NEW YORK -- Junior welterweight champion Amir Khan made a sensational American debut on Saturday night, stopping former titleholder Paulie Malignaggi in the 11th round of a brutally efficient, one-sided fight.
Using superior speed and crisp right hands, the former British Olympian made good on his promise to quiet the flamboyant hometown challenger. Malignaggi's face was red and swollen from the middle rounds on, and he had to lobby the ringside doctor before the 11th round just to let him continue.
It wound up being a bad idea.
Khan (23-1, 17 KOs) backed Malignaggi against the ropes and threw a series of unanswered blows before referee Steve Smoger finally stepped between them at 1:25 of the round. Malignaggi (27-4) didn't argue with the decision, tapping his chest and congratulating Khan on the victory.
Khan signed with Golden Boy Promotions in an attempt to raise his profile in the United States, where he could land the biggest fights and the biggest paydays, and he certainly made a statement.
His comprehensive victory against Malignaggi, a guy who's been in the ring against Miguel Cotto and Ricky Hatton, should catapult Khan into fights against the best in the loaded 140-pound division. Some of the names that have been tossed around include Marcos Maidana and fellow titleholders Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander.
Many questioned whether Khan was destined for greatness after a stunning to loss to Breidis Prescott two years ago. But he's answered all the critics with aplomb, winning five straight fights and the WBA version of the title along the way.
Much of the credit belongs to Freddie Roach, the trainer of Manny Pacquiao who has almost completely reinvented Khan. Roach changed his diet and workout regimen to redistribute muscle mass from his upper body to his legs, which seemed to improve his quickness and stamina.
Their work together showed throughout the fight, Khan repeatedly beating Malignaggi to the punch. His straight right hands and sharp jabs created heavy swelling under both of Malignaggi's eyes, and Khan seemed to relish every blow that connected.
The two fighters had a genuine distaste for each other that was evident before the contracts were even signed. They argued through Twitter and traded verbal jabs at news conferences, and tempers finally boiled over during the weigh-in Friday inside a hotel ballroom.
The event at the Essex House was supposed to be closed to the public, but close to 100 supports for Khan showed up wearing "Khan's Army" shirts. When the fighters began pushing, they rushed toward the stage and Malignaggi was jostled around. Several people in the crowd received bumps and bruises, though no punches were thrown and nobody was seriously injured.
It's unclear whether the state athletic commission will levy any fines or suspensions.
The crowd of about 5,000 was just as revved up before the fight, when a contingent of fans in the middle of the arena stood up and began waving two British flags flanking a Pakistani flag. A few scuffles broke out during the fight and several fans were escorted from the Garden.
Just about the toughest part of the fight for Khan was making it to the United States.
He had been preparing with trainer Freddie Roach at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles under a tourist visa, but his application for one that would have allowed him to work was held up by red tape. Khan went to the British consulate in Vancouver, British Columbia, to expedite the process, but he was given the run-around by the Department of Homeland Security.
The visa granted a little more than a week ago, without any reason given for the delay. Khan assumes it had something to do with his Pakistani heritage and possibly the investigation linking the Pakistani Taliban to the recent failed Times Square bombing.
Khan's first fight in the United States reminded many people of when Naseem Hamed came over in 1997. He also made his debut at the Garden against another New York-based fighter who was prone to speaking his mind, Kevin Kelley. The promotion featured plenty of trash talk and the fight had a series of knockdowns before Hamed ended it with a fourth-round knockout.
The only real difference was that Malignaggi nearly made it to the end.