By Danny Winterbottom ringside
“When do you ever see a boring Amir Khan fight?” was the question posed by Golden Boy CEO Richard Schafer, when talking to the press shortly after Amir Khan had edged a terrifically exciting 12 round battle with Mexico’s teak tough former two time lightweight world champion Julio Diaz.
Khan, making his first appearance in a British ring for two years at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, once again had the paying punters on the very edge of their seats as he swept the first three sessions and looked in control before a left hook caught him on the chin and sent him tumbling to the canvas, once again raising question marks over his punch
“He caught me whilst I was off balance” said Khan post-fight, “But I knew at all times what was happening.”
Indeed, Khan rose from the knockdown on fairly sturdy legs, and managed to fend off Diaz for the rest of the round but his vulnerability is what makes him box office.
Diaz, 33, and originally from Jiquilpan, Michoacan de Ocampo, Mexico but a long time resident of California, was involved in a war with unbeaten Shawn Porter in December and his only chance of beating Khan was to engage him in a fight, and Khan’s Achilles heel is he likes a good old fashioned scrap but doesn’t have the whiskers to back it up.
Under new trainer Virgil Hunter however Khan said he would utilise his skills, which are fast hands and feet, and not trade when tagged, but every time Diaz caught him he went to war and took chances.
Diaz (10st 2lbs 3oz) was only inches away from several huge left hook swings detonating on the chin of Khan throughout the fight and when he did land a haymaker, in rounds four, 10 and 11 the Athens Olympic Silver medallist was all at sea.
Khan (10st 2lbs 2oz) was edging the rounds on my card with fast, eye catching combinations, and he grazed the right eye of Diaz in round seven but the visitor looked willing to walk through punches to close the range and do damage with his own fists. In round eight he connected with a right hook that sent Khan stumbling across the ring and the pair traded blows in the ninth.
Round 10 was a torrid one for the home favourite as he was badly shaken by several right hands and stalked by Diaz throughout the session. So bad was the beating he took I scored the round 10-8 to Diaz, despite Khan remaining on his feet, bringing the fight closer on the cards.
Another troublesome three minutes followed for the former unified light welterweight world champion as Diaz spat out defiance and went looking for the big KO, and almost got it. Khan boxed behind a fast jab and whizzed hooks and uppercuts inches from the chin of Diaz but the visitor waited patiently for an opening to counter and when it presented itself he fired in a hard right that once again stunned Khan and drew oohs and arrghs from the crowd.
Diaz, chin down and biting hard on his gum shield, tried to walk Khan down in the final stanza as the Bolton man circled to his right. Diaz stabbed Khan downstairs but was immediately countered by a flurry of hooks that he partially parried on his gloves before catching Amir with a left flush in the face.
Khan flirted with what would have been a disastrous defeat on several occasions but Diaz gave away too many sessions loading up. Judge Steve Gray scored the bout 115-113, Terry O’Connor 115-112 and Phil Edwards 114-113. My card for SecondsOut read 114-112 for Amir Khan. Marcus McDonnell officiated.
Khan moves to 28-3 and Diaz slips to 40-8-1
“Diaz is a tough guy” said Khan later. “He has been a world champion and he pushed me all the way and the people saw he came to win.”
Asked about boxing in the UK after two years away he said “It was awesome to come back and put on a show!”
Smiling as he walked around ringside Golden Boy CEO Richard Schafer told the press of his plans for the Bolton man.
“Amir will be fighting for a world title next. We hope to match him with the winners of Garcia-Judah and Matthysse-Peterson or if he moves up in weight I would like to see him challenge Devon Alexander for his world title.”
Earlier in the evening Haroon Khan, younger brother of Amir, made his professional debut with a 40-37 victory over Brett Fidoe in a super flyweight contest over four three minute rounds.
