What a night of drama.
Stylistically, this fight was one that I’ve been eagerly anticipating ever since I caught word of it.
One on end we have Englishman Amir Khan, the ultra-slick, hard-hitting and quick-fisted boxer/puncher who just happens to have a suspect chin.
On the other, we have the Argentinean Marcos Maidana, a Junior Welterweight that punches like a mule kicks, and has a resiliency and tenacity that can only be described as being vaguely Terminator like.
Put the 2 fighters together, and you either have a one-sided drubbing of Maidana via Khan’s slipperiness and quick hands, or a one-punch blowout of Khan via the wrecking balls that some like to call Marcos Maidana’s fists.
Instead, we got a little bit of both.
The fight began with fireworks, with Maidana, in a decidedly asshole-ish showing of his ring demeanor; forgoing the traditional touching of gloves in favor of winging away with hooks and crosses that barely missed the mark.
Predictably, the remainder of the round belonged to Khan, as his handspeed and flurrying served to cripple Maidana’s punch output and demeanor.
Even so, Maidana managed to land 2 overhand rights to the temple/eyebrow/eyeball that caught my impression.
Towards the end of the round, Khan landed a pair of 2 picture perfect shots to the body; with the left landing directly on the liver.
Maidana’s baby face contorted into a mess of wrinkles and open mouthed agony that had me biting my lip just watching it.
With flashbacks of Oscar De La Hoya and Leonard Dorin creeping into my consciousness, I honestly thought that that was going to be the end of the fight.
Body shot knockouts are something that take an insane degree of testicular fortitude to recover from.
Despite the pain, asphyxiation, and wet noodle-fication of his legs, Maidana manages to haul himself up off the canvas and finish out the round, albeit looking like shit for several rounds thereafter.
It should be noted that I was pulling for Maidana in this fight, as I have serious issues with English boxers; plus Maidana’s a beast.
Let it be known, I respect any fighter with perseverance in their blood, and bricks in their fists.
Anyway, the next several rounds were all Khan.
With Maidana’s legs slowly getting back under him, there was little he could to do deter the punch output and blinding speed of the Pakistani Brit.
To his credit, despite being severely crippled for the first 3rd of the fight, Maidana did well to maneuver around Khan’s potent combinations.
Well, kind of anyway.
You see, often times Khan would wow with 4-5 punch combinations, (all to the head, despite the body shot knockdown) however often times Maidana would manage to duck out of the way, effectively taking the first and last, but none of the intermediary blows.
In either case, scoring the rounds for at least the first half of the fight was a non-issue.
Maidana would stuff Khan on the way in with single jabs every now and again, as well as land some pretty nasty low-blows and rib shots during clinches; but other than that he was just plodding around the ring waiting to be hit for the most part.
I’ve gotta’ hand it to the Brit, his punches were sharp as daggers, and his footwork, while hardly elusive, was quick as any 140 pounder I’ve seen.
It’s become clear that, despite his hilarious up-ending at the hands of Breidis Prescott (look it up, it’s gold!) unnder the tutelage of Freddy Roach Mr. Khan has show remarkable improvement.
His punch repertoire has become more varied, as opposed to his repetitive 1-2′s from back in the day, and his size as a Junior Welter seems more appropriate than his days as a Lightweight.
Most notably though, he seems to be getting the “Roach Treatment” in the form of adopting several stylistic quirks that most would consider Pacquiao-like in nature.
Like Pacquiao, he now holds his hands atop his brow at all times, creating an effective defensive shield that minimizes the amount of visible openings available to his opponents.
Not only that, in tonight’s fight he demonstrated a potentially detrimental quirk that Pacquiao has only recently adopted as he’s ascended in weight, and that is the tendency to lean against the ropes, box his gloves and forearms over his face and flanks, while tucking his chin to his chest whenever he gets crowded.
This tactic works for keeping fighters on their feet, as it only allows to superficial blows to land on them cleanly; however it also results in the fighter sacrificing the ability to throw punches inside, as well as hampers their ability to execute upper body movements.
Call it the Rope-A-Dope for a new era.
The only reason I bring this up, is because it became a major factor in the momentum of the fight once we got past the halfway point.
You see, with Maidana’s legs still being a little rubbery, not to mention his normal footwork being busted to shit in the first place; a big part of his game in this fight consisting of bulling his way inside and falling into clinches with Khan, wherein he would bang away with body shots and uppercuts… As well as low blows and elbows.
Despite the ugliness of the tactic, it began to pay out dividends as Khan’s habit of inviting punishment upon himself, instead of using his legs to get away; resulted in him slowing just enough to be vulnerable.
Sure enough, those overhand rights that Maidana, and in fact Khan’s former conqueror, Breidis Prescott, had landed in the earlier portions of the fight; began to rear their ugly head once again.
