By Terence Dooley
Amir Khan popped up on Sky Sports this afternoon to talk about his April 16 WBA light-welterweight title defence against Northern Ireland's Paul McCloskey at the MEN Arena, Manchester. Khan feels that his southpaw opponent has earned the fight by winning the British and EBU belts en route to compiling a 22-0 (12) record. Khan, 24-1 (7 early), believes that McCloskey will bring his A-game on the night to make it one to remember.
"I've met him for the first time today, he's a little bit shorter than me but he seems confident," revealed the 24-year-old title-holder. "He's got a good style and he's strong, I can't take this one easy. I have to be sharp and can't make any mistakes. I train alongside Manny [Pacquiao], who is the best southpaw in the world. Freddie Roach has got a lot of southpaw sparring partners coming in and I don't mind fighting southpaws."
Khan insists that this orthodox-southpaw clash will not suffer from the styles match-up. He said, "When you fight a left handed guy you have to watch the footwork and his back hand will be the most powerful shot so I have to make sure I move away from it and don't make any mistakes. I have to be smart, use lateral movement and my boxing skills."
Khan fights in the UK for the first time since his December 2009 single stanza icing of Dmitriy Salita. 'King' Khan will join Manny and Roach in the Philippines and LA before finishing his training camp here in the UK in the final weeks leading up to the fight.
"It is very exciting, I've travelled the world at such a young age. I'll training in LA and the Philippines and then come back to England for the final weeks. It gives me a fanbase in different countries," says Khan, who is adamant that he will never repeat the mistakes that led to his September 2008 defeat to Breidis Prescott.
"I got caught by Prescott and won't make that mistake again", says Khan, "that shot could have knocked anyone out. It is all about being smart, not making mistakes. I can't take it easy with these guys. I can take a shot from anyone in boxing. Put me in with anyone, I'll beat them."
Alex Ariza has left Team Khan under acrimonious circumstances, the fighter feels that he can overcome the conditioning coach's departure. Indeed, he said that Freddie has already lined up a new man.
"It is going to have a little bit of an impact but the boss is Freddie Roach and he's insisted that I get a new strength conditioner. I am happy with anyone Freddie brings in. It will be a bit different but it will be sorted when I get to LA," mused Khan.
"Freddie gives the orders. Freddie is very smart, he can watch a video of an opponent and tell you what to do. Many coaches go with the flow but Freddie works on a game plan and on your mistakes and tries to improve you. I'm still young and have a lot of improvement to go but Freddie is the main man for this. I am a bigger puncher than him, I know that for a fact, if I catch anyone clean they will go down. [Rene Marcos] Maidana went down from a body shot and was very lucky to get up from that. Paul is a strong guy and I think my boxing skills will win this fight. I have been thinking about the Bradley fight as well as that will drive me through this fight. I want to make the fight against Bradley for the summertime and I want it in England for the home fans."
Tickets for Khan vs. McCloskey, priced at £300, £200, £125, £75, £50 and £40, go on sale on Tuesday, February 8 at 1:00 PM GMT. They may be purchased at the M.E.N. Arena Box Office, by calling +44-(0)844-847-8000, or online at www.ticketmaster.co.uk or www.men-arena.com.