By Shaun Brown
I will always remember watching Breidis Prescott hitting the pads moments before he fought Amir Khan in 2008. Despite the booming sounds that emanated from his dressing room as the underdog attacked the mitts, I still could not have predicted what was to follow that night in Manchester.
Jorge Rubio, Khan's trainer for the Prescott fight, was gone shortly afterwards, Khan would rebuild with Freddie Roach over in L.A. and the American dream worked for “King” Khan. Andrey Kotelnyk, Paulie Malignaggi, Marcos Rene Maidana and Zab Judah would assist in the reinvention of the 2004 Olympian in the next few years. Lamont Peterson aside it seemed like the road to money and Mayweather would offer no more bumps. Danny Garcia wasn’t so much a bump, but a car that came out of nowhere and wiped the Brit off the track. Few predicted it, but the danger signs are never far away when he fights.
Had Khan taken his eye off the ball once again? Did he really have the arrogance to think that it was just another fight before stardom? Three of Britain’s leading trainers; Adam Booth, Gary Lockett and Anthony “Arnie” Farnell gave their reaction to the wreckage that was left behind in the Mandalay Bay last Saturday night.
BS: What in your opinion did Khan do wrong?
Booth: “No head movement. There’s no feinting when he attacks, he just comes in on tracks and carries on in the same manner all the time. Danny Garcia said he wasn’t going to be able to match him for speed, but what he did do was upset that by beating him to the punch.”
Lockett: “He let Garcia’s Dad get into his head. The first two rounds he got the distance right and used his feet well but for some reason, I don’t know if it’s because he smelled blood, he just went for it. He’s his own worst enemy. He hasn’t really had a loss at the highest level and he really should have got past Garcia with relative ease. This is a bad looking loss on his record.”
Farnell: “Against Garcia he didn’t make use of his best assets. He does that thing that Manny Pacquiao does when he gets hit, he just wants to fire back without thinking. I wasn’t surprised he got beat. I watched some of his sparring for it on YouTube and he was going at it like crazy, getting hit and taking some crazy shots.”
BS: When a fighter doesn’t stick to a gameplan and throws it away like that how frustrating is it for you the trainer?
Booth: “If he’s man enough to admit he made that mistake then you have to respect that. Look, he’s still only 25 and he’s had a lot of big fights. He’s had a fast tracked career from the start and he has to go with what he knows. He’s never really had the luxury of taking his time throughout his career.”
Lockett: “Of course it’s frustrating, but fighters are fighters. You can train for ten weeks, work on gameplans and then they go out and do what he did. With Amir Khan, on his best day very few can beat him because of his fast feet, hands and hand to eye co-ordination.”
Farnell: “That’s bad, and as a trainer it pisses you off, but I know what it’s like to be a fighter and get into the ring. Fighters can’t hold back from the red mist sometimes. The way he fights I don’t think anyone has actually taught him how to fight ‘In the pocket’. His chin’s in the air when he throws body shots, his outside fighting is unbelievable, but on the inside he’s not as comfortable.”
BS: What has to change for him to have a successful comeback?
Booth: “It’s impossible without knowing, you can’t really make an assessment on what you see. Only he knows what he does on a daily basis. There’s a lot of talk about people wanting him to leave his trainer and that’s the problem with boxing today. Fighters treat their trainers like sweet shops – they just jump in and out gyms. That’s not good for anyone’s progression. Khan already jumped after one loss I don’t agree he should do it again.”
“His biggest asset is his blistering hand speed, but his foot speed hides the fact that he doesn’t have much head movement. He’s gotten away with it because he is so damn fast; he’s relied on that speed. He’s also got long arms which he’s able to hide behind. He’s a professional version of what he used to do as an amateur. You can’t have speed without haste.”
Lockett: “I think he needs to stop coming out with statements saying he’s Britain’s premier fighter. I don’t know why he has to do that. If I was his trainer I’d be happy with other fighters having the limelight. When Khan does that he heaps so much pressure on himself. And when he does get beat, a lot of people, not myself included, say, 'Well it serves you right'. You don’t hear a guy like Froch saying he’s Britains premier fighter do you?”
“He’s been fast tracked from the beginning and that can work one of two ways, sink or swim. For as long as he’s been a professional he’s still very amateurish. He rushes his combinations and there are just parts of the pro game which he hasn’t picked up.”
Farnell: “He only has to make a few tweaks, but all this stuff of him going to the Philippines and places like that where he’s basically second best isn’t good for the kid. He needs 100% focus, I feel sorry for him because he has so much talent.”
“A few days before the fight I saw Amir saying, 'I’m a superstar now'. Now if you’re talking to yourself like that then you are already thinking you’re there. He should have somebody telling him to get his arse out of the clouds and stop with all that Twitter nonsense.”
Writers comment: Sorry Arnie, hope you don’t mind if I leave my Twitter handle @shaun_brown