The Pugilist

Khan is little more than Mayweather’s plaything

The Pugilist

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Had Floyd Mayweather indeed decided to take on Amir Khan on May 3 instead of Marcos Maidana, very few people would have considered a Khan win even remotely possible.

That tiny pocket of people would have been going against popular opinion presumably on the notion that Khan’s speed and finesse would make up for his poor defence against the current pound-for-pound king, who in recent years has seemed to particularly favour bouts which position Floyd as by far the quickest fighter in the ring.

Even the, say, 1% of believers would be shrouded in self-doubt. Needless to say, barring a miracle it was a potential bout Mayweather was surely winning, had he gone for it.

The frustrating thing about this months-long drama, which saw Mayweather ultimately leave Khan hanging after convincing him to put off a world title fight against Devon Alexander, is that defeat between the ropes would have been a much easier fate for Amir than the resounding loss he suffered outside the ring, instead.

To explain, let’s operate under the hypothetical (yet very likely) premise that Floyd Mayweather Jr will win each of his contract’s final four fights – and, should he decide to fight on after that, any and all of those contests, too. For argument's sake, he'll retire unbeaten, no matter what.

To be selected by the cherry-picking champion as a suitable foe will be, for those soon-to-be-defeated boxers, an unmatchable chance of a colossal payday - and also perhaps to enhance their reputation in the event they trouble the superstar, even if they find themselves perennially stuck underneath Floyd in the pecking order.

For the best example of how to make this work, take Mayweather’s last opponent – Saul Alvarez.

‘Canelo’ competes for the first time since being decisioned by ‘Money’ last September when he meets Alfredo Angulo in Las Vegas on Saturday.

Alvarez’s challenge of Mayweather sold 2.2 million pay per view units – twice as many as Floyd’s previous bout against Robert Guerrero (just over a million).

Given so much was made out of Alvarez’s 42-0-1 record coming into the Mayweather fight comprising mostly low- and mid-range opposition, why did he vastly outsell Guerrero?

How did he manage to get more fans to second-guess the outcome than Guerrero and Miguel Cotto and Victor Ortiz before him, combined?

For me, it’s because he saw Mayweather’s mind games coming - and flat-out refused to play.

Remember, one year ago, when Floyd tweeted that his next opponent would be Devon Alexander – just as the Guerrero deal was close to being finalised? Does that remind you slightly of a certain Khan-Maidana poll?

Mayweather Promotions would multitask during all of this by attempting to convince Alvarez to fight on the Floyd-Guerrero undercard. The Mexican was himself lobbying for a shot at Mayweather, but instead of playing along in hopes of gaining favour with TMT, he declined.

Reports suggested that Canelo would only agree to the undercard bout if Mayweather signed on the same contract to guarantee Alvarez a fight if they both won that night last May.

When Floyd refused, Alvarez retained the power in the situation by walking away and headlining his own card in San Antonio, where he defeated Austin Trout in a commercially-successful battle of undefeated boxers.

Within weeks, Mayweather was indeed agreeing to fight Canelo. And without any teases of alternative opponents or stringing along, the subsequent media tour was a huge success and a massive omen for the money the September 15 bout would go on to make.

Even though the accomplished Mayweather remained a big favourite, the boxing community was convinced that in Alvarez, he had an opponent who was not a hired puppet, but a star in his own right who had legitimate hopes of overtaking the current best in the business.

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Of course, Alvarez’s one mistake in months of sidestepping Mayweather’s plans was when he opted to bulk up after the weigh-in. There, he fell into the same trap many Floyd victims before him had, and was easy prey for a masterclass in cat-like reflexes and world-class ring generalship.

Nonetheless, that Canelo stood up as his own man – not to mention spent a few of those 12 rounds forcing Mayweather into a higher gear in order to keep him at bay – gave the affable 23-year-old more than just a monster payday from the experience.

As his recent interview with Kevin Iole of our sister site Yahoo! Sports explains, that first defeat at such a high level matured Alvarez as much as his excellent pre-fight handling of Floyd Mayweather and ensured he'd remain a strong draw going forward, rather than being chewed up and spat out by Floyd’s promotional juggernaut.

Whether you like Amir Khan or dislike him, he had a huge chance to do just that when links to a Mayweather bout first arose, even if he was indeed doomed to taste defeat.

Instead, he took a huge chomp on that gigantic hook and has been reeled in ever since.

Losing a fight to the best in the world is nothing compared to losing your dignity and self-respect, the way Khan has in this entire farce.

Judging by Khan’s recent comments on Twitter, he hasn’t been given a mercy catch-and-release by Mayweather yet, either.

[STORY: KHAN/MAYWEATHER TWITTER SPAT RE-IGNITES]

“Fighting (Kell) Brook won’t get me the Floyd fight,” tweeted Khan – who appears to be keen on ‘proving’ himself worthy of Mayweather by taking on Adrien Broner on the undercard of a night he looked set to co-headline.

“I don’t have an easy fight on May 3, so I cannot overlook Maidana”, Mayweather tweeted.

“But Amir, if you and Broner end up fighting each other on my show and you win (which you won’t), I’ll fight you.”

Reports that several translator apps interpreted those Mayweather words as “dance, puppets, dance!” are unfounded. But you get the idea.

The irony for Khan at this stage is that while a domestic showdown with Kell Brook would indeed have less global impact than beating Broner, Alexander or Shawn Porter, he’d actually do his chances of cornering Mayweather more favours by walking away from this continual manipulation and, like Canelo did a year ago, act as his own man.

Top Rank's Bob Arum put it best a fortnight ago when he implored Amir to "tell Mayweather to p*** off".

If he walked away from this glorified abuse, returned to Britain and beat Brook as he frequently claims he did at amateur level, Amir Khan would at least win back some self-respect and some bargaining power.

That said, perhaps he sees Brook as too risky a foe. Who knows if his opinion will change if ‘Special K’ does indeed make good on his mandatory world title opportunity.

But while Khan earning the respect of a cynical boxing fanbase is always going to be an uphill struggle, giving up his part-time job as Floyd Mayweather’s little plaything would be a great start.

Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter @liamhappe

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