An Olympic medalist for Great Britain at the 2004 Games, Amir Khan is revered in his boxing-crazy country as a star, but he has been consistently unlucky at attracting the best possible opponents for his fights, on either side of the pond.
Khan (26-2, 18 KOs) showed he was willing to go the extra mile when he offered Timothy Bradley Jr. a sweetheart deal for a unification bout -- a 50-50 split -- but Bradley refused despite his then-limited market appeal. Khan traveled to Washington, D.C., to face local hero Lamont Peterson in his hometown, but he didn't count on the possibility of losing on points in a dubious decision. Relieved of his two junior welterweight titles and burdened by another notch in the loss column, Khan got a bit of poetic justice when Peterson tested positive for steroids ahead of their rematch.
Now trying to leave that run of bad luck behind him, Khan will take on new titlist Danny Garcia (23-0, 14 KOs) at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas on Saturday with the goal being to put on a performance that could land him a bigger prize -- a fight with Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Here's what Khan had to say about Saturday's challenge:
How was training for this fight?
Training went very well. We trained very hard for this fight. We are training with [conditioning coach] Ruben Tabares now. We used to have Alex Ariza, but he is no longer in our training camps. We worked hard with [trainer] Freddie Roach, and we're happy with the way everything is going. We just have to stay ready for [Saturday].
You have been criticized for an apparent lack of stamina in a few recent fights. Do you consider that problem solved?
Well, I think I never had a problem with that, but if people think that ... I believe we have improved in every fight in every aspect, and we'll be ready for this next fight. I don't expect to have problems with that.
The entire Peterson saga seemed to be a major source of frustration for you, from the decision in the first fight to the cancellation of the rematch. Is that so?
Yeah, because we wanted to settle that score and show that we are the best. But that didn't happen because Lamont Peterson was caught taking drugs, so we had to go back to the drawing board and find a new opponent, and we got a new opponent; we got Danny Garcia. He fights very similar to the Lamont Peterson style and also has a big name, and I think it's good to fight him.
How much of a setback was that situation?
It was not much of a setback, but we did have a game plan that we wanted to go for, and we went and fought him in his hometown and let him have a hometown referee and everything. But that's the type of fighter I am. We're going to make sure next time that we look into who the judges are, who the referees are and to make sure we get a fair fight.
Among top fighters, you are one of the most aggressive around in terms of looking for a challenge, but you don't seem to get credit for this. Does that bother you?
As long as I am proving this to myself and to my team, I don't really mind what people think. But at the end of the day, I am fighting the best and I know I am fighting them all over the world, not just in England. Most of my recent fights are in America since I won the title, so I guess this shows people the type of fighter that I am, by traveling and fighting people in their home state. I am not refusing any challenges.
You're willing to give away a lot of advantages -- money, fight location -- and still get turned down. Why is it so hard for you to lure good opponents?
We pick the best guys that we want to fight. We offer a lot of money to a lot of opponents to fight me, because it's hard for me to make fights nowadays. But we have to make it happen, because at the end of the day, this is the business we're in. Being a big name, people want me to fight the best and other big names, so you have to offer them a lot of money because otherwise they don't come to fight.
There has been a string of recent canceled fights at 140 and 147 pounds due to drug-related issues. How does this affect the division and your future plans?
Yes, it does affect my plans, because at the end of the day, I want to go up to 147 and face [Andre] Berto, [Victor] Ortiz and all those guys. But as long as the sport is clean, it's OK. The problem is that all these guys are getting caught because they are cheating and they are taking substances that they shouldn't, so we want to make sure that the sport is safe and fair and that we are treated fairly, because it is dangerous to take something and then fight someone who is not taking anything. At least to clean up the sport, I am glad that these people are getting caught.
Most would argue that Bradley lost to Pacquiao. Ortiz is out (broken jaw), and Peterson and Berto (positive drug tests) have lost credibility as potential opponents. Mayweather is threatening to retire again. The division was rich in talent and appeal, but now it's in turmoil. Who are the next top guys at 140 and just above?
I think the next big guys are probably going to be myself and a few young guys that are out there, but at the moment, I don't know. The picture seems quite complicated, and I don't know where everyone stands. It keeps changing. The Bradley fight is one that I would like to take in the future, because I challenged him before and he refused to fight me, so I want to make that fight. But we'll see who's out there, because I am ready to fight anyone.
How important is it to fight Bradley now that he is in the position of having beaten Pacquiao unconvincingly? Does the road to Mayweather still run through him?
I think I have the name to do it without him. Maybe we'll fight him after I beat Garcia, because I have the name and the popularity and I can also sell tickets. With Bradley, they don't get that big of a name. It won't change anything. I think it makes more sense for them to fight me because I will bring in more money, and on the business side it will be better.
Is Juan Manuel Marquez on your list of opponents?
We offered him a fight, and we wanted to fight him. Back when he was with Golden Boy, we offered him a fight and he said no. That was right after he got beat by Mayweather. It's hard for me to say who to fight.
What's your take on Garcia?
He is tough, strong, solid. A little bit inexperienced, but he has a lot of heart. He beat a lot of smaller fighters, but in his last fight, he beat a solid man when he beat Erik Morales. So it's all about being smart and not making mistakes and giving him a good boxing lesson.
Recently, several fighters seemingly looked past their opponents and got caught, such as Ortiz against Josesito Lopez. Are you worried that you might be doing the same by taking on a lesser but dangerous challenge?
Yes, of course you have to look more at the most immediate opponent, because otherwise you start making mistakes, like you just mentioned with Ortiz. I won't be making that mistake again and looking past anyone. I know I've got Garcia in front of me. I am not going to look ahead. I am going to beat him and look better after that.
Did you look past Peterson, or were you as focused as always and just got unlucky?
No, we were very focused, and we were just unlucky to go to his town and have all of D.C. against us. Even if we had won more rounds, we still would have lost that fight because the judges and the referees were against us and everyone was against us, so we lost the fight before it began.
What are your expectations for Saturday's fight?
Against Danny Garcia? We will win by TKO or KO. That's it.