Former unified junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan has a lot to look forward to: a homecoming fight Saturday, his summer wedding and a really big fight late in the year.
Of course, to get to that major bout, Khan must first take care of business against former two-time lightweight titlist Julio Diaz when they meet in a scheduled 12-round fight at a maximum contract weight of 143 pounds on Saturday at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, England. Showtime will air the bout on same-day tape delay at approximately 11:30 p.m. ET/PT, immediately following its coverage of the Danny Garcia-Zab Judah junior welterweight title bout from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
It has been a difficult road for Khan of late, so getting to the biggie is no guarantee. Although Khan stopped the smaller Carlos Molina in the 10th round in December in Los Angeles in his first fight under the tutelage of trainer Virgil Hunter, he had lost his previous two fights -- a controversial split decision to Lamont Peterson in December 2011 and a fourth-round knockout to Garcia in July.
But England's Khan (27-3, 19 KOs) still brings name recognition and excitement to his fights, so Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer has mapped out a plan under which Khan can reap the benefit of being paired with the 140-pounder who comes out of an unofficial four-man tournament that kicks off with Garcia-Judah.
Schaefer intends to match the Garcia-Judah winner with the winner of the fight between titleholder Peterson and interim titlist Lucas Matthysse, who meet May 18 in a 141-pound nontitle bout in Atlantic City, N.J. Schaefer said the winners of those bouts tentatively would meet Sept. 7, with the winner of that fight to face Khan in December.
"All of those fights are big, but the guy who comes out of the two fights fighting against Amir in December is really big," Schaefer said. "We might make the other two [who lose] in like a consolation fight on the same card. You have to see how it plays out, but there are a lot of exciting matchups and Amir is an important part of them."
The one potential match that would probably be a tough sell is a Khan-Judah rematch, because Khan, 26, easily defeated Judah by fifth-round knockout in a one-sided title unification fight in July 2011.
But Khan's schedule is seemingly set. He will fight Diaz, he is getting married in late May, he will observe the Muslim holiday of Ramadan, which runs from mid-July 8 through mid-August, and finally he'll train and look forward to the big fight in December.
"I like that idea," Khan said. "I could have easily sat back and not fought, waiting for that [December] fight. But why waste the time and let other guys learn and get wins and rounds and not do the same thing? I know I could've waited for rematches with Peterson or Garcia or to fight Matthysse, but I want to get in there."
Khan said he'll be watching to see who emerges from Garcia-Judah and Peterson-Matthysse.
"To me, it doesn't matter who wins or loses. I'll be watching the fights as a fan," Khan said. "But Peterson and Garcia can make the most money fighting me. Matthysse would also be a great fight. Judah, I already beat. Realistically, I want [Garcia and Peterson] to win, but I don't believe they will win. If they do, I think they'll fight me again, because they know I can make them the most money.
"Even though I come off two losses and a win, people know I'm still on top of the ladder and they need me to make the money."
The first step for Khan, however, is facing Diaz (40-7-1, 29 KOs), 33, of Coachella, Calif., who has been fighting at welterweight for his recent fights, whereas Khan will be heavier than 140 pounds for the first time. Diaz is an experienced veteran who, despite his best days seemingly being behind him, still usually makes for good fights. He is also coming off something of an upset in that he held highly touted prospect Shawn Porter to a split draw on the Khan-Molina undercard.
"We didn't want a fight where I could come in and knock a guy out in a couple of rounds," Khan said. "We wanted a test to see what I've learned under Virgil Hunter. You don't learn anything knocking a guy out in a couple of rounds."
Khan originally hoped to fight former welterweight titlist Vyacheslav Senchenko, who stopped British hero Ricky Hatton in the ninth round when he came out of retirement in November.
"We wanted Senchenko, but he was playing too many games," Khan said. "He confirmed once and then kept asking us for more money. We gave him everything he wanted, but it came to a point where I was getting frustrated because I didn't know who I am fighting. The fans were familiar with Senchenko because of the fight with Ricky, and everyone would have been interested to see if he could beat me or if I could get revenge for Ricky.
"That didn't work out, and Julio Diaz, he called me out. Richard asked me if I fancy Julio Diaz. Sure, and Julio said yes to the fight instantly. So I knew who I was fighting, and I believe he will be a good test. He's bigger than me, he's tough, and he's not going to get knocked out in a couple of rounds. He's going to come to fight, and I can show everyone what I've learned. It was a long, boring, tough training camp with Virgil in Oakland."
Saturday's fight will be Khan's first in England since making a junior welterweight title defense in Manchester by winning a sixth-round technical decision against Northern Ireland's Paul McCloskey in April 2011.
Khan has fought six of his past seven fights in the United States and felt it was time to go home again.
"While I was fighting in the U.K., everyone was asking me, 'When are you going to fight in America?' Then I fought some fights in America, and they were like, 'When are you fighting back in England?' So I need to mix it up a little bit," Khan said. "It's been a couple of years, and since the other [significant names in the junior welterweight division] have other fights lined up, I knew that I wouldn't get a big fight. So I said, 'Let's come back home to England, get a good opponent and fight here like a homecoming fight, and then hopefully it leads to a bigger fight back in America [in December].'
"I enjoy being in America. It's a bigger market there. When you fight in America, it's a big deal. This could be my last time fighting in England. I'm seriously considering this as my last fight in England. After this, all big fights in America."