The man is quite aware of what you say about him, what you think his chances are on Saturday night, and he very frankly doesn’t give much of a damn. Not in a flippant way, because basically he is a quite polite type; but Amir Khan made clear at the Tuesday media workout at Everybody Fights at 41st St in Manhattan that he believes in his chances to meet and defeat Terence Crawford on Saturday evening at Madison Square Garden, the big room, in a fight that will screen on ESPN pay per view.
Top Rank, led by the living legend Bob Arum, who was in attendance and ruling the room – which is, by the way, a “new school” fight factory which appeals to adults looking for a workout that doesn’t bore them, and is fittingly exceedingly clean and pleasant smelling – put the gathering together.
That meant that most of the pertinent players who’ll fight on the card at MSG were present: Terence Crawford and his Nebraska crew came, and no, there wasn’t any bad blood shown or even implied between the welterweight vets, they showed up. And right beneath Bud and Amir was another gunner; younger, someone who some think has a ceiling that could be higher than Crawford’s. Now, hold on, before you jump on me, understand that no one in the room thinks more of the potential heights of Teofimo Lopez’s ceiling than Teofimo and his pop, the trainer Teofimo Lopez the elder aka “Junior.”
In the last year, they’ve burst onto radar screams with a buoyancy I find compelling, but not everyone does.
Pop isn’t afraid to tell the world that his kid is the be all, end all, and will be headlining PPVs in the not to distant future. The kid looks to seperate heads from shoulders of whoever he fights – Edis Tatli is the designated victim, er opponent on Saturday – and then does a dance and back-flip after his assaultive demo. No, not everyone digs the display…but in a sport that is churning out more technicians who aren’t inclined to stir the pot vocally, Teofimo Lopez strikes some as a breath of fresh (hot?) air. He is a character, he proclaims the majesty of his talents with no false modesty, but also shows another side, with his loyalty to family and a thoughtfulness, as when he explained why he celebrated as he did in his last win.
Back to Khan..He’s 32, and has been at these sorts of big dances before, for a long spell. And that plays into why, as he told me, he seems so chill and even tempered even as social media threads elongate with posters who think there’s no way he doesn’t get kayoed.
Arum told me how impressed he was with Khan’s help in doing promotion, and it struck me that is largely because his temperment lends itself to doing this. He doesn’t act above it all in doing media and gamely handles the numbing repetition of querying. “I’ve learnt and grown with it, I’ve had public media behind me since my first professional fight,” Khan said. “I was 17 coming back from the Olympics, being a household name. At 18 turning professional…it’s been crazy for me since then, but I’ve enjoyed every bit of it. I know what to do to promote fights, but more than anything I know how to go in there and win fights. Bob being an experienced promoter I think he knows that.”
Stop right there…That’s getting back to the crux of the matter, for Khan, if not for all of us, who regard Crawford as the pound for pound best, or second best, on the planet, and haven’t seen him lose enough time in any round, really, to make us feel like this will be the fight that will end his undefeated run. Khan, after all, has been dropped and stopped. He seems not to care…or feel the sting of the memories of being taken out by Canelo Alvarez, or Danny Garcia, or Breidis Prescott, way back when.
He shed some more light on how he’s able to handle the media crush…and how that informs how he acts in the ring, too. “I think it’s all about being patient,” said Khan, while Crawford got a lil’ sweat going with some shadow boxing in the ring. “If you can be patient doing interviews, and be patient in the ring, being smart and being focused, it’s the same thing, it’s being patient and giving your time. You have to give your time.”
Khan has been that big deal since his Olympics (2004, did you remember that, did you not think he was in the 2008 Games?), he’s been on many mega stages. How big is this one? “This is as big as the one I fought versus Canelo. There’s a lot of hype behind this fight, a lot of people are talking about this fight. And having a massive platform like ESPN on board makes it even bigger. So I’m just goin’ in, and takin’ it as it comes, I’m not gonna be makin’ any mistakes. I’m not gonna throw the fight away, I’ve trained very hard for this, because I know there’s gonna be many millions watching this, and I wanna become world champion again. Whatever it is, man, I’m ready.”
He just isn’t flustered by the doubters, and he told me why. “I’ve been having negativity since the Olympics, when I won that medal, and the way you overcome that is by winning, proving people wrong, being stronger, winning fights. If they wanna see you lose, you come back with a win! And you keep training harder, you use it as motivation. I really believe it’ll go the distance and I will win unanimously!”
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