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?
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.
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.
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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