By Ryan Maquiñana
Amir Khan has traded the comfort of his British homeland and glamour of his previous Hollywood camp for the serenity of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Over the past 16 months, the former junior welterweight titleholder has toiled in tranquility in Hayward, Calif., with trainer Virgil Hunter, who said it would take “at least three fights and three training camps” before his new charge would begin to evolve style-wise.
After two victories under Hunter’s tutelage, Camp No. 3 has concluded, and Khan is set to face Luis Collazo in Las Vegas on Saturday -- with nothing less than an impressive win necessary to keep him alive in the sweepstakes to land a fight with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather.
Khan, who previously trained with Freddie Roach not too far from the Hollywood Walk of Fame, described the drastic difference between the two locales.
“Boxing over here is so much easier than Hollywood, where I was before at the Wild Card,” Khan told BoxingScene.com. “(There are) so many distractions over there. You have the likes of Mark Wahlberg and all these famous people walking into the gym.
“Also, here in the Bay Area, where no one knows about this gym, it’s so private. It’s so quiet. Virgil doesn’t like that many people coming in because it’s a distraction.”
Khan initially gained stardom as a teenage amateur when he captured a silver medal for Great Britain at the 2004 Olympics and saw his stateside Q-rating rise when he worked out alongside Manny Pacquiao at Wild Card.
However, after a camp spent in relative seclusion in both Hayward and the University of California, Berkeley, the departure from the norm has been a boon for Khan.
“I think it’s what I needed,” Khan said. “In the U.K., I can’t walk the streets there. It was getting bad in America as well, but I enjoy when it comes to working hard. Ideally, the Bay Area is amazing for that.”
Khan delved into the transformation he believes he’s enjoyed since working with Hunter.
“It’s a massive difference,” Khan said. I’ve worked on little things. The movement, where my hands need to be. The defensive side of boxing. The offensive side of boxing. I’ve worked on a lot of things in the last 12 months with Virgil, so I’m going to take all of that knowledge into the fight with me.
“So you’ll definitely see a different Amir Khan. Even though I’ve not fought for the last 12 months, I’ve been learning nonstop. I’ve been learning and working on new things and having new strategies and game plans, so I can wait to put it to work.”
Collazo, an unconventional southpaw from New York, is in the same boat as Khan. With the fight a lead-in to Saturday’s main event between Mayweather and Marcos Maidana, the winner has an opportunity to emphatically state his case to be considered among the division’s elite. However, the loser might find himself mired in an insurmountable hole in terms of his career.
“He’s always had an awkward style,” Khan said, “and now he showed he has power when he knocked out Victor Ortiz. But I’ve fought southpaws before, like Zab Judah.
“It’s going to be a tough fight no matter what. The way we’re going to beat him is by being smart, (and) sticking to the instructions in the corner from Virgil. (We’re not) getting too excited in there looking for the knockout. We’re going to be giving him a good boxing lesson.”
Ryan Maquiñana was the boxing producer for NBCOlympics.com during London 2012 and writes a boxing column for CSNBayArea.com. He is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and Ring Magazine's Ratings Panel. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org , check out his blog at Norcalboxing.com or follow him on Twitter @RMaq28. Tags: Amir Khan , Luis Collazo , Khan-Collazo , Khan vs. Collazo