Amir Khan maintained he wants to fight Manny Pacquiao rather than fellow Brit Kell Brook after coming through his latest comeback with a points victory.
Khan had to climb off the canvas to before comfortably beating the game but limited Samuel Vargas in Birmingham.
The Bolton welterweight, in his second fight since returning to the ring after a two-year absence, was knocked to the floor in the final seconds of the second round.
Colombian-born Vargas had already been put down himself when he stunned Khan and the capacity crowd.
But, with Brook watching at ringside, Khan recovered and floored Vargas again before eventually running out unanimous points winner.
It was not a performance to give Brook or former eight-weight world champion great Pacquiao too many sleepless nights.
But Khan at least got the rounds under his belt after his first comeback bout, against Phil Lo Greco in April, lasted all of 40 seconds.
The 31-year-old told Sky Sports: “What I really wanted to do was go the distance. I wanted to get the experience.
“There were times in the fight when I wanted to put him away, there were times when I could have pushed it and knocked him out.”
The second round was only 20 seconds old when Vargas hit the canvas, sent on his way by a fearsome left jab.
He was up quickly but was immediately sent staggering backwards again amid more lightning Khan combinations.
But the elephant in the room, Khan’s fragile chin, let him down right at the end of round two as a long-range right hook left him on his backside.
He sprung back to his feet and, fortunately, had time to recover on his stool.
Khan added: “He caught me with an overhand right hand, right on the button, I got back up and I was fine.
“This is boxing and I’ve got to learn from those mistakes.”
Asked if he could have beaten Brook on the night, Khan said: “One hundred per cent. I wanted to get my feet wet tonight and I did that. Bring on who you want.
“I will take some time off, speak with Eddie Hearn and go from there. I want to fight again before the end of the year. I needed this kind of fight badly and I needed those 12 rounds.
“The only fight that works for me over Kell Brook is Manny Pacquiao. I want him, he is my number one pick. If not we go back to the drawing board and if it’s Kell Brook, it’s Kell Brook.”
However, the 31-year-old is not overlooking Samuel Vargas, who he faces in Birmingham on Saturday in his first bout back in the 147lb welterweight division since 2015.
Victory at the Birmingham Arena could be a big stepping stone for Khan towards a huge stadium clash in his next fight.
The Bolton boxer thought he had landed the Pacquiao fight a few years ago but it never came to fruition.
Promoter Eddie Hearn would prefer to see Khan face one of his other Matchroom fighters – long-term rival Brook in what would also be a huge bout.
However, Khan wants the multi-weight world champion from the Philippines as he feels victory over Pacquiao would define his career.
“Who would I rather face next? Pacquiao, definitely,” said Khan.
“I’d love the Manny Pacquiao fight. I think that’s going to be the defining fight – that is going to put me where I need to be in boxing. If I beat Manny Pacquiao that would put me where I want to be.
“He is a legend of the sport and I want to fight a legend. It would be the biggest fight of my career.”
Asked if chasing the Pacquiao fight again is because he sees it as pivotal to cementing his own legacy, Khan said: “It’s not about that. I just want to fight the best and beat the best out there and be remembered as a great fighter.”
“What I’ve done in British boxing is what most fighters have never done before. I’ve won world titles, headlined in Vegas, fought the best out there. I’ve done it all so what’s left, win another world title? Something I’ve already done.
“First though, I’ve got to get the win on Saturday and I am not looking beyond Samuel Vargas.”
Colombia-born Vargas, 29, is confident of derailing Khan’s plans and causing an upset, believing the Briton is past his best and “damaged” by the devastating knock-out defeat against Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in 2016.
“There is no doubt in my mind I will be victorious on Saturday night,” said Vargas. “I don’t care how I do it, whether it’s by knockout, going the distance or I break his ribs – I don’t care.
“I think he’s an old man and he’s been damaged a lot.”
Khan was unperturbed, though, insisting there is a gulf in quality between the two fighters.
“I’m glad he’s confident as he’s making the fight more interesting,” Khan said. “To be honest, I don’t know much about him. But I’ve seen him fight and he’s not on the same level as me.
“He’s not as good as the guys I’ve beaten in my career and nowhere near as good as the sparring partners I’ve had so he’s got no chance. I’m a better fighter, he’s not on the same level.”
Anthony Joshua admits he has one eye on future fights against the likes of Deontay Wilder and Tyson Fury ahead of his world heavyweight contest against Alexander Povetkin.
Joshua will be defending his WBA Super, IBF, WBO and IBO belts against Russian Povetkin when the pair meet at Wembley Stadium on September 22.
It will be Joshua’s first fight at Wembley since he stopped Wladimir Klitschko in April 2017 and the 28-year-old has his sights set on more clashes against the biggest names in the heavyweight division.
He has long been linked with clashes against Wilder and Fury but is aware that mandatory challenger Povetkin is a threat.
“Povetkin is a massive threat because he wants to be in the position that I’m in,” Joshua told Sky Sports News.
“I’m not here to prove that I’m a prospect, I’ve proved myself and it’s hard to stay here now. I’ve got to be wary but he’s got to be wary of what I bring to the table as well which will make it a good fight.
“This is world level boxing, elite boxing, world championship boxing.
“Povetkin is a real game challenger but he’s got to come across myself, I’m game as well.
“It will be a good fight, it’s not going to be a quick one. We can both take a lot of punishment and dish out a lot of punishment and it’s the first one to go.
“I’ve always been looking for the big, big fights and putting names on my record as well, building up my record. I have good opponents on my record so far – Povetkin is a good one.
“I’m at that stage where I do want to look past Povetkin because the division is alight, it’s amazing, there’s some real good challenges out there. But at the same time you do have to focus on the opponent in front of you.”
Those future challenges will almost certainly be a high-profile clash against American WBC world heavyweight champion Wilder and possibly fellow Brit Fury.
Wilder and Fury announced that they have agreed to fight each other, although a date is yet to be set for the clash.
Joshua was asked if he was surprised the pair were set to meet, replying: “Not necessarily.
“I think because they both need that fight. They are at that stage of their career, 10 years in, where they need meaningful fights as well. They are both building up their records, they’ve been in the game a long time.
“Good luck to them, it’s good for boxing as well.”
Joshua doesn’t feel that fight, or his clash with Povetkin, will have an impact on any future fights he may have against them, believing the public demand would still be there.
“I think regardless, we are always going to have to fight. Same weight category, in the same era and it’s the fight people want to see, so yeah we are going to fight each other.
“It’s interesting because, say the worst happens with Povetkin, it doesn’t stop me having to fight them anyway. They will still want to fight me because we are big in the game.
“So that fight will happen regardless of who wins. If Wilder gets beat in that fight with Fury, I’ll still fight Wilder down the line. There will always be interest around the name of heavyweight boxing.”