LOS ANGELES – Amir Khan’s 10-round beat down of Carlos Molina didn’t prove much.
Molina is a tough kid with solid skills but not anywhere near Khan’s class, which made him little more than a punching bag before his corner finally said enough is enough. Khan won each of the 10 rounds.
The fight was important for Khan, though. It was the first step on the comeback trail after suffering a brutal knockout loss to Danny Garcia in July, the second such stoppage of his up-and-down career.
In that regard, it was very successful night for the talented Briton.
Khan (27-3, 18 knockouts) started fresh after Garcia stopped him in the fourth round of an entertaining fight, one in which Khan fought with reckless abandon and paid a steep price.
The former 140-pound titleholder left trainer Freddie Roach and hired Virgil Hunter, who Khan hoped would shore up his boxing skills – particularly his defense – in an attempt to rebuild his career a second time.
Khan appeared to have learned his lessons against Molina, keeping the fight at a distance from where he picked apart his overmatched foe with superior speed, power and precision.
To be clear, Khan didn’t fight as if he doubted his chin. He demonstrated the explosiveness that has made him one of the more popular boxers in the world, taking reasonable risks to do so. His aggression was controlled, which generally kept him out of danger.
That wasn’t the case against Garcia, against whom Khan fell victim to his own bravado and Garcia’s considerable punching power.
Molina (17-1-1, 7 KOs) managed to land some solid punches – each of which had the spectators wondering how Khan’s chin would respond – but none did much damage.
The only thing Khan failed to do was put a far inferior opponent down for the count. Other than that, it was a perfect night for him.
“I thought I stuck to my game plan,” Khan said. “That meant sticking to my jab. Carlos took some really good shots and was coming forward. That’s when I thought to myself, ‘You better stick to this game plan.’
“Virgil is a great trainer. He’s making me better at boxing and being a complete fighter. He’s teaching me speed, patience and picking the right shot and when to throw it.
“Sometimes I’m too brave for my own good. Now I know it’s better to stick to the game plan. I’m my worst critic. After I lose a fight, I ask myself, ‘What did I do wrong? Why did I make those mistakes.’”
Molina, who had never fought an elite opponent, has nothing to be ashamed of.
The Southern Californian was hired as a soft opponent for a fighter trying to rebound from a devastating loss. He was overmatched but, even though he took a great deal of punishment and bled profusely from a cut, he never stopped trying.
“I didn’t do my job and lost my undefeated record,” Molina said. “I felt like I connected two or three times but I wasn’t at the right distance to reconnect after I wobbled him. I’ll go back, work hard and get back in the ring.”
Khan knows how he feels. He had to rebuild after Breidis Prescott stopped him in one round in 2008, which prompted his move to Roach. And he was successful: He subsequently won two 140-pound titles.
After the loss to Garcia, he’s in the same position. It was mission accomplished on Saturday. Now it’s on to the second step, whatever that might be.
Khan never fought Prescott again, at least in part because he didn’t believe it was a marketable fight. A rematch with Garcia would be different. The world would pay attention if they were to do it again, which would give Khan the ultimate opportunity to prove he has learned his lessons.
Said Khan: “I’ll fight Garcia anytime, anywhere.”
Photo / Jeff Gross-Getty Images