Prize fighters: Amir Khan and John Murray aim to take States by storm
The Brits are coming – or should that be the Mancs? America is bracing itself for the latest invasion from this side of the Atlantic – and it is a shorthaired lad from Levenshulme bidding to soften ‘em up, before a Bolton boy delivers the knockout blow.
It’s been a rocky ride in 2011, but over the course of one week next month John Murray and Amir Khan have the chance to end the year in style.
Two very different men, with equally contrasting fighting styles’ are the poster boys for the post-Ricky Hatton era.
Khan – already a double world champion and seasoned operator in the States at the tender age of 24 – looks capable of succeeding where the Hitman twice failed and one-day earning the mythical title of pound-for-pound No1.
Murray – who closer resembles his idol Hatton for his raw aggression in the ring – will pull off as big a surprise as any of the former two-weight world champion’s triumphs if he shocks WBA lightweight king, Brandon Rios, at Madison Square Garden a week on Saturday.
Victory would erase the memory of his first career defeat to Kevin Mitchell in July and fulfil his destiny as Hatton’s heir-apparent.
Khan’s sights, meanwhile, are even higher.
He’s already reached superstar status.
Working under master trainer, Freddie Roach, and alongside Manny Pacquiao, he is now considered a global issue.
After winning the Fight of the Year award in 2010 for his thrilling victory over Marcos Maidana, a mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr is on the horizon in the next 18 months.
Still, recognition from the British Boxing Board of Control this week was at least confirmation that his talents are appreciated back home.
Khan was named Britain’s Boxer of the Year, which is quite an accolade considering the efforts of Carl Froch in the Super Six to determine the world’s finest super middleweight.
What’s more, this hasn’t been Khan’s finest year.
The unsatisfying nature of his sixth round victory over Paul McCloskey in April, due to a cut sustained by the Irishman, tainted his Manchester homecoming. And his fifth round knockout of Zab Judah in July was mired in controversy over claims of a low blow.
But the fact remains that as each challenge comes his way, Khan keeps on knocking them down.
Against Lamont Petersen in Washington on December 10, he will make the sixth defence of his world title. And even if a unification bout with Timothy Bradley cannot be secured before he steps up to the promise of pound-for-pound glory, he has every argument to claim he is the pre-eminent light-welterweight on the planet right now.
Murray was also honoured at the BBBoC’s annual awards this week, earning the title of Fight of Year for his breath-taking clash with Mitchell.
Even in defeat, he wins.
It was just reward for the 26-year-old, who deserves recognition for his part in a battle that more than lived up to the hype.
Few have in 2011. From David Haye’s limp surrender to Wladimir Klitschko, to Mayweather’s farcical victory over Victor Ortiz and the recrimination after Pacquiao’s disputed points win against Juan Manuel Marquez this month, the big fights have disappointed.
Not so Murray-Mitchell, which was edge-of-your-seat fare for each of the explosive eight rounds it lasted.
Ironically, the nature of that defeat may have done more to earn him his long-awaited world title shot than the 31 wins that preceded it.
US promoters, Top Rank, know they’ve got a guaranteed entertainer on their hands – a man ready to go toe-to-toe with knockout specialist, Rios.
If Khan is expected to confirm his dominance against Peterson, the Americans aren’t expecting to let Murray board his flight at JFK International Airport with the lightweight belt around his waist.
His task is as daunting as that faced Matthew Hatton, Matthew Macklin and Darren Barker already this year.
That trio of Brits saw their world title challenges go up in smoke against Saul Alvarez, Felix Sturm and Sergio Martinez respectively.
Few expect Murray’s story to be any different.
But those who doubt him haven’t accounted for a man steeled by the pain of losing for the first time.
A man who recognises that in his 33rd professional fight, his first world title tilt may his last.
Murray had to wait until Tuesday night to get confirmation that the fight would take place in New York after Antonio Margarito was finally cleared to face Miguel Cotto in the main event.
Until then, he didn’t know if he’d be taking a plane to Denver or Texas or any of the other parts of America that had been earmarked as back-ups.
It made little difference to Murray. So long as they put up a ring, he’s getting in it.
This is his chance to stand alongside Hatton as a fellow world champion – and if he fails, it could well be his only opportunity. Where Murray hopes to emulate, Khan aims to usurp.
He is expected to blast through Peterson, just