n the wake of his annihilation at the hands of Danny Garcia at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Amir Khan has indicated that he would be reconsidering Freddie Roach’s position as his trainer. But is there a better trainer out there to assist Khan with his new challenges?
Khan’s apparent ultimatum to Roach is understandable, even if unrealistic. Khan essentially wants Roach’s full time attention and to be Roach’s number one priority. Bearing in mind that Roach is also responsible for Manny Pacquiao and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Khan is perhaps asking too much of the legendary coach.
Khan was destroyed inside four rounds by the undefeated Garcia, and it was the second time he has been knocked out in his career, the first was by the brutal punching power of Colombian Breidis Prescott in 2008.
Curiously, Khan has not openly blamed Roach for his defeat to Garcia, but rather blamed his own bravery first and foremost, and then hinted that those around him were not giving him their full attention. As I’ve said, it’s understandable that Khan wants full focus from Roach, it is his career he has to think about, and it cannot be helpful to dictate a training schedule around another boxer (Pacquiao), which involves spending weeks at a time in the Philippines. But the fact of the matter is, Roach is quite possibly the best trainer in the world, and therefore, is in demand.
This would be the third time Khan has switched trainers. The first was when he switched from Oliver Harrison to Jorge Rubio before his bout with Prescott, a bout that Rubio apparently recommended for Khan and his promoters. The result was Khan on the floor inside fifty-four seconds of the first round. It was after this defeat that Khan turned to Roach, and since 2008 he has taken Khan from the floor of the MEN Arena to the top of the light welterweight division. He had his WBA title reinstated after the Lamont Peterson debacle, but other than that Khan has had little to complain about. He has defeated some tough fighters in Marco Antonio Barrera, Zab Judah, Marcos Maidana, Paul McCloskey and Paulie Malignaggi - and I predicted Khan to lose at least three of these fights.
Khan finds himself in a very tough division in light welterweight, five of the top ten are currently undefeated. An inevitable move up to welterweight, where Timothy Bradley is the king, will not be any easier. Is there a better trainer out there to assist Khan in meeting these challenges than Freddie Roach? He was voted Trainer of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America in 2003, 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Roach was mentored by Eddie Futch, and was his assistant coach for five years. Roach has worked with twenty seven world champions to date, including Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, James Toney, Mike Tyson, Steve Collins and Bernard Hopkins.
The only other name out there who can match Roach’s credentials is Emanuel Steward, and apparently Steward has approached Khan about this potential ‘vacancy’. But would Emanuel Steward do anything drastically different to Roach? Khan has admitted himself that he and Pacquiao share a similar style in so much as they both box with minimal defence. The key difference is Pacquiao is more of a fighter-brawler than Khan. Khan is, believe it or not, a boxer, not a fighter.
He needs to work on his defence. It is the most used instruction of boxing coaches, ‘keep your hands up’. Even if you’re tired and out of ideas, you must always keep your hands up. Wladimir Klitschko suffered three technical knockouts before Steward took over his training, and has since not lost once. So he has some experience in repairing defensive defects in fighters.
Another name that has been mentioned is Floyd Mayweather Senior. Mayweather receives a mixed press due to his provocative attitude, but he has been awarded Trainer of the Year three times by the World Boxing Hall of Fame. Mayweather, according to ABS-CBN news, recently described Roach’s handling of Khan as a ‘joke’ and that if Khan contacted him he could teach Khan how to ‘fight, (and) learn defence and offence.’ Whether this potential partnership transpires remains to be seen, but I suspect in the back of Khan’s mind will be the final bout of Ricky Hatton’s career, which Mayweather Senior trained him for. Hatton’s career was effectively ended that night at the MGM Grand, and in the corner of his opponent, Manny Pacquiao, was Freddie Roach.
A coach has number of responsibilities. The first is to mature their fighters, if they are young. Roach has done this satisfactorily with Khan. The other is to ensure that a fighter is entering the ring prepared and intent on neutralising their opponent by utilising their strengths. I find it hard to believe that Roach would have instructed Khan to enter the ring and brawl with Garcia. If a boxer will not listen to instruction, then the coach cannot be blamed.
So it’s back to the drawing board for Khan. Some followers of boxing have already claimed that Khan’s career is as good as over. This is not the case. At the age of twenty five his career is not finished. But he needs to be very astute in picking his next opponent, because a defeat or a poor showing in his next outing could be more damaging than losing to Garcia.
Finally, is Roach wrong to prioritise Pacquiao over his other fighters at the Wild Card Gym? No, he's not. Lest we forget boxing, like all sports, is as much about making money as it is competing. Pacquiao generates more dollars than Khan, which automatically moves him up the list in terms of priority.
According to the Nevada Athletic Commission, Khan's purse was $950,000 for his bout with Garcia. In contrast, Pacquiao receieved a 'basic' sum of $6m for his fight with Timothy Bradley, plus a portion of pay-per-view sales, and Top Rank promoter Bob Arum estimated Pacquiao's total earnings for the evening to be in region of $26m. If Roach is receiving a small percentage of that, the mathematics and motivations for giving Pacquiao preferential treatment become very clear.