During the, I think it was the 6th round, Maidana caught Khan with several damaging combinations in the latter half of the round, shaking up the Brit and putting a smile on my face in the process.
Though the punches honestly weren’t that damaging, and were delivered much too late in the round to count for too much in the long run; when you’re dealing with a man that is known to have a fragile chin, both as an amateur and a pro; every punch landed on him has you thinking “knockout.”
Like any good story, the halfway point proved to be the turning point in the fight.
Remember how I said Maidana was “plodding around the ring?”
Well, that’s what he does normally, even when he hasn’t just been knocked on his back by a shot to the liver.
The thing you need to understand about granite chinned plodders, is that just because they’re slow, and predictable, and easy to hit; doesn’t mean they can’t find you and put the hurt on you.
Maidana was slow, and he ate a lot of shots, but he was consistent in this fight, (unlike some of his previous affairs…) and that counts for a lot in a sport where one instance of overextending one’s self can ruin the entire night.
Just ask Mike Jones.
Anyway, Maidana’s persistence paid off in a big way, as his smothering of Khan’s offense allowed him to finally start opening up with some serious shots to the ribs and nose of his opponent.
As mentioned previously, most of these shots were indeed superficial in nature, but when you have cinder blocks for fists like Maidana does; the term “superficial” takes on an different meaning.
While Khan’s offense and footwork remained sharp, they gradually became less intentional, and more instinctive and sporadic than anything else.
Make no mistake, Khan’s punch output and ring generalship for the majority of each round was most certainly sufficient to grant him the advantage in most any round, however he would do so while absorbing a great deal of punishment.
Despite Maidana beating on him pretty badly for the next several rounds, to his credit; Khan remained resolute and very much in the fight, even when it seemed like minutes at a time would go by without him throwing a punch.
Everything came to a head in the 10th round.
After stalking his man and eating a shit ton of punches to the brain, (no body shots for Mr. Khan) Marcos Maidana finally managed to land the blessed right hand on the button that we all hoped and prayed for since the day the fight was announced.
Well, at least I was hoping for it…
Khan was rocked as few fighters before him have been rocked.
While Maidana would go on to land a great deal of nice shots throughout the remainder of the round, (which was in fact, most of it) Khan, remarkably; kept his wits about him and tied up his man, used what little was left of his legs, and managed to survive the round, albeit while barely throwing a punch.
It’s a rarity in boxing without a down, but I believe most would’ve scored the 10th a 10-8 round for Maidana.
While it would’ve been something if Maidana had in fact pulled off the upset and flattened Khan as I had hoped, sadly this was not the case.
Khan would go on to change up his punches and angles in the last 2 rounds, most notable of which via taking advantage of Maidana’s frequent ducking and lunging by incorporating a savage lead uppercut that would stand up the beastly Argentinean and briefly deter his neverending march forward.
To his credit, Khan survived the 10th round as well as any fighter could hope to.
His legs back within the next round, and went on to thoroughly dominate the remainder of the fight, securing his already fairly certain advantage on the scorecards and granting a victory over the interim world title holder.
While that’s all I really have left to say about the fight, it needs to be said that I was thoroughly disappointed in referee Joe Cortez’ officiating in this bout.
While I used to love Cortez as a ref, in recent years I’ve begun to doubt his judgment.
At first I thought it was maybe his age, or some sort of mental debilitation; however nowadays I think he might be “dirty.”
No, I don’t think ‘ole Joe is into Sonic the Hedgehog porn; what I mean to say is that I think he might be corrupt.
In the Mayweather and Ricky Hatton fight, he seemed far too quick to break the fighters from clinches, as if he was primed to prevent it.
In this fight, he seemed very pro-Khan.
Maidana is known to be a dirty fighter, and indeed did make frequent use of low blows in this fight, as well as one elbow that cost him a point that may have given him a draw on some scorecards, but he did so while Khan himself implemented dirty tactics.
Khan would hold behind the head and push Maidana down during just about every clinch, and yet I never recall him receiving a warning from Cortez about it, much less an instant point deduction.
I don’t know, maybe it’s just because the trainers in these 2 fights made it a point to drill the point home to Cortez that “these guys are dirty, be on the look out for this, and this…” but something just didn’t smell right in these 2 bouts.
Oh well, I suppose fair and firm is better and safer than say, Frank Cappuccino, who would would allow a fight to go on even if one guy had a Glock and the other was asleep… and in a wheelchair, or Arthur Mercante Jr., who demonstrated in the Miguel Cotto and Yuri Foreman fight that he doesn’t give a shit if one guy can’t stand, he paid to see blood and goddamnit, he’s gonna’ see it!