Haroon, a bronze medallist for Pakistan at the Delhi Commonwealth games, had Virgil Hunter working his corner due to Oliver Harrison being in Argentina with Martin Murray, and the youngster was a little over anxious in the opening round.
Khan (8st 5lbs 1oz) loaded up with his right hand but couldn’t pin his slippery opponent down and was much better when he relaxed and used his jab but was forced to take a couple of hard shots along the ropes from Fidoe (8st 5lbs 7oz)
Khan’s greater accuracy and volume saw him through on referee Steve Gray’s card and we could see him in some exciting fights in the future.
“I could have fought better” he said later. “It was different from the amateurs. Big ring, big crowd and more pressure but I feel good that I got the win.”
London Olympic bronze medallist Anthony Ogogo made an exciting start to his professional career with a second round stoppage of the tough and experienced Kieron Gray from Telford in a middleweight contest scheduled for six three minute rounds.
Ogogo (11st 4lbs 12oz) was relaxed in the opener as he fired fast jabs into the face of Gray (11st 3lbs 9oz) who was having his 20th paid outing.
A chopping right from the London games star got Gray’s attention in round two before he straightened the shot and fired it down the middle sending the Telford man crashing to the canvas.
Gray bravely beat the count of referee Mike Alexander but was unsteady on his feet and the contest was rightly waved off at exactly 2-00 of the round.
“It was brilliant” Ogogo said about his first professional fight. “I haven’t fought since the games, it’s been nearly a year and I can’t wait to fight again.”
“I had a few nerves but once I heard the song and the crowd I was ready and I made a statement tonight.”
“I was in London for the games and was impressed by Anthony” said Richard Schafer.
“He lived up to that billing tonight and we want to keep him busy. We are working on his US debut for May 18.”
Unbeaten American heavyweight Deontay Wilder needed just 70 seconds of the opening round to corner former Olympic gold medallist Audley Harrison in a neutral corner and detonate a right hand on his chin that once again exposed the fragility of the Londoner.
Wilder came into the contest with a fearsome KO record, none of his 27 victims had lasted the distance, but the man from Tuscaloosa, Alabama had been largely untested.
Harrison, fresh from his victory in another heavyweight instalment of Prizefighter, was looking to rebuild his career once again after being destroyed by David Price in October and made his walk to the ring with his own voice booming over the P.A system proclaiming “ITS MY DESTINY”.
Harrison (16st 12lbs 7oz) flashed a southpaw left in the opening moments that landed on the shoulder of Wilder (16st 8oz) who edged forward cautiously.
Harrison poked with his jab but Wilder had trapped him in a neutral corner and a crushing right hand followed by several fast and hard shots bounced off the chin and head of Audley as he slumped to the floor. Wilder continued to punch with Harrison sat on the bottom rope until referee Terry O’Connor pulled him away.
Audley tried at least three times to lay his glove on the canvas to steady himself but he was badly shaken, and when he finally hauled himself off the floor at 8 he was on very unsteady legs and O’Connor rightly waved the contest off before he got hurt.
The end came at 1-10 of the opening round and later Harrison refused to rule out retirement.
Wilder improves his record to 28-0 (28) and Harrison slips to 31-7
Wilder said “When I feel your glove in my face it excites me. The fight was over; his eyes were in the back of his head.”
“Tyson Fury, whoever, I will come back to England and fight again.”
Harrison, feeling the stoppage was premature said “I beat the count and was still in the fight”
Other results from a packed card were as follows:
Terry Flannigan WRT4 Nate Campbell (light welterweights)
Gary Sykes WPTS 10 Jon Kays (English super featherweight title)
Jack Catterall WPTS 40-37 Marc McKray (light welterweights)
David Allen WKO1 Deyan Mihailov (heavyweights)
Rick Godding WPTS Bradley Pryce (light middleweights)
Tomas Mazurkiewicz Draw 4 Adam Jones (light middleweights)
Adrien Gonzalez WRT2 Marc Callaghan (welterweights)