By Michael Norby: WBA junior welterweight world champion Amir Khan produced an initially skillful and then deeply brave performance on Saturday night to overcome a determined and powerful challenge from hard-hitting Marcos Maidana, to win on points at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA.
Looking to finally put the ghost of his disastrous 2008 knockout loss to power punching Breidis Prescott behind him, Khan 24-1 (17) handled an even more powerful foe in Maidana 29-2 (27) with surprising comfort in the early portion of the fight.
The Englishman scored a knockdown in the first round and widely out-boxed the Argentinean through the first half of the contest. Maidana carved out openings in the sixth and seventh, however, and almost had Khan finished in the tenth and 12th rounds, but ultimately failed to put his man away when gilt-edged opportunities arose.
The dynamic of the contest was chalked on the board from the outset when Khan attempted to touch gloves at the opening bell and almost ate a left hook for his gesture. Maidana, clearly not here to make friends, immediately went on the offensive and tagged the Englishman with a pair of right hands early on. Khan took both well and stung his man with a right uppercut shortly thereafter and kept his opponent honest with a terrific jab as the contest settled down.
Khan’s greater hand speed and movement was too much for the challenger and, with 20 seconds remaining, a stunning two-punch combination to the body sent Maidana to the deck. The Argentinean narrowly beat the count but was brutalized by Khan for the remaining few seconds to cap off a massively impressive opening three minutes for the champion.
The one-sided mismatch continued in the second with Khan scoring heavily with stunningly quick combinations. A moment of sloppiness in the third, however, allowed a game and pressing Maidana to connect with a pair of hard right hands. The challenger gained confidence from that moment and enjoyed success throughout the round as Khan seemed to tighten up a little.
Khan loosened up again in the fourth and built a solid lead in the opening two minutes before Maidana tightened things in the final minute with a typically gravel-like performance – clocking Khan with a tremendous combination in the final minute.
Maidana was penalized a point in the fifth for using his elbow (which missed Khan and hit referee Joe Cortez) – a further handicap to his chances after seemingly losing a majority of the contest on merit thus far – including the fifth.
Still, though, Maidana was making Khan work for every point and was digging deeper as the fight progressed into the later rounds. The challenger refused to let up and bulldozed his way through the Englishman’s punches in the sixth and seventh (his best round of the fight) to connect with hard right hands to the head and numerous uppercuts on the inside.
Khan rebounded beautifully in the eighth and used terrific timing and accuracy to punish Maidana as he lunged forward throughout the round. He continued to baffle the hard pressing challenger in the ninth – moving well, displaying his sizzling boxing skill and scoring with fast combinations against a less effective Maidana to stretch his lead going into the final three rounds.
Indeed everything was going swimmingly for the young Englishman who had displayed skill, grit, and ring smarts in abundance thus far. Then, halfway into the tenth round, a huge right hand staggered Khan and gave Maidana his chance. Out on his feet, Khan struggled to hold on and Maidana rained down hell on him for the remainder of the round.
Amazingly, Khan refused to go down, or even hold on, and he walked back to his corner on jellied legs after suffering a 90 second-long beating by one of the most powerful punchers in boxing.
With blood streaming from his nose and a tiring but still aggressive opponent coming at him in the eleventh, Khan reached down and hurt his man with a pair of right hands and steadied what seemed to be a sinking ship with sporadic combinations that stopped Maidana from launching the all-out assault that he needed to turn the fight.
Maidana again wounded Khan in the final round in one last attempt to pull off an amazing victory but, in the final stages, the champion found the energy to produce a series of stunning combination punching to create breathing room until the final bell came – cementing a hard fought victory.
Scores: 114-111; 114-111; 113-112
In a battle of junior welterweight contenders, Lamont Peterson overcame a pair of third round knockdowns to force a majority draw against Victor Ortiz through ten rounds.
Ortiz 28-2-2 (22) weighing 9lbs heavier than his opponent by fight time, landed the heavier shots early on in an otherwise relatively even opening round. The southpaw suffered a cut on his scalp after a clash of heads midway through, but he carried it well and was consistently more aggressive than Peterson 28-1-1 (14) in the second round.
Peterson scored well in the third with body shots and, more impressive, with his jab, but found himself on the deck after a flashy Ortiz assault with just over a minute remaining. Thirty seconds later, referee Vic Drakulich ruled that the ropes saved Peterson from falling for the second time, giving Ortiz a commanding lead.
Showing no sign of disappointment, Peterson landed a trio of tasty left hooks and a stinging right cross in the fourth as he doggedly tried to fight his way back into the contest. He was also finding a home for sporadic power shots to the head and body of Ortiz and scored well in the fifth and sixth as his opponent struggled to find openings.
Ortiz finally awoke in the closing stages of the seventh and forced his hands into action, scoring with a pair of combinations in a round that, until then, had been controlled largely by Peterson’s boxing skills.
Peterson won round eight with a series of hellacious power shots. He forced his opponent’s head from side to side with thunderous hooks – landing 22 out of 42 punches and seemingly hurting Ortiz in a final, punishing pair of power shots.
Despite his best efforts, however, the gutsy Washington DC native was unable to fully overcome the early knockdowns. He seemed to be taking control of the contest down the stretch but in the final two rounds, he failed to produce the output that he needed to cap off a remarkable, fight-winning comeback and had to share the spoils with a disappointing Ortiz.
Scores: 95-93 (Peterson); 94-94; 94-94