Amir Khan has finally arrived in America and the British boxer could be here for quite some time.
Khan (23-1, 17 KOs) announced his presence with authority last Saturday night by decimating the brash Paulie Malignaggi at Madison Square Garden in front of a worldwide HBO audience. The 23-year-old WBA World Light Welterweight champion turned his first fight on American soil into something that turned out like a battle from the War of 1812. The native of Bolton, England blasted the mouthy Malignaggi for 11 rounds before the fight was mercifully stopped. Khan arguably won every round before the stoppage.
Khan has finally decided he needs to fight in America after piling up victories over lesser competition in his native England. That advice obviously came from his trainer, Freddie Roach, who if famous for training another foreign fighter with cross-over appeal, Manny Pacquiao.
Khan became the youngest British boxing medalist, when he grabbed a silver medal at the 2004 Athens Olympics at the age of 17. He then blazed through his first 18 fights, before being knocked out 54 seconds in to the first round by a lightly-regarded Breidis Prescott.
After that loss, Khan dropped his trainer and hired Roach, who has done tremendous things for the fighter's overall performance. He also put Khan in the ring with Pacquiao for some sparring sessions. Since hiring Roach, Khan 5-0 with three knockouts.
Saturday night's win was definitely Khan's most important and biggest win. Though Malignaggi (27-4, 5 KOs) isn't anything close to a power puncher, Khan showed a willingness to trade blows that will play well with American crowds. He also showed power, speed and toughness, all important facets of the game, especially in a stacked weight class at 140 or 147 should he choose to move up to take a fight with one of the big names at welterweight.
For the meantime, Khan has said he wants to fight within the 140-pound division and unify the titles. That probably means that fights with Marcos Maidana, and then the winner of the upcoming Timothy Bradley - Devon Alexander fight. He has also said he plans to fight again in England (on July 31) and many fans would love to see a fight between Khan and relentless warrior Michael Katsidis.
Katsidis is a dangerous matchup for anyone, and Khan's handlers have been delicate with him, so who he picks for that fight will be interesting. Khan will then likely return to America for an HBO fight sometime this fall.
Khan has shown weaknesses in the past, specifically his defense. Working with Roach has turned most of that around, but he hasn't had a matchup with a truly dangerous puncher since hiring Roach. King Khan has been knocked out once and knocked down in the past. While he's a better overall fighter, seeing him pressed by someone with power would be great.
Khan inked a deal with Golden Boy Promotions in January, and that should mean that he can get top-level fights.
Khan could be important to the sport because he may be able to replace Ricky Hatton as Britain's biggest boxing draw. He could raise Hatton's wild, dedicated fanbase back from the dead. Khan is also a Muslim, and his parents are from Pakistan. Which means he could appeal to an even larger worldwide audience.
Khan's next couple of fights will not only be important to his own career, but also to the future of boxing.