Amir Khan said he would show something different in his fight with Carlos Molina in Los Angeles on Saturday night and in glimpses he did, but what was evident is that he still possesses great skills, speed and courage, attributes that have been with him from day one.
Carlos Molina was a tough man and a live unbeaten opponent with ambition and a testing encounter for a boxer who was knocked out in his last fight.
The fight was in Molina’s home town and Khan was under the world media spotlight and he had to produce. If Khan does lack the resistance to take the impact of a shot, there is one thing that the Bolton lad doesn’t lack and that is balls!
But of course Molina was chosen carefully and rightly so. His record going in was; 18 fights, 17 wins and 1 draw, 7 of his wins came by KO, and although I suspect most reading this wouldn’t fancy a crack off him, it shows he isn’t a massive puncher. He had also campaigned at lightweight prior, but a fighter certainly worthy under the circumstances, but one Khan should of beat if he were to go anywhere in the game, and he did.
Khan boxed very well in fact and at times the speed of his combination punching was blurry quick and I’m not sure if I was more impressed with the amount of leather Khan was landing, or how well Molina was taking them and continuing to come forward, keeping himself in the fight, and at times even the referee was wincing and shaking his head at the punishment the home fighter was shipping.
Eventually a passionate referee, who had called in the doctor a few times as back-up and then had to almost beg Molina and his corner to call it a day and throw in the towel at the end of the 10th round. Molina was cut, bruised and battered and had to be saved from his own bravery, in a fight he was never going to win.
Khan picked up the WBC silver light-welterweight belt with victory against Molina and after the fight said; “I thought I stuck to my game plan, which meant sticking to my jab, Carlos took some really good shots, and he was still coming forward, and that’s when I thought to myself, I’d better stick to this game plan.”
“Virgil is a great trainer, and I’m getting better at boxing and at being a complete fighter. He’s teaching me boxing, speed, patience, and picking the right shot and when to throw it. Sometimes I’m too brave for my own good, but now I know it’s better to stick to the game plan.”
There were a few notable things in Khan’s performance that caught the eye, he looked focused and more in the moment than in previous fights. Trying to figure out what other aspects his new coach Virgil Hunter as added, and what the something different would be that Khan said he would bring to this fight.
More patience could be added to that list and tactically Khan pivoted off the front foot to create cute angles as appose to dancing in and out of range and leaving himself open to the counter in past fights. The pivoting worked well for him in defence too and often turned his man on the ropes with ease avoiding danger. Khan was disciplined in his approach and overall stuck to his game plan behind a quick punishing jab. After the fight Khan revealed a pair of swollen hands that had apparently been fractured, which kind of sums up the amount of shots landed and the hardness of Molina’s head.
Following the disastrous defeats on points to Lamont Peterson last December, and his devastating knock-out against Danny Garcia in July, Khan decided on another change in strategy and another new coach. He has lost three times overall in a 29-fight professional career, the other defeat was against Bredis Prescott in 2008 a 1st KO defeat, that changed his path and began his journey to American his world titles and worldwide fame and fortune.
From his Bury Amateur Boxing club coach Mick Jelley, his first professional coach Oliver Harrison to his last coach Freddie Roach and the others in-between and all will have embedded into Khan certain characteristics and skills that make the man and the fighter he is today and they have evidently all done a good job to a degree.
But now there is a new man at the helm of Khan’s training camp, someone who Amir feels can add the final jigsaw to the Khan puzzle. After leaving Freddie Roach in September, sighting a desire to work with Virgil Hunter on what he believes; will be a more one to one boxer-trainer relationship in a quieter and behind closed doors type setting, in contrast to the busy Roach in his open WildCard gym in LA. There is no doubt about former fighter and a good one at that, Roach, is a proven world class trainer and if Amir hasn’t picked up many things from him, then you would have to question, but that wasn’t the case and he did.
Virgil Hunter

But you live and learn and Khan is a traveling fighter,  thats how he has decided to do it. He set the precedent when he left Oliver Harrison early in his career and that’s just the path he has taken, changing trainers and learning what he can from all of them, until he eventually finds his destiny. I’m sure he didn’t go out to plan it that way, it’s just evolved. He’s not the only one, boxers often do, Mike Tyson, Oscar De La Hoya our own Lennox Lewis, Ricky Hatton, Tyson Fury have all worked with different trainers. Some boxers stay with a coach from day one to the end, the likes of Muhammad Ali and coach Angelo Dundee. Closer to home, Carl Froch for instance and David Haye have long term relationships with their coaches Robert McCracken and Adam Booth, it’s just horses for courses!

