Amir Khan is back in business but Kell Brook fight is now or never

Alex Rea 22/04/2018
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Amir Khan is back on top.

Amir Khan’s career has been hallmarked by speed so it was apt that on his return to the boxing ring after two years away, he belted Phil Lo Greco and then bolted after just 39 seconds.

The 31-year-old needed to shine bright in Liverpool on Saturday – his first fight on English soil for five years – to refocus the attention on his blistering boxing skills rather than turbulent nature of his private life.

And he did so in typical Khan fashion – electrically. The former unified light-welterweight champ is a fighter who can polarise opinion with his intoxicating blend of speed and slick skill but often offset by a misplaced arrogance outside the squared circle.

However, the chorus of satisfied customers in a sold-out Echo Arena would suggest the Khan brand is more popular than ever.

Hard to comprehend it, but he’s quicker than ever, too.

Indeed, in July 2016 Khan visited Dubai with concerns over his health after suffering a savage KO to Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez at middleweight, his right-hand in cast after surgery to repair a long-standing injury and a reputation in ruin having chased and subsequently failed to secure a money-spinning clash with Floyd Mayweather or Manny Pacquiao.

Now, he’s back and given the big names swelling the welterweight division from 147lbs up, the British-Pakistani pugilist is right in the mix domestically and beyond.

As it transpired, there was no ring rust as Khan made easy work of Lo Greco, decking the Canadian challenger inside 20 seconds and then detonating a flurry of left-hands on the ropes to force the finish.

Excitement should be tempered by the class of opponent. Lo Greco, after all, is not particularly good, although he went the distance in defeat to Shawn Porter and was stopped in three by Errol Spence Jr – a fighter at the top of the welterweight heap.

But Khan reminded us all he is still an elite talent and more than a welcome addition to a loaded 147lbs division.

Naturally, British boxing fans will hope a blockbuster bout with Kell Brook is lined up for later this year.

That showdown is an easy sell to a British audience and there would be considerable interest from the American networks for a grudge match of that magnitude, even without title gold at stake.

Khan, though, would appear to prefer a belt wrapped around his waist again before exploring the Brook clash.

“I want to become a world champion again so I want to fight the top guys in the welterweight division,” Khan said post-fight with Brook in the ring.

“I’m a 147lbs fighter. I moved up to 150lbs for this fight because I’ve not been in the ring for two years. That (Brook) fight I’m not rushing and I’m not running away from.

“I will fight Kell Brook and I will beat Kell Brook. I’m a better fighter and a stronger fighter. I’m not a fighter to run away. I came to Eddie (Hearn) and signed a deal with your promotional company, Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom company. I’m chasing you, remember that.”

Brook returned to action with a stunning second-round stoppage of Sergey Rabchenko in March but at the much more comfortable light-middleweight limit of 154lbs.

Whether the former IBF welterweight champ could drain himself back down to 147lbs remains to be seen and weight could form a major stumbling block for any potential talks with Khan.

Were it come to fruition, though, Brook would be confident of countering Khan’s blistering speed.

“I’m not Lo Greco, I’m Kell Brook, ‘The Special One’ and I will deal with him,” said Brook ringside working for Sky Sports.

“I know he’s got very fast hands. I’ve sparred with him. He’s got the fastest hands I’ve been in with. Timing beats speed, I’m a seasoned pro, I will land that bomb on him, that brownie. I’ll destroy him.”

Both fighters are in the dying embers of their athletic prime, but both have breathed back into their careers following brutal defeats.

It’s now or never if we are to finally see the two in opposite corners, Khan needing to show the same haste as he did on his ring return to get the fight done. Regardless British boxing is bringing the fire.

WHO COULD BE NEXT FOR KING KHAN?

Kell Brook

Khan insists he will remain at 147lbs ruling out a potential domestic dust-up with his bitter rival Brook who looks comfortable at 154lbs. Still, a catchweight at 150lbs is a realistic possibility.

Manny Pacquiao

Khan has long campaigned for a money-spinning clash with one of Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. Should Pacquiao beat Lucas Matthysse in July, the Filipino could finally grant Khan his wish.

Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan back in 2015

Manny Pacquiao and Amir Khan back in 2015

Keith Thurman

The WBA and WBC champ is an option should Khan want to explore fighting in the States again. Thurman is out injured, however, having not fought since his March 2017 win over Danny Garcia.

Errol Spence Jr

The 28-year-old American announced himself as a truly elite star with his destruction of Brook to capture the IBF welterweight strap. Khan fancies his chances against the unbeaten southpaw.

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Carl Frampton calls for stadium fight after outpointing the dangerous Nonito Donaire

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Carl Frampton remains on track for a world title fight at Windsor Park this summer after outpointing the dangerous Nonito Donaire at Belfast’s SSE Arena.

The Northern Irishman is eyeing another shot at a featherweight crown, with WBO titlist Oscar Valdez on his radar as well as the winner of next month’s fight between IBF beltholder Lee Selby and Josh Warrington.

And Frampton pushed his cause with a commanding display against former four-weight world champion Donaire, who gave his opponent a couple of scares but largely came off second best.

All three judges scored the contest 117-111 – or nine rounds to three – as Frampton earned the interim WBO featherweight title.

