With several more champions at large, the true, undisputed king of the 140-pound division might not be crowned on December 11, but fight fans are going to finally know who’s the better man after the dust clears in the long-awaited showdown between quarter-champion Amir Khan, holder of the WBA belt, and his interim-version belt-bearer, Marcos Maidana.
Headlining an all-star Golden Boy lineup at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Khan (23-1, 17 KOs) is expected to box his way to a victory while Maidana (29-1, 27 KOs) has been pegged to win by slugging, if he’s going to usurp the WBA crown.
Neither Khan, nor his trainer, Freddy Roach, see it quite that way.
“A lot of people say Marcos Maidana is a bigger puncher,” says Khan. “But I’m one of the biggest punchers in the division – and I have speed. I never go into a fight thinking I am going to knock my opponent out but this fight, I think, will be a late stoppage or maybe a unanimous decision."
Roach, who trained Khan on the road, first in the Philippines with Manny Pacquiao, then in Texas and, finally, back home to the Wild Card in Los Angeles, says Khan has never looked so good.
“We’re ready for Maidana’s punching power,” says Roach. “But we’ll go after him and, after we break him down, we’ll knock him out in the late rounds.”
That Maidana might not have to sprint after a reluctant Khan is music to the Argentinean’s ears.
“If he wants to stay with me, it’s no secret that it’s my fight,” says Maidana. “But if he moves around? I’m okay with cutting off the ring and beating him in the corners or against the ropes. It’s gonna be my fight either way.”
Miguel Diaz, who’s trained Maidana for the past 10 weeks in Las Vegas, warned the media to expect a much different fighter than the one who struggled against DeMarcus Corley, in his last outing.
“He had a lot of problems in that last fight,” says Diaz. “He came to the U.S. late and fat. But he’s very different now. That fight was a blessing in disguise – he learned a lesson in that fight.”
Both Roach and Khan admit they are not expecting the Maidana who faced Corley.
“We expect him to be in the best shape for Amir,” says Roach.
Khan agrees, saying, “His head wasn’t right on that night. I’ll be ready for the Marcos Maidana who beat [Victor] Ortiz.”
Against Khan, Maidana says he has trained at his best yet.
“I’m very focused for this fight,” he says. “This fight is very important. I’m very hungry to get this junior welterweight title.
“When I hit him with one of my hands, the fight is over.”
“He keeps on saying he’ll stop me with his left or right,” disputes Khan. “If you keep relying on the one punch, we’ll see what happens there.
“He may be the biggest puncher I’ve faced, to date, but it’s all on paper.”
Khan and Maidana share one common foe: Andriy Kotelnik. Last year, Khan won a lopsided decision over Kotelnik while, one fight earlier, Maidana suffered his first loss, by split decision.
“That fight could’ve been a draw or Maidana the winner,” says trainer Diaz. “The performance of both were very similar. There was nothing special in Amir winning and nothing special in Maidana losing. That fight makes no difference in this fight.”
Maidana agrees, somewhat, saying, “I hit Kotelnik much more than Amir did. I hurt him, but this is the past. It has nothing to do with this fight.”
Both fighters expressed interest in fighting the winner of January’s showdown between WBC champ Devon Alexander and WBO champ Tim Bradley – somewhere down the line.
“I don’t really care about that fight,” says Khan, who thinks Bradley will walk away the winner. “I’m 100% focused on this one . . . But all four of us think we’re the best, so let’s prove it. We’re doing it on the 11th and Alexander and Bradley are doing it in January. This time next year, we’ll show who is the best in the division.”
Maidana, expressing a similar I’m-focused-on-this-fight-only statement, says he’s open to fight the winner, “if the conditions and the money is right.”
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer says he won’t rule out trying to unify the division in 2011, but threw several other names as possible foes for the winner of Khan-Maidana.
Besides Zab Judah, the list includes Lamont Peterson and Victor Ortiz, who fight each other in the Dec. 11 co-main event, and Joan Guzman, who fights on the undercard.