Saturday’s Night, at The M.E.N Arena in Manchester, 22-year-old Amir Khan of Bolton saw his dream come true as he was crowned WBA 140-pound champion with a comprehensive win over 31-year-old Andriy Kotelnik. Khan put on a superb exhibition of speedy boxing skill, and he prevailed by scores of 120-108 and 118-111 twice. Now 21-1(15) Khan is on the verge of true superstardom. Kotelnik, who really tried his best, fell to 31-3-1(13). Coming out fast and with a nice, tight guard up by the chin that has been the subject of much ridicule, Khan used his hand speed, his foot speed and his improved boxing brain to fine effect. Moving in and out and letting both hands go with blurring speed to both head and body, Khan was just too fast and too sharp for the older man. Looking a much improved boxer under the now three-fight tutelage he has benefited from ace trainer Freddie Roach, Khan’s smart defensive skills drew cheers from the sell out crowd at times.
On occasion Kotelnik landed with rights and lefts to Khan’s head, but the former Olympian was never hurt and took the shots well. There was no real standout round in the nevertheless engrossing contest, and for a while it had to be asked if Kotelnik would even win a round. Khan boxed out of his skin and really did look like a million dollars.
Still, Kotelnik is known as something of a slow starter, and many fans no doubt wondered what would happen when the defending champion upped his work and his attacks. The answer was Khan retained both his composure and his own high work-rate. Never once deviating from Roach’s game-plan of boxing smart, not leaping in with shots and being patient, Khan continued to outclass the Ukrainian.
The rounds seemed to fly by (always the sign of a good fight) and though tonight’s bout was no classic, it was quality boxing at its best. Now 3-0 since his disastrous and possibly fluke loss to puncher Bredis Prescott (yes, Khan’s performance was so good tonight it makes one wonder if last September’s 1-round loss was an aberration), Khan has the world at his feet.
Perhaps, as some have suggested, Khan’s punch resistance is better up at light-welterweight, whereby he has not had to drain himself by making 135-pounds. Certainly, although Kotelnik is no huge puncher, there appeared to be nothing wrong with the 22-year-old’s chin tonight. Khan had to suck it up some in the final round, as the champion gave it everything he had in an attempt to save his belt, but in reality the challenger’s victory was never really in any doubt.
Afterwards, when being interviewed, Khan said he was never once hurt and that he credits trainer Roach with the victory. Freddie, agreeing with one of the three judges, said he felt his charge won every single round.
What is sure is the fact that Khan has to be given a genuine shot at winning comeback of the year award for 2009. A mere ten months ago he was the butt of many a joke. Not any longer.