Politics and danger be damned, Amir Khan has found his way into another big fight vs. Terence Crawford
Khan has consistently said throughout his career he wants to fight the best challenge available
For all of the extreme highs and disastrous lows in the career of former unified junior welterweight champion Amir Khan, the one consistent has been his unyielding desire to face the best and his willingness to go out on his shield in doing so.
In theory, it has made Khan, the 32-year-old British star and former Olympic silver medalist, the ultimate fan-friendly fighter, even if some of his decisions -- like moving up two weight classes in a 2016 pay-per-view fight against middleweight champion Canelo Alvarez -- have been questioned by critics.
So it probably should have come as no surprise that when WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford (34-0, 25 KOs), who is in the conversation of pound-for-pound best in the world, needed a suitable dance partner for Saturday's marquee title defense at New York's Madison Square Garden (ESPN PPV, 9 p.m. ET) that it turned out to be Khan.
Despite Crawford's in-ring brilliance, he currently finds himself on the wrong side of the street politically in boxing's deepest and sexiest division. Because of that, his available cupboard of acceptable, big-name opponents for someone of his talent and stardom is decidedly bare.
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Enter Khan (33-4, 20 KOs), who despite having been linked with nearly every big-name promoter and adviser over his 14-year pro career, continues to find a way to circumnavigate the kind of frustrating promotional and network entanglements that has consistently prevented (or, at best, delayed) the biggest fights from happening in recent years.
"At the end of the day, I think it's up to the fighter, as well as the promoter itself," Khan told CBS Sports during an April 1 appearance on the "State of Combat" podcast. "I'm a free agent, along with being with [promoter Eddie Hearn's] Matchroom [Sport] in the U.K. So when this fight came to me, me as a fighter I have a say and I decided to take this fight and tell my promoter he has to make it happen."
Khan's chameleon-like ways have seen him linked over the last decade to potential super fights with both Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao simultaneously, despite their previous polar opposite allegiances. He also found a way against Alvarez to circumvent established barriers by, at the time, becoming the rare Al Haymon-managed fighter to compete on HBO PPV.
"It's all about you speaking up and telling promoters what you want and doing it the right way," Khan said. "This is why companies like UFC and MMA are probably surpassing boxing because the best fight the best. In boxing, we don't really get that and fall a little bit short. But I'm not one of them and I'm trying to give the fans the biggest and the best fights out there and it's possible. Any fight is possible."
When Khan hears the public demand for Crawford to face any number of Haymon-managed welterweights who compete under the Premier Boxing Champions banner -- from Keith Thurman and Shawn Porter to Errol Spence Jr. and now Pacquiao -- he seems to be the only one who doesn't understand why it hasn't happened.
"The fighters like the Spences and Thurmans and Porters out there, they can make these fights happen but you have to push for them a little bit and you have to believe in yourself," Khan said. "With me, I've never ducked away from any big fight. Whenever I have had the opportunity, normally it's me on the other side calling fighters out. But I'm just that type of guy who takes the risk fights. Maybe that's why I do get these fights when I want them because people know I come to fight and don't fear anyone. But it's really up to the individual. If you really want to make a fight, you can make it happen regardless of the promoter."
It should also be noted, of course, that Khan's combination of international stardom and a history of chin issues against opponents of drastically different perceived punching power makes him somewhat of a perfect candidate to continually find himself in huge fights. But his name simply wouldn't keep popping up if he hadn't become such a master of reinvention.
For everything Khan's critics can and do say about him, his greatest skill might be his ability to carry himself as such a confident star even when things both inside and out of the boxing ring have fallen apart. In such an unforgiving sport where many top names historically have crumbled in the aftermath of the kind of devastating knockout loss that robs them of their invincibility, Khan has routinely bounced back in ways he doesn't always get enough credit for.
In 2008, Khan was arguably the brightest prospect in the sport at age 21 when Breidis Prescott knocked him out with one punch in the first round. Since that day, Khan has alternated huge victories against the likes of Marcos Maidana, Paulie Malignaggi and Zab Judah with equally disastrous ones, including knockout defeats to Danny Garcia and Alvarez.
Yet here comes Khan into Saturday's fight against Crawford unbeaten at welterweight since officially making the move up in 2014, throughout a run that includes decision wins over former world titleholders Luis Collazo, Devon Alexander and Chris Algieri.
"I'm always trying to get the big fights and reach greatness by having fights that are very, very hard and very difficult," Khan said. "I never shy away from the biggest names in the world. You have to remember that you have a short career in boxing and you have to maximize it as much as you can."
Despite the violent nature of his one-punch knockout loss to Alvarez and the criticism of what looks, in hindsight, to have been a reckless decision that left many advising him to retire, Khan doesn't regret the decisions he has made to get to this point. Having been avoided for various reasons by both Mayweather and Pacquaio up to this point, his lust for the biggest stage possible made it that turning down the Alvarez fight would've produced the kind of regret that's more painful to a competitor like Khan than the reality of the knockout.
That's simply just the way he's wired.
"I don't think Terence has fought anyone like me," Khan said. "I work very hard and I always work like a challenger. This is a fight where I'm going in as the underdog. Normally in a fight, I'm the guy who is supposed to be winning, I'm the bigger guy and the better guy. This time it's someone in my own division who I actually believe I'm bigger than, I'm quicker than, I'm stronger than and I may have a bit more experience and has a better resume.
"I think it's my time in boxing. I've redeemed myself and I got back into a big fight again and it's time to show where I belong by fighting someone who is my own weight and size. I try to win, I try to give it my all even if it means getting knocked out. That's the kind of guy I am. I like to fight with my heart and give my all."
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