Fallen former junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan is reviewing where his career stands at present – and whether, heading into the future, it should include his acclaimed American trainer, Freddie Roach.
Five-time Trainer of the Year Roach, 52, has been working with Khan since 2009 and is regarded by many as the pivotal figure in the Englishman’s rise to the top of the 140-pound division.
Yet successive setbacks for the 25-year-old in the last seven months – on points to Lamont Peterson in December and a shocking fourth-round KO by Danny Garcia last weekend – inevitably raise questions.
How is the partnership working? Is it still producing the desired dividends? And, perhaps most importantly of all, is it time Khan stepped from the large shadow of the No. 1 fighter in Roach’s Wild Card Boxing Club, Manny Pacquiao?
These are all matters to be deliberated by Khan and his close-knit circle of advisors in the coming days, with the former IBF and WBA titleholder promising a decisive decision in the next fortnight.
It is not a one-way street, however. There is nothing underhanded going on and there is no rift between boxer and coach. The last thing Khan did before leaving America was discuss the situation with Roach – and throw a few points into the ring for him to ponder too.
And, before anyone jumps to the wrong conclusion, nobody from Team Khan, least of all of Khan himself, is apportioning any blame on Roach for the way undefeated Garcia, THE RING’s new junior welterweight champ and unified WBC and WBA titleholder, comprehensively battered the Bolton boy into submission.
“Freddie is a great trainer, and I am taking the whole blame. It was in my own hands, and it was my fault, “ said Khan (26-3,18 knockouts) . “There are a few things that we should not have done in training camp and could have done differently. But that’s just me and Freddie, and we will sit down together and talk through it.
“But, as I said, I am the one who was in the ring, I was the one who made the mistake, and I’m not blaming anyone. My team did a great job outside the boxing ring. It was me in there, I’m not pointing the finger.
“The last few days have been very tough and it is probably the biggest low of my career. We know what mistakes we made. Now it’s about going back to the drawing board, sitting down with my team, seeing where it went wrong and how we can improve ourselves, so that come next time, and hopefully when we get the rematch, we can clean up.”
Khan, talking live on Sky Sports News, then explained why he is re-evaluating his position within Roach’s prestigious set-up.
“At the moment I’m happy with Freddie, but there are a few things I want to change,” he said. “I am going to speak to my team about it and how they feel. It will be in the next one or two weeks. It’s not something I’m going to jump into. I’m going to take my time, maybe watch the fight back a few more times, see where I went wrong and if Freddie can improve my performance.
“It’s a crucial point of my career and I need to pick the right person. If I am going to be with another trainer, though, I need to be sure he can take me to where I want to be and stop me making mistakes.
“One of the big things we need to solve is being away from home for such a long time. This last camp lasted five months because, after the Peterson fight got called off, we had to look for another fight and then do another two months before Garcia . That’s a long time to spend away from home, away from your family and friends.
“I am also the No. 2 ( in the gym). I am not taking anything away from Manny Pacquiao because he is a great fighter and, as pound-for-pound No. 1, he deserves to be No. 1 ( with Freddie). But me travelling to the Philippines and back and to L.A. and back – these are long flights and take a lot out of a 25-year-old.
“I had a short chat with Freddie about it before I left L.A., and he understood exactly where I was coming from. He said he’d like a few more days to think about things and then get back to me. “
Whatever happens in that respect, Khan is looking to return to the ring before the end of 2012, which puts all talk of him quitting to rest.
“My future is still in boxing, my heart is still in boxing. I will come back and my next fight will be in December this year,” he said. “When I hear people saying I should retire, it makes me laugh. I am only 25. I won Olympic silver when I was 17, I become a young world champion at 22 and then unified the division at 23 and 24. I have done everything so young. People forget my age.
“I’ve still got the best years ahead of me. This is only a little blip, a little fall in my career and I am going to come back stronger and not make the same mistakes.”