A few months ago Amir Khan decided to dump trainer Freddie Roach and hire Virgil Hunter, head trainer of Andre Ward, as his new head man. The move produced a few shock waves in boxing as Roach is widely believed to be one of the top cornermen in the sport, though he has had an extremely rough 2012 with his stars Khan, Manny Pacquiao, and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. all losing.
One of the reasons it seemed perhaps to be counterproductive for Khan to fire Roach is the simple reason that one's chin cannot be trained. Khan was wiped out in less than a round against Breidis Prescott before he hired Roach. In other words, he was seeing stars well before training in Hollywood. Roach appeared to be getting Khan to use his jab more, and his aggressive nature a little less. He put on beautiful displays of boxing against Adriy Kotelnik, Paulie Malignaggi, Paul McCloskey, and Zab Judah. And even though he had to survive a right hand bomb in the tenth, he largely outclassed Marcos Maidana with superior boxing as well.
Then came the controversial loss to Lamont Peterson. Peterson fought the fight of his life, using immense pressure to maul Khan as best he could. Aided by Khan being deducted two points for pushing, Peterson took home a decision victory. Of course, this fight has has come under intense scrutiny due to the fact that Peterson was later found to have an elevated testosterone count in the lead up to their scheduled rematch.
With the Peterson rematch called off, Khan instead took on Danny Garcia, a man mostly known for defeating the great Erik Morales in a close fight. Khan started beautifully. And then his chin got touched by a counter left hook, rendering all of that beautiful work useless. Khan has not been in the ring since.
It's up for much debate if firing Roach will solve anything. Roach has a reputation of being an offensive-minded coach, as evidenced with his prize pupil, Pacquiao. But Roach appeared to be trying to get Khan to use his jab more. And with every fight, Garcia seems to be more like the real deal. The knockout loss simply may have come to a legitimate puncher that simply caught Khan square on the chin. Who knows? We will all found out soon enough.
Welterweight contender Tim Bradley, who was once in negotiations to fight Khan at junior welterweight, says that going to Virgil Hunter will be a good thing. Here is what he said on Boxing Scene's audio show, The Boxing Lab:
"I think (Khan's) a good fighter. He's really aggressive. I think the trainer change was good for him. Virgil Hunter has Andre Ward who I feel is the best in the world, pound for pound."
"I think Khan will go back to mixing it up once and a while and Virgil will slap him around a little bit and tell him that's not how we do it (laughing). He may not get the knockout but he will come out clean."
Bradley's analysis basically tells us what most people think. Khan needs to worry about getting the victory, not the knockout. He feels Hunter will be do his best to keep him disciplined, but it remains to be seen if one can get away from old habits.
As Bradley alluded to, Hunter's reputation at this point rides on the success of Ward, a man some feel is the best boxer alive today. If Hunter could get similar results out of Khan, another serious talent but with different tools, his phone will be ringing off the hook.
Let's just hope he doesn't slap Khan too hard or ...well.... you know.