Amir Khan says he’s thriving after Roach split
After Amir Khan lost two consecutive fights and all of his
championship belts, the British boxer decided his career was in
dire need of a reboot.
He started by firing his celebrated trainer, Freddie Roach.
”I called him myself,” Khan recalled Tuesday. ”I said,
`Freddie, I’m going to make a change.’ Not many people would do
that, but I’m the one who called him and said I’m going to move to
Virgil Hunter. He wished me all the best, and we left it at
The switch was a bold move for a fighter with Khan’s Olympic
pedigree and solid professional record, but the light welterweight
star has never been afraid of taking risks. Hunter has refocused
Khan’s energy on fighting with his head instead of his heart, a
tendency that Khan (26-3, 18 KOs) blames for his knockout loss to
Danny Garcia in July.
After several weeks with Hunter, the Bay Area trainer behind
Andre Ward’s climb up the pound-for-pound rankings, Khan already
sees a significant difference in both his body and his mental
approach. He hopes to show everything he’s learning in his comeback
fight against Carlos Molina on Dec. 15.
”You’ll see a new Amir Khan, for sure,” he said. ”An Amir
Khan who is smarter, more focused, and thinking about himself
instead of the crowd. I think my style will always please the
crowd, but I’m going to be smart and think about everything,
instead of jumping in and making mistakes.”
Khan appeared with Molina (17-0-1, 17 KOs) at the historic Los
Angeles Sports Arena on Tuesday to promote their Showtime bout.
Although Khan rose to international prominence during his four
years with Roach, the veteran mastermind behind Manny Pacquiao and
Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., few boxing observers were surprised when
they split after Garcia upset Khan with a fourth-round
Khan lost his WBC and WBA 140-pound belts when he attempted to
brawl with Garcia instead of boxing him. In hindsight, Khan decided
he wasn’t getting enough attention from the busy Roach, who
sometimes asked Khan to travel to the Philippines so he could train
Khan and Pacquiao, the Filipino congressman.
”We all know he’s a great trainer, but I changed because I
needed someone who’s going to spend 100 percent time with me,”
Khan said. ”I need to be more selfish. I’m in this position now
when I know I can’t make any mistakes. … With Freddie, it would
have been very hard right now, having Manny in his camp, also
Chavez, and I think he’s training Victor Ortiz, so it’s a lot of
Khan had another reason for splitting with Roach, who has
”Freddie’s illness, it’s very hard to see him as he’s getting
older,” Khan said. ”I believe that he’s getting worse, and I wish
him all the best. Freddie is still, with the Parkinson’s disease,
doing a great job working the mitts and working with fighters day
in, day out. I just believe that I need someone who is going to
work me that bit harder and get the best out of me.”
With Ward not expected to fight again until next year, Hunter is
focused on Khan. Hunter was shocked to learn Khan had never done
strength work on his neck muscles, and that’s not his only concern
about the fighter’s previous instruction.
”Some of the conditioning coaches that have worked with him in
the past have created imbalances in his body that aren’t conducive
to boxing at all,” Hunter said. ”If he was playing basketball or
soccer or something, they might help him, but they don’t help in
boxing. I think that has to do with people just tinkering with a
kid who is willing to train, willing to follow instructions, and
he’s been let down in a lot of areas that he shouldn’t have been
let down in.”
Along with good weather and elite instruction, the West Coast
also offers distance from the British tabloids’ coverage of his
upcoming marriage to Faryal Makhdoom. Just two days earlier, The
Sun newspaper published a story claiming Khan had been partying
with other women on a recent vacation in Marbella, Spain.
Most champion boxers don’t face such swarms of attention on
their personal lives – but most champions aren’t British, Khan says
with a smile.
”She’s cool. She knows the truth, because I didn’t do anything,
honestly,” Khan said. ”She doesn’t believe anything that the
papers say anyway, because I’m honest to her. I don’t have to lie.
There’s always going to be stuff said about me. It’s a distraction
when you prepare, definitely. I think that’s why my fiancee and my
family haven’t really spoken to me about it. They’ve just kept it