Resilient Khan aims for title unification in 2011
Before Amir Khan left for his precautionary brain scan, he posed in the ring with his WBA 140-pound title belt - along with two bruised eyes, scars on his chest and dried blood still stuck to his lip and front teeth.
That's what a real boxer looks like, and the flashy British star proved he's extremely real in a grinding victory over Marcos Maidana.
Khan (24-1, 17 KOs) outboxed the Argentine slugger in the early rounds and survived a brutal onslaught on his feet in the 10th round, holding on for a unanimous decision. Although the Mandalay Bay Events Center was only about half-full for his Las Vegas debut, nobody in attendance could doubt Khan had taken the best shots of a ferocious puncher and survived.
''We knew he had speed, and we knew he was a great fighter, a great boxer,'' Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer said. ''We didn't know about how he would react when the going gets tough, because he's been knocked out once before. I think he went from having one of the most questionable chins in boxing to having one of the best. He showed the heart. This kid is not going to quit.''
Now that Khan has the tough-guy credentials many doubted he could ever earn, along with a major boost for his stateside fame, he can return to his new home in Bolton. He deserves a December break after nearly four months of training that took him from Hollywood to the Philippines, where he sparred with fellow Freddie Roach pupil Manny Pacquiao.
Even before Khan began his rest, Schaefer and Khan's camp already had settled on a clear plan for 2011.
Schaefer said Khan intends to make his next title defense in Britain, likely on April 16 - which could turn out to be a monster day for British fight fans. Promoters also hope Wladimir Klitschko will fight English heavyweight champion David Haye that night in Las Vegas in a three-belt unification bout.
Khan's April opponent could be Golden Boy 140-pound (63.5-kilogram) prospect Victor Ortiz, who fought to a majority draw against Lamont Peterson on Khan's undercard, or veteran Zab Judah, the former welterweight champion who moved down to 140 this year.
Khan then intends to return to the United States in July to fight the winner of Timothy Bradley's Jan. 29 title unification bout with Devon Alexander in Pontiac, Mich.
Alexander, from St. Louis, is the WBC super lightweight champion, while Palm Springs' Bradley holds the WBO belt. While both are outstanding fighters atop a loaded division, neither has Khan's worldwide fame or television appeal.
''Next year, we're going to know who's the undisputed 140-pound world champion,'' Schaefer said. ''I think it will be Amir Khan, but Bradley or Alexander could easily take it for themselves. There are so many outstanding fighters coming into their primes in this division.''
A likely bout with unbeaten Floyd Mayweather Jr. also looms on the distant horizon if Khan can stay tough and Mayweather can stay out of jail - but there's plenty of work to do before then.
Roach wasn't entirely pleased with Khan's effort against Maidana, noting the fighter strayed from Roach's game plan to keep him out of a slugfest. Khan's mistakes were most glaring in the middle rounds, when Maidana took control with his aggression, and again in the 10th round, when Maidana reduced Khan to a glassy-eyed, wobbly kneed mess.
But Khan stayed on his feet and kept moving for all 12 rounds, making full use of his excellent conditioning under coach Alex Ariza, who also works alongside Roach with Manny Pacquiao.
Schaefer and Oscar De La Hoya also heaped praise on Maidana (29-2), whose crowd-pleasing style makes him a highly entertaining fighter despite deficiencies in technique and discipline. Schaefer and De La Hoya intend to travel to Argentina next month to hype up Maidana, and they would like to match him in early 2011 against the loser of Bradley's bout with Alexander.
Khan has been looking forward to getting home to England, but after his break, he's likely to keep training with Roach in Los Angeles. His fame isn't nearly so suffocating stateside - although after this performance, it's only going to grow.
''I took everything he gave me,'' Khan said. ''Those who said Amir Khan couldn't take a shot, I proved them wrong.''