Khan: 'I'll just let my skills take over'
The road to the top has been a roller coaster ride for Amir Khan. A little more than two years after a crushing first-round knockout defeat to unheralded Breidis Prescott, Khan -- the 2004 Olympic silver medalist from England -- defeated Marcos Maidana in the 2010 fight of the year, earning recognition as one of the best 140-pounders in boxing. On Saturday, Khan (24-1, 17 KOs) will try to further establish his superiority in the talent-deep junior welterweight division by showcasing his superb boxing skills against Northern Ireland's Paul McCloskey (22-0, 12 KOs) in Khan's native Manchester, to set up a likely summer blockbuster fight against unified champ Timothy Bradley. Here's what Khan had to say about Saturday's fight and his future.
What can you tell us about your training for this fight?
Training went really well. We're just staying sharp. All the hard work has been done with [trainer] Freddie [Roach]. It's all about keeping sharp and going over the instructions, keeping the game plan fresh in my mind. At the moment, I am training in the U.K.; I'm training in my hometown in Bolton, where I have my own gym.
You appear to have a lot of tools in the ring. How would you describe your style?
I'm good at carrying the fight. I'm good at attacking or boxing backwards. The thing with me is that I'm an overall fighter. When I know someone is hurt, I finish him off. But when I know someone is rushing at me, I will box him. So I am a boxer-fighter. But to be honest with you, what I like most is being a skilled fighter and using my skill to win fights. I have the advantage of having gone to the Olympic games and having a lot of amateur experience before turning professional and going through a tough professional career. I have only one loss in my career, but I came back from that loss and became a world champion and defended the title against the likes of Maidana and [Dmitriy] Salita and [Paulie] Malignaggi. This only makes you a better fighter, because when you fight different styles, sometimes you fight a guy who is a pressure fighter, sometimes you fight a guy that goes backwards. Working with all these different aspects makes you a better fighter, and I think there is still room for more improvement.
Is there anything new that we're going to see from you in this fight?
All I want to do is box this guy and beat him in a good style. It's not about going out and just trying to knock him out; I want to look good against McCloskey. He is unbeaten, and I want to be the first guy to beat him and I want to send a statement around the world, to let them know how good Amir Khan is.
Is a rematch with Prescott something you'd be interested in?
We would like to have a rematch one day, because I know we can beat him. Having that loss was a blessing in disguise, because it made me a better fighter. Everyone knows I'm the better fighter and that I made a mistake. At the end of the day, it's one of the things boxing can do to you, because one punch can change a fight. But one day it would be nice to come back and beat him. But to be honest with you, I am way ahead of him. But I will be happy to take him on again and I am sure we will see who is the better fighter now.
How important is it for you to fight Timothy Bradley?
Yeah, I would like to beat him. He claims to be the No. 1 in the division, and I really think I am the No. 1 in the division. I look forward to fighting him, and when I beat McCloskey and look good beating McCloskey, perhaps I will send a statement to the world and then fight Timothy Bradley in the fight after that. It would be great to face him. I know I could beat him in a good style, and I know I am the best in this division.
If the Bradley fight doesn't happen, who is the one fighter who can help you establish your superiority in the division?
I don't think there's anyone else, to be honest with you. The other one was Maidana, and I beat Maidana. I think that after I beat Bradley, I want to move up to 147 and go for a new target in my life. But to be honest with you, I believe they all know who the best is in the 140-pound division. I beat numerous opponents in this division, like Malignaggi, Maidana, Salita, and we all know who the best is. So it's all about cleaning up at 140 pounds before moving up to 147 pounds.
How soon are you planning to move up to 147 pounds?
Maybe towards the end of the year. I don't have any opponents in mind; I believe it's just about moving up there to see who will suit me and then break into that division. It could be anyone. I am a good fighter and they know that, so I will have to be in a high-profile fight. I'm one of those guys who would fight anyone -- I've never refused to fight anyone.
Do you feel the pressure of being the favorite in one of boxing's elite divisions right now?
I feel a little bit of pressure, but I just stay really focused, because you cannot let that get to you -- and the pressure sometimes does get to you. But sometimes you need to stay calm and very focused. My job is to become the best fighter in the world and to one day become the best pound-for-pound in the world. And to do that, I have to stay focused and I cannot make any mistakes.
Let's talk about your opponent. What's your strategy for him?
We worked with Freddie on the pads, trying to learn how to beat a southpaw, and also we worked with Manny Pacquiao's sparrings in the Philippines and in L.A., and we know exactly what to do against this guy. This guy is very tricky and very awkward, but we know how to beat him, and we have to be very smart with this guy.
How do you envision the fight playing out Saturday night?
At the end of the day, we know what to do to beat this guy. We have to be very focused, and we have to be on top of our game, listening to all the instructions that my trainer Freddie Roach gives me. And I can't see the fight going the full distance, but I'm not going there thinking that I will try to knock him out. I'll just let it flow and let my skills take over and go from there.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.