Boxing comment: With 2012 drawing to a close boxing has kicked into high gear. Just as hearts that were left palpitating over the six-round classic between Manny Pacquaio and Juan Manuel Marquez were starting to return to normal, another weekend of top action is guaranteed to set pulses racing again.
On Saturday George Groves returns to the ring at London’s Excel Arena in what appears on paper a hard test against tough Jamaican veteran and former world champion Glen Johnson.
Despite coming into the fight on the back of three defeats, Johnson, known as “The Road Warrior” for a career that has seen him fight all over the world, is a dangerous opponent for Groves.
He will be a gauge of how far the 24-year-old British and Commonwealth super-middleweight champion has improved over his past few fights and how far he still has to travel before challenging for a world title.
With bitter domestic rival James DeGale winning an impressive unanimous victory over Colombia’s Fulgencio Zuniga last weekend to retain his European super-middleweight title, Groves will be determined to take a significant step towards the world title his potential up to now suggests is within his ability to claim.
He should have too much for Johnson at this stage in their respective careers.
Across the Atlantic, Bolton’s own Amir Khan is set to face unbeaten Californian Carlos Molina in Los Angeles. It will be his first outing since parting from Freddie Roach’s stable and teaming up with Virgil Hunter, renowned trainer of current middleweight and super-middleweight world champion Andre Ward.
With Pacquaio’s patina of invincibility ended in emphatic fashion by Marquez’s right hand last weekend, Roach’s star has waned in the opinion of some, validating Khan’s decision to leave the famed Wildcard Gym in LA for pastures new earlier this year after suffering two back-to-back defeats.
What seems clear when it comes to Pacquaio is that his come-forward, aggressive style was effective due to his unbelievable handspeed and power, which served to mitigate any defensive flaws.
Khan’s lack of defence was also exposed in his last fight, suggesting that where Roach is concerned a fighter’s defence consists solely of offence.
But Khan’s issue when it comes to defence was evident before he joined Roach and in fact was the reason he did so after being memorably KO’d by Breidis Prescott in 2008.
In his next few fights, Khan’s defence was notably tighter, as was his balance and all-round ring craft. It seemed that Roach had managed to introduce control into the fighter’s make-up and that Khan was set on a path towards a career at the elite level.
But then came those back-to-back losses against Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia, where we saw the former Olympic silver medallist and two-belt world champion revert to type with his habit of jumping in throwing wild flurries, leaving himself exposed.
He also displayed little ability when it came to fighting on the inside, resorting instead to grabbing and holding.
If you believe that a fighter’s style is a reflection of his personality, then Hunter’s ability to build Khan the defence that Roach and previous trainers have been unable to will depend on his ability to change his temperament.
The ease with which Danny Garcia’s father Angel Garcia was able to push Khan’s buttons and get inside his head prior to his previous loss was instructive. Imagine what the master of them all when it comes to mind games, Floyd Mayweather Jnr, would have done if the once mooted fight between them had actually taken place.
What’s certain is that Khan cannot afford any more slip-ups if he is to regain his status in the sport. With each defeat a fighter suffers the next defeat is easier to take.
He surely doesn’t need the money, so for him it’s all about getting back to winning ways against a fighter in Molina who, while boasting of an unbeaten record of 18 fights, has never fought outside
California and has never faced a fighter of Khan’s pedigree.
As for Mayweather, he and his camp will have watched Pacquiao’s defeat at the weekend with mixed feelings. On the one hand there will have been satisfaction at seeing a fighter in Marquez, whom
Mayweather defeated without losing a round in 2009, KO the man who many felt could do what no other fighter has done and hand Mayweather his first defeat.
But on the other the prospect of a megafight between them — one that the sport had been salivating over for the past few years — is even less likely now than it had been when both remained undefeated.
Professional boxing is a sport in which one punch can cost or make millions of dollars.
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