Amir Khan's quick rise up the ranks has been met by plenty of criticism, some unfortunate fan backlash, and some legitimate questions.
But a few things are very clear.
- In terms of pure talent, the kid has the goods.
- He's got some of the fastest hands in the sport today, and I mean he's top five in hand speed. He's up there with Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao.
- Freddie Roach has some tremendous ideas when it comes to this young man.
- He hasn't yet reached his peak.
- His chin sucks.
That last one will always be the knock on Khan. What helps is that no matter how he tries to phrase anything regarding his chin, I think it's obvious that he knows he doesn't have much of a beard, and thus his pride hasn't gotten in the way of him learning how to protect that weakness. Freddie Roach is turning Khan into a miniature version of Wladimir Klitschko, whose best defense is a steady, consistent, strong, and simple offense.
In some ways, it stinks to see Khan's blazing fists sort of "wasted" by turning him into a jab machine. This is a guy that can throw lightning combinations, and while he's not overly powerful, he's plenty strong enough to stop guys. But Freddie's a tremendous tactician, and it appears as though he's made the absolute right move.
Khan hired Freddie as his lead trainer after being starched by big-punching Breidis Prescott. Immediately, improvements were made. Tough veteran Oisin Fagan was the first New Khan victim, followed by a blown-up and shot Marco Antonio Barrera in a fight I still have huge issues with.
Khan's first world title shot came in July, and he dominated Andriy Kotelnik to capture the WBA junior welterweight belt. Today, he makes his first defense.
Dmitriy Salita (30-0-1, 16 KO) seems like a nice enough guy. It was his fight with club fighter Derrick Campos that rather sadly "stole the show" on last November's horrendous Calzaghe-Jones pay-per-view card. But quite simply, the Ukraine-born Salita has never beaten anyone even close to Khan's level, and I don't think he has the talent to do so.
Yes, Khan's chin is pretty weak, but Salita is rumored to have had horrible trouble making the 140-pound weight limit. He was already at a disadvantage physically in just about every way, and when you tack on the fact that he might be drained out there, it doesn't look good at all. Basically, Salita is a lesser version of Kotelnik, though a bit taller.
Under Freddie Roach's guidance, I don't see Khan having much trouble with fighters of this level until he's old and washed up. I'm going with Amir by wide decision, with a stoppage quite possible.
Featured on the undercard, Kevin Mitchell and Breidis Prescott will fight a lightweight title eliminator. Prescott lost his last fight to Miguel Vazquez, so he's in this position only because Frank Warren seems to have some odd fascination with the man that knocked out Khan so quickly and easily. And he became a marginal name in the UK because of that performance, too. A win for Mitchell (which is likely, as Prescott is not very good) gives him some nice credibility gain among the regional fans, but frankly I'm already quite certain he's better than Prescott. Could be a good fight, though.
Also on the undercard, Alex Arthur takes on Nigel Wright and John Simpson faces Stevie Bell. Notable prospects Frankie Gavin, James DeGale, Billy Joe Saunders and Tony Bellew will also see action, and Enzo Maccarinelli tries to not get knocked out by Krisztian Jaksi (6-12-4, 0 KO).