By Robert Morales
Last Tuesday in Los Angeles, Amir Khan stood in a large hallway inside the Sports Arena, where on Dec. 15 the former super lightweight champion from England will try to get his career back on track when he takes on Carlos Molina of Norwalk in the main event (on Showtime).
Khan recently switched trainers, firing hall-of-famer Freddie Roach and soon after hiring Virgil Hunter, who is best known for his work with super middleweight champion Andre Ward.
Khan is 26-3 with 18 knockouts and has been stopped inside the distance twice. In 2008, he was knocked out by Breidis Prescott in the first round. Not long after, Khan hired Roach, who guided Khan to eight consecutive victories and two championship belts before a split-decision loss to Lamont Peterson ahead of the TKO loss to Garcia.
Khan eventually got one of his belts back after the loss to Peterson when it was discovered Peterson was on testosterone pellets when they fought.
Hunter doesn't believe Khan has a glass jaw, but he does believe he's made some poor decisions during critical moments.
"Amir Khan doesn't have a chin problem. He's proven that," Hunter said. "He's proven that he can take some of the biggest shots in boxing. He's proven that he can get up from some of the biggest shots in boxing. The thing that he has to do - and I liken him to a young leopard that's first starting to hunt on his own - he has to take the anxiousness out of his system.
"He has to learn how to temper his attack and temper his approach, knowing the right time when and the right time when not to. It's what he does after he gets hit that has made the difference. Going back to the Breidis Prescott fight, it was his decision that he made after the first knockdown to walk right back into it that caused him to get the second (knockdown). And also the decision to fight Danny Garcia toe-to-toe after he took a punch."
Roach is known as a trainer who teaches aggressive offense. Khan needed something else, said Oscar De La Hoya, Khan's promoter.
"Wonderful offense. Throws combinations, big heart, loves to fight," De La Hoya said. "But he's been lacking defense. And I think Hunter is going to be a big complement to his fighting style. It's going to be balanced."
It might be difficult to tell in the fight against Molina how much improvement Khan has made - because Molina (17-0-1, 7 KOs) is moving up from the lightweight division and he is not a huge puncher.
Robert Morales covers boxing for the LA Daily News and BoxingScene.com.