By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Amir Khan can sense that even fewer fans believe he can beat Terence Crawford than gave him a chance three years ago to upset Canelo Alvarez.
“I’ve been written off so badly for this fight, even more than the Canelo fight,” Khan told BoxingScene.com following a press conference Wednesday at Madison Square Garden. “But it’s good because I think the win’s gonna be even bigger and better because of that.”
Khan technically moved up to middleweight to challenge Alvarez, whom Khan fought at a contracted catch weight of 155 pounds in May 2016 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Through five rounds, Khan was ahead on one of the three scorecards (48-47, 47-48, 46-49).
Alvarez then caught Khan with a crushing right hand that knocked Khan unconscious in the sixth round. That devastating defeat marked the third time Khan lost by knockout or technical knockout and at least partially initiated a 23-month break between bouts.
Two wins later, Khan has accepted another daunting assignment. Crawford is Khan’s size, but the WBO welterweight champion is perhaps, pound-for-pound, the best boxer in the sport.
The 31-year-old Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs), of Omaha, Nebraska, is a 16-1 favorite against England’s Khan (33-4, 20 KOs). Their 12-round, 147-pound title bout is the main event of ESPN Pay-Per-View’s four-fight telecast Saturday night from Madison Square Garden (9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT; $69.95 in HD).
“I just feel that probably because my last fight against Vargas wasn’t so good that people are saying, ‘Wait a minute. Amir has lost it,’ ” Khan said. “I mean, I wasn’t with [trainer] Virgil [Hunter] then, there was a lot going on in my life and I had the hand operation. I’m glad that fight happened like that and it went the way it did, because it got me this fight, I believe.”
Samuel Vargas knocked down Khan in the second round of their September 8 bout in Birmingham, England. Khan came back to drop Vargas (30-5-2, 14 KOs) in the third round and easily out-pointed Vargas in their 12-rounder.
In his previous appearance, the 32-year-old Khan needed just 39 seconds to knock out Toronto’s Phil Lo Greco last April 21 in Liverpool, England. Almost exactly a year later, Khan will have an opportunity to change the negative narrative of his career.
“This is the biggest level, at the highest level, and this is where I wanna be,” Khan said. “Fighting Terence Crawford, one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. I respect him, how good he is. I respect who he is. I respect what he’s done in the sport of boxing, but I’m not gonna let that get to me.”
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.