Don Stradley

The Ring All-Star Report Cards: Amir Khan

Note: This feature originally appeared in the October edition of THE RING magazine. The November issue, with Floyd Mayweather Jr. on the cover, is on newsstands now. The cover story is titled: “10 Guys Who Would Have Kicked Mayweather's Butt.”

It was out with the old and in with the new as THE RING composed this year’s All-Star Report Cards. Gone from last year’s survey are such old warhorses as Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Chris John and Israel Vazquez. In place of those fighters were newer, fresher names like Yuriorkis Gamboa and Timothy Bradley, a sign that new blood is being pumped into the sport. Meanwhile, names like Sergio Martinez and Pongsaklek Wonjongkam show that our All-Star list always has room for veterans, provided they’re still producing in the ring.

Aside from the youth movement, other trends have emerged this year. For instance, there is a noticeable dip in Mexican or Mexican-American fighters among our 20 All-Stars. When THE RING first compiled this roster in 2003, there were five such fighters listed; this year, there is one. Also, the number of fighters born in the United States shrunk from 13 in 2003 to a measly four this year. Lopez and Miguel Cotto are U.S. citizens by way of Puerto Rico, but they didn’t learn their stuff in the American amateur system, so they can’t be counted. Brits are on the rise, though. There was only one Brit All-Star in 2003, but three made the list this year, sans Hatton.

Perhaps you’re wondering why some of your favorite fighters didn’t make the list, but rest assured that many other fighters were given close consideration. It’s just that some fighters seem to lose fights as we’re creating our list, and others just fall a bit short in terms of box office and general excitement value.

The 20 fighters who made it weren't chosen solely on their ability to sell tickets and attract cable customers but the ability to fill seats definitely plays a big part in our selection process. Some fighters, Nonito Donaire for example, might not yet be a legitimate star on the level of Floyd Mayweather Jr. or Manny Pacquiao, but we felt he can compete with the best in terms of talent, and is certainly on his way to stardom.

Those who were removed from last year’s list are gone because they simply didn’t do enough to merit inclusion this year. The one exception is the late Edwin Valero. He made it last time, and there was every reason to believe he’d repeat.

With that in mind, here are the 2010 All-Star Report Cards. The fighters are judged on talent, achievement, marketability, support system, and growth potential. They are presented in order of weight class, starting with the heavyweights.

Today: Amir Khan. Tomorrow: Yuriorkis Gamboa.

AMIR KHAN
WBA junior welterweight titleholder
23-1 (17)

TALENT: As far as being in the right place at the right time, Khan couldn’t have designed his career any better. A young, boyish Muslim-Brit who has been called everything from “The Muslim De La Hoya” to “The British Sugar Ray Leonard” to “a friendlier version of Naseem Hamed,” Khan seemed readymade for a boxing-hungry British audience. Brits looking for a new face now that Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe have faded into the woodwork have embraced Khan because he can punch a bit and he’s blessed with exceptional speed. Of course, there will always be doubts about his durability; losing to Breidis Prescott by a first-round knockout tends to bring out the doubts in people. His critics might always dismiss Khan as just another pretty boy who was a millionaire before he’d beaten anybody, but the lad from Bolton has the goods. Grade: A-

ACHIEVEMENT: Khan shot out of the 2004 Olympics with a silver medal and a battery of publicists calling him boxing’s newest sensation. In between red carpet events, car accidents and the shocking loss to Prescott, Khan managed to beat some fighters, including a faded Marco Antonio Barrera. In 2009, he defeated Andreas Kotelnik for the WBA junior welterweight title, which he has defended twice. His latest and most-impressive performance was an 11th-round KO of Paulie Malignaggi. Khan hasn’t quite lived up to his initial hype, but at 23, he’s in a very good place. He’ll have a chance to gain more respect when he faces big-punching Marcos Maidana on Dec. 11 in Las Vegas.Grade: B+

MARKETABILITY: Khan might not inspire the mania that followed Hatton, partly because his persona is much different. Unlike Hatton, Khan is not a partying pub crawler. He seems more the Dancing With The Stars type. But if you’ve ever seen Khan with his entourage, he does have a bit of youthful swagger about him, and a few of his youthful indiscretions have made their way into the headline-happy UK press. Still, his reputation as a proud Pakistani-Muslim has already earned him several endorsement deals in the UK, including a successful ad campaign with Reebok, which culminated in a stunning four-minute 3-D film of Khan that played in UK cinemas throughout 2008-09. Grade: A-

SUPPORT SYSTEM: Khan remains with career-long business manager Asif Vali but made a surprise split with his long-time British promoter, Frank Warren, in January 2010 to join Golden Boy Promotions. Khan was probably bit by the American bug while training at the Wild Card Boxing Club with trainer Freddie Roach, who has worked with Khan since 2008 and has done an excellent job in making Khan a more mature, focused boxer. Roach is a tiger to have in one’s corner, as Malignaggi learned when Roach slapped him with a libel suit for suggesting Khan was on performance enhancers. Grade: A

GROWTH POTENTIAL: If Khan can keep his chin covered, he’s going to have a very fine career. He’s entertaining and he’s in one of the most talented divisions in the sport. Grade: A-

Previous All-Star Report Cards

Wladimir Klitschko
Vitali Klitschko
David Haye
Tomasz Adamek
Andre Ward
Mikkel Kessler
Carl Froch
Lucian Bute
Sergio Martinez
Paul Williams
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.
Miguel Cotto
Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Manny Pacquiao
Timothy Bradley

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