of Khan’s old belts as the WBA agreed to sanction this fight in light of the status of its current titlist Peterson. While random drug testing led to the cancellation of the rematch with Peterson, both Khan and Garcia agreed that it was their duty to prove that two young fighters squaring off are doing so the all-natural way.
“I think it's a great thing that we're doing by doing this random test,” Khan believes. “Me and Danny Garcia we also agreed on taking the tests randomly in camp and also before the fight, so it just shows we are cleaning the sport of boxing up and we are fair fighters and clean fighters.
“Even the fight being that close, (Peterson) was on medication that time so it just shows that that the medication on performance enhancement drugs really that's going to help his performance. Maybe if he wasn't on that maybe the fight would have been stopped within mid to end. Maybe that's what kept him going and kept him going forward and taking so many shots and still coming forward. You don't know but I'm glad boxing is now cleaning up and there are so many different tests happening in between fights and in between training camps.”
Assuming both fighters remain clean between now and Saturday night, the fight should produce a clear divisional leader by night’s end. Tim Bradley has abandoned the division, committing full-time to welterweight after last month’s controversial win over Manny Pacquiao.
The recent drug testing scandal puts Peterson’s lofty ranking at risk, leaving many to believe that the two best clean athletes in the 140 lb division are the pair that will be sharing ring space this weekend.
“Me and Danny are young fighters. He's 24. I'm 25 and to be in this position fighting a huge fight with so many titles on the line I think is brilliant.”
The extended training camp – 16 total weeks, with the first half spent preparing for a Peterson rematch that never was – has left Khan believing that a brilliant performance is in store for Saturday evening. A part of him still wishes it was Peterson in there, but recognizes the dangerous challenge that lies ahead in its place.
“What got to me a little bit was just not having the chance to win my titles back and to kind of put things straight,” Khan states. “I would have definitely changed a lot of things from the first piece of the fight because I know I made a lot of mistakes in there and our plans were too lazy and stuff and standing there taking shots.
“The true fight there I fought someone who was on illegal substances but I just put it behind me now and now I'm just looking in the future and the future holds another big fight for me, which is against Danny Garcia, for the WBA title and the WBC title, so I'm just looking forward to that one. I've kind of put everything behind me and I have to focus on what I want to do in this next fight.”
Talks of a defection to 147 and eventual showdown with Floyd Mayweather have already begun to surface. Those plans were already being discussed last year, as Khan has now twice threatened for a scheduled next fight at 140 to be his last.
Just as he refused to take the bait from his opponent’s trash talking father and trainer, Khan decides to keep it close to the vest when asked of his potential future. Any response, he feels, would serve as disrespectful to his opponent and a disruption to what he has prepared to (hopefully) accomplish on Saturday evening.
“We'll see after we win this fight hopefully and then we sit down with the team and we go through what's going to happen,” Khan says. “Yeah, it could be one of the last fights. It just depends on how it all goes (on Saturday), but yeah, I think it's maybe time after this fight to move up to the next weight category and go for the new challenges.
“It's like I said it's just taking one fight step at a time. I've not really thought about it just yet. I want to think about it after the fight when we know exactly what happens.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox