By Ollie Salt, courtesy of The Daily Star
AMIR KHAN's brutal knockout defeat at the hands of Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez could have an affect on his career, fears his trainer Virgil Hunter.
Khan is 48 hours away from a pivotal showdown with WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford at Madison Square Garden, New York.
The Bolton man will cause one of the greatest upsets in recent memory if he manages to dethrone Crawford, who stakes a serious claim to being boxing's pound-for-pound king right now.
It will be his first world-title tilt since a disastrous encounter with middleweight chief Canelo, in a bout that saw him climb two weight divisions to try and etch his name into the history books, which ultimately left Khan in a worrying heap on the canvas after taking a crushing right-hand from the Mexican.
Hunter advised Khan not to do it, not to put himself in the firing line of one of the sport's heaviest hitters, but while the legendary coach insists there are no regrets about eventually going ahead with it, he admits it could take its toll on his fighter.
"The Canelo fight was the most dangerous fight that he could take," he exclusively told Starsport.
"It didn't go long enough to say it was the toughest, but it was the most dangerous fight he could take because there was no room for error, there was no margin for error, there were no concessions on Golden Boy's part that would benefit Khan.
"So it was the most dangerous fight he's had, it remains to be seen if this is his toughest fight. He's been in some tough fights, so whether this will be one of the toughest or the toughest remains to be seen.
"There's no regrets in it because he took the fight. I was totally against it, certainly it might have some outcome on his career.
"He took two years off after that fight, so that took two years out of his career. Whether or not he can gain the momentum he had before he went into that fight remains to be seen."
As Hunter explains, Khan didn't step into the ring again until two years after his vicious defeat by Canelo.
His comeback bout was somewhat farcical, given that American loudmouth Phil Lo Greco was swept aside in 40 seconds, but in his next meeting with rank outsider Samuel Vargas the 32-year-old was dropped to the canvas in an unconvincing points victory.
It is a significant step-up in class for Khan, then, in the Big Apple on Saturday night.
Crawford has a perfect record of 34 wins from 34 professional contests, with 25 of those victories coming by way of knockout. The Nebraska native, a three-weight world champion, has dynamite in both hands and the speed, technique and ringcraft to go with it.
As close to a complete fighter as you'll ever see, Crawford is perched on the same elite level as the likes of Vasyl Lomachenko, Canelo and Oleksandr Usyk. His flawless makeup is what makes Khan such an overwhelming underdog.
Hunter, though, stresses that the game-plan is to cause a shock of epic proportions at the Garden.
"The game-plan is simple: it's to win," he said.
"We've come here with no other game-plan other than to win the fight, that's what we've prepared to do and that's what we're seeking to do.
"Hopefully it will turn out our way.
"As the fight unfolds, we'll see what his opportunities are and what he should embrace and what he shouldn't embrace."