HOLLYWOOD, California, (Reuters) – Britain’s WBA light-welterweight champion Amir Khan is a superior boxer at 24 than Filipino Manny Pacquiao was at the same age, according to trainer Freddie Roach who works with both fighters.
Khan, like Pacquiao, is a southpaw renowned for his speed and hard work ethic and Roach firmly believes he will emulate the Filipino by becoming the sport’s best pound-for-pound fighter within the next two years.
“Amir is little bit more ahead of Manny,” the bespectacled Roach told Reuters at his Wild Card Boxing Club on Tuesday. “It took Manny Pacquiao eight years to get to the point where he became unbeatable and he has dominated every fight.
“Amir has been with me for just three years now and he’s getting closer and closer.
“He will become the pound-for-pound king within a couple of years. He is well ahead of schedule and a big win here against Zab (Judah) would be another step towards Manny’s record.”
Khan, who has a career record of 25-1 with 17 knockouts, is scheduled to take on experienced American IBF holder Zab Judah in a unification fight in Las Vegas on July 23.
While the 33-year-old Judah is a highly respected figure in boxing, Roach is confident Khan will triumph in style at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino — and probably inside the 12 scheduled rounds.
“Zab will need to be at his best to survive in this one,” said Roach, who has worked with 31 world champions in his Wild Card gym on the outskirts of downtown Los Angeles. “I am very confident in my guy. We are ready to fight, we know when and where to attack this guy and how to attack him. We will win and walk away.
“I do not see this fight going the distance. We will overwhelm him with our speed and power, and I think Zab doesn’t really take to getting hit like he once did.”
Khan agreed that a knockout was likely, but he was wary of making any iron-clad prediction.
“I really think I will get a knockout in this fight but I never go into a fight looking for a knockout because that’s when you start making mistakes,” the Englishman told Reuters before beginning a training session in the ring with Roach.
“I’m going to go in there boxing and if the knockout comes it comes. But we are ready for the full 12-round distance. We have worked very hard for this fight and we know that we’ve got a good game plan that I’m going to be following.”
Khan, who won the WBA title against Andreas Kotelnik of Ukraine two years ago, readily admits he would never have made such quick progress in his boxing career without the influence of Roach and 10-times world champion Pacquiao.
“They’ve brought the best out of me,” he said. “Mentally they have made me a better fighter by thinking about what I need to do and sticking to a game plan whereas before I just used to go in there and fight with my heart.
“We know we’ve got the heart to go in there and fight with anyone but we need to have the game plan and I need to have the mental strength to stick to that game plan.”
Asked what had been his greatest lesson from Pacquiao, Bolton-born Khan replied: “It’s just good to be in the same camp as him. I work with him and I see what he does and, in a way, I just follow his customs.
“Manny is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and if I can even spar with him and do well against him that’s a great confidence boost for me.
“He’s so down-to-earth and he loves to help me. Just a few words from Manny is a big thing for me. We’ve become friends now. I’m 24 and I’ve been training with Manny since I was 22. It’s a great experience and you can’t buy that experience.”
Khan, a former Olympic silver medallist, has clear-cut goals well beyond his July 23 showdown with Judah.
“Later this year, I am hoping to fight Erik Morales,” he said. “That would be a big fight for me. He’s a big name over here in the States.
“From there, maybe I will move up to 147 (pounds) and try to take on Floyd Mayweather. That’s what we are looking at. You need to have ambitions and my main goal is to fight for the pound-for-pound title.
“I’ve still got a long, long way to go and I am learning every day and in every fight. But I am getting there slowly.”