Amir Khan’s Sports Arena fight a watershed moment

Amir Khan’s Sports Arena fight a watershed moment
Amir Khan talks to the media during his news conference on Oct. 9 to announce his upcoming fight with Carlos Molina.
(Scott Heavey / Getty Images)

Amir Khan might be just 25, but the British fighter knows a career crossroads when he sees one.

On the heels of two consecutive losses, including a knockout loss to world light-welterweight champion Danny Garcia in July, Khan has fired famed trainer Freddie Roach and is scheduled to fight Norwalk’s Carlos Molina Dec. 15 at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.

“I’ll be smarter and focused,” Khan (26-3, 18 knockouts) said Tuesday at the legendary building that opened in 1959 with a boxing match and has hosted three Muhammad Ali bouts. “I can’t make mistakes now.”

In Molina (17-0-1, seven KOs), Khan will face an inspired contender from Norwalk.


“I’ve got to fight my heart out, and I think I can make him surprised by my speed and power – not just one shot, but three or four in a row,” Molina said. “I know he’ll be defensive minded. I’m going to let my hands fly, try to hit him as hard as I can.

“It couldn’t be any better for me. A historic place. Fighting a world-champion-caliber fighter. It’s my night to break out.”

Khan will have defense -- or at least more boxing -- on his mind than he did against Garcia.

New trainer Virgil Hunter, who trains unbeaten super-middleweight world champion Andre Ward, said Khan understands “fighting Danny Garcia toe-to-toe caused him to lose the fight.”


Hunter said when Khan was knocked down by a punch to the neck in the third round, he should have been told “not to throw a punch in the fourth,” to come back and out-box Garcia from the fifth on as he had done in the bout’s first two rounds.

Khan said he was so angered by racial comments made by Garcia’s father during the promotion, he was intent to pursue a knockout.

“He’s got to harness his speed … to learn the areas of the ring he can’t engage,” Hunter said.

Both Hunter and Khan said they don’t buy public criticism of the fighter’s chin after the Garcia loss, because “the punch Garcia hit me with would’ve knocked out other guys. And I got up,” Khan said of the third-round punch.

Khan said he nevertheless felt the time had come afterward to part with Roach, due to the trainer’s workload with Manny Pacquiao and former middleweight champion Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

“We all know he’s a great trainer,” Khan said. “I needed someone giving 100% of their time to me. I needed to be more selfish.”

Khan also said he saw some deterioration of Roach due to the trainer’s battle against Parkinson’s disease.

“It’s hard to see him older and getting worse,” Khan said. “I wish him the best. Freddie, with the Parkinson’s disease, he was struggling with instructions and couldn’t move as well.”


Khan said by fighting a more complete bout, he aims to be in position with a victory for a Garcia rematch in the spring, or perhaps move up to 147 pounds where the talent pool includes possible foes Devon Alexander, Paulie Malignaggi or Victor Ortiz.

Or his career could be over.

“My chin’s not a problem,” Khan said. “I still believe Marcos Maidana hit me with bigger punches. I was just caught by Garcia in the wrong place.”

Tickets for Khan-Molina went on sale Tuesday, ranging from $25 to $150. The bout will be preceded by a holiday festival that will include music, autograph signings, food and parties.

Promoter Oscar De La Hoya said he hopes to place Nov. 10 Staples Center fighters Alfredo Angulo and Leo Santa Cruz on the Khan-Molina undercard in separate bouts.

[UPDATED Oct. 30, 5:25 p.m.;

After training Pacquiao Tuesday, Roach responded to Khan’s comments.

Roach said his chronic illness had nothing to do with Khan’s decision to part ways.


“If that was true, why would he say to me, ‘Fire Manny Pacquiao and Chavez Jr.’, and they’ll keep me? Him, his father, his lawyer and his uncle all said that,” Roach said.

“It had nothing to do with Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s had nothing to do with it. They know that. And I wish them the best of luck.”


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Twitter: @latimespugmire

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