So what is the something different that new coach Hunter is bringing to the table? And at this stage of Khan’s career what can we expect this quietly spoken, articulate boxing coach and mentor from Oakland, California to add to the former Olympic games silver medallist and unified world champion at 26, if not change?

Khan has been working closely with his new mentor on basic old school boxing techniques, fundamentals picked up and fashioned by Hunter after a lifetime in the game. From a boxing family Hunter a former amateur who literally grew up in a boxing gym, rates Khan highly, he wouldn’t have taken him on if he wasn’t impressed with him and didn’t believe he had something real to work with. Offensively he sees what anyone who knows boxing sees in Khan and the natural skills that had taken him to the top of his division in the past and that won him two world titles, a feat no mere mortal and not many achieve in a life time, remember we are talking the hardest sport of all here.

Hunter is like a consultant in the roots of pugilistic ring craft and a scholar in the field, but someone with his own beliefs and methods with the ability to read a fighter from his movements and analyse the problem to find a solution. Hunter has his own ethos as to what a fighter should be and do and he will endeavour to teach Khan what he knows from what he sees.

Change and subconscious actions are manifested by repetition, until the boxer’s muscle memory is trained to react in a split second to a situation in the ring without consciously thinking about it. But that takes time and plenty of practise and Hunter hasn’t had that much with Khan to even nearly begin to produce the polished article in his own vain, if there is such a thing, but the signs are good!

Hunter is a person who appears to be a grounded human being, a man who is comfortable and confident in his own skin and with an aura that can be infectious, powerful and engaging, the perfect teacher! And the way he puts his message across to his pupils in that Monotonous voice, delivered in almost binaural beats that capture his pupils full attention, who respond and absorb what he is instilling in them. If you needed any proof watch a video real of Andre Ward, the current super-middleweight king, behind Floyd Mayweather Jr, Ward is currently as good as it gets in the art of boxing and as been with Hunter from the start.

The first rule of boxing is to hit and not be hit and all the top class fighters with sustainability, are the well schooled and skillful, who stick to the rule book and embrace the art of boxing. If a trainer is an artist producing his boxing masterpiece, the first brush of paint on that blank canvas would be a solid covering of defence.

“By no means is Amir a complete fighter yet, and I’m glad I have the opportunity to add to his inventory on that path to completeness over a period of time. I’m really pleased to be working with him. Hunter told the media prior to the fight with Molina. 

“He has to be aware of a few things, that I don’t think he was aware of before, It’s too late to try to teach him to slip punches. But there are several defences that I teach and one in particular I think will be very effective and compliment his offensive style beautifully. From there we can broaden his horizons.

“He has tremendous physical attributes. I expect him to pick up on things quickly. The physical part is not a worry. He needs to mentally grasp what is being instilled. The rest won’t be a problem once he mentally grasps it. If he is subjected to a programme, to a training atmosphere that challenges him, he’ll respond in a positive way.”

Hunter added: “From the offensive side, Amir Khan is going to be a problem for anybody who steps into the ring with him. I don’t care who it is. And if he gets his defence in harmony, it’s going to escalate that problem even more for opponents. He’s in a good position.

All the greats new how to ride a shot, survive and comeback to find a way to prevail at elite level, it is what makes a world class fighter a great fighter and Hunter going off his resume and the last four months we have watched him working with Khan, plus Saturdays win, it looks like appointing him was a good idea and a shrewd move on Khan’s part.

Lets hope Khan can bring the world title back to the UK again in the near future, BritishBoxers wish him all the best of luck.

On the Twitter @britishboxers

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