Virgil Hunter believes Amir Khan has reinvented himself from the fighter who was stopped by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez.
Khan fights WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford, who surpasses even the dangerous Alvarez as his most complete ever opponent, at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday.
The 31-year-old Crawford is widely considered, alongside Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko, as the world’s finest fighter, meaning Khan is entering his defining bout when he has shown significant signs of decline.
So heavy was the knockout by Alvarez that at one point he appeared on course for retirement, and in the 13 rounds he has fought in the three years since then he has remained vulnerable to the extent Crawford is expected to secure a convincing win.
If Khan, 32, retains one advantage it is perhaps the remarkable hand-speed that Alvarez and so many others have struggled against, but Hunter has revealed that he may not even prioritise that speed because of the extent to which he has “matured”.
“He’s matured a lot, become more settled and patient in his style,” the respected trainer told Press Association Sport. “He’s not the energy bunny he was before; he’s more calculated now.
“Joe (Goossen, Khan’s previous trainer is) an excellent, great trainer, so he had to get something out of it. I respect Joe. Amir just has to be himself, and stay focused. It’ll take one of his best performances, for sure.
“I can see why people have him as an underdog, based on the past four years of Crawford’s rise and Amir being stagnant, but as far as his ability and preparation goes, I’d not consider him an underdog at all.”
Hunter oversaw the finest performances of Khan’s career, surpassing even those produced under the great Freddie Roach, until bad health prevented him from working with him when he overcame the unremarkable Samuel Vargas and Phil Lo Greco last year.
His presence in Khan’s corner will be a positive, and for a dangerous fight he is happy for him to take, having previously required convincing that Alvarez — a career middleweight — represented an opportunity that should not be overlooked.
“(Crawford’s) a sound business move for him,” the American said. “It’s a fight that he could possibly come up short in but it’s not a dangerous fight across the board, where there was no margin for error.
“In the Canelo fight there was just no margin for error. In this fight he does have some options, some openings, and there’s a strong possibility he can come out victorious.”