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

that.”

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

stoppage.

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

people.”

Khan had another reason for splitting with Roach, who has

Parkinson’s disease.

”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

with them.”