Frampton, who improved his professional record to 25 wins from 26 fights, told BT Sport: “The only thing on my mind at the minute is Windsor Park and I can’t wait to get there.

“Everyone knows how excited I am, I can’t wait for it. There’s not a man on this planet at featherweight that’s going to beat me at Windsor Park.”

Promoter Frank Warren confirmed an outdoor event at Northern Ireland’s national football stadium is next for Frampton.

He added: “We’re going to be in Windsor Park in August and obviously all the bits will fall into place regarding who the opponent will be over the next month or so.”

Golfer Rory McIlroy was ringside as Frampton looked to bounce back from an underwhelming display against Horacio Garcia last November, his first bout with trainer Jamie Moore in his corner.

And the 31-year-old, who has won world titles at super-bantamweight and featherweight, proved that display was little more than a blip against an opponent who slumped to his fifth defeat in the paid ranks.

Donaire has been an elite performer in the lower weights for much of the last decade and the 35-year-old started well with a couple of decent body blows in an otherwise unremarkable opening round.

Frampton upped the tempo in the second with a ferocious flurry igniting the contest, and a straight right left Donaire with swelling under his left eye that worsened throughout the fight.

More eye-catching blows came from the home favourite in the third, with a couple of sharp rights finding their way through Donaire’s high defensive guard.

The fighters traded more punishing blows in the fourth when Frampton forced his foe on to the ropes, but once again it was the Northern Irishman’s punches that appeared to be more telling.

Carl Frampton

Donaire brought his vaunted left uppercut into play in the fifth although Frampton ended the round strongly before using his movement to good effect to beat his foe to the punch in the sixth.

Frampton was momentarily buzzed by an uppercut after forcing Donaire to the ropes in the seventh but responded valiantly as he traded fierce blows with his older foe.

It seemed that would be his only moment of danger as Donaire started to slow, with Frampton increasing his lead on the scorecards in the eighth, ninth and 10th.

But Donaire responded to being pushed on the floor in the 11th with some wild hooks that stunned Frampton, who was forced to retreat.

The success was fleeting for Donaire as Frampton closed the show in style although he admitted afterwards: “I didn’t have to get involved in a fight there. Nonito Donaire is a dangerous m**********r.

“He was a sharp puncher throughout. In the 11th round I was definitely hurt, I’m not going to deny it, but I survived it and that’s what champions do, they survive.”

Provided by Press Association Sport

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Amir Khan throws down gauntlet to Kell Brook after ferocious return

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Amir Khan turned his attention to a fight with fellow Briton Kell Brook after beating Phil Lo Greco in 39 seconds on a devastating return to the ring at Liverpool’s Echo Arena.

It had been two years since Khan last fought, when he was brutally knocked out by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, but he made up for lost time by swiftly seeing off Canadian Lo Greco with a first-round knockout.

Lo Greco first hit the canvas when Khan caught him flush with a right and, though he got back up, it was soon over as the 31-year-old’s flurry of left hands forced the end.

Khan displayed no ring rust following his hiatus and showed the hand speed which once won him a world title had also not slowed.

It was also an emphatic message to one of his bitter rivals watching from ringside.

Brook was booed by the crowd when shown on the big screens and when he came inside the ropes after the contest, he was assured Khan was coming for him next.

“I want to become a world champion again so I want to fight the top guys in the welterweight division,” Khan told Sky Sports Main Event.

“I’m a 147lb fighter. I moved up to 150lb for this fight because I’ve not been in the ring for two years. That (Brook) fight I’m not rushing and I’m not running away from.

“I will fight Kell Brook and I will beat Kell Brook. I’m a better fighter and a stronger fighter.

“I’m not a fighter to run away. I came to Eddie (Hearn) and signed a deal with your promotional company, Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom company. I’m chasing you, remember that.”

Khan was clearly not in the mood for lengthy exchanges in the ring as he left after addressing Brook before his foe could respond to him.

Brook then goaded Khan for his stint on reality television show I’m A Celebrity…Get Me Out Of Here!.

“He’s just run off, he doesn’t want the fight,” Brook added.

“All the fans want the fight. I want the fight. He can go in the jungle and chase stars but when he gets in there with me I’ll make him see stars!”

The possibility of Brook and Khan meeting in the ring was enhanced when the latter buried the hatchet with Hearn and signed a three-fight deal with Matchroom in January.

Hearn had warned Khan he could not afford a fifth professional loss if he wanted more high-profile bouts, and his fighter’s performance in Liverpool will only have made him a more attractive proposition when he reaches negotiating tables. 

“What a great performance from Amir Khan; he’s back,” Hearn said.

“People ask me, ‘Has he still got the speed?’ I think he might be quicker!

“I would love the Brook-Khan fight, we’ll have to see. Kell Brook will be back in the ring in July. He’s chasing the 154(lb) world champions but that fight will always be a big fight.

“I would hate for one day these boys to get old and one day look back and kick themselves for not making this fight. The British public want to see Khan against Brook and we should deliver what the British public want.

“Kell Brook doesn’t like Amir Khan. Amir Khan doesn’t like Kell Brook. This fight should have happened 12 months ago, two years ago. We’ve still got time. Let’s not regret it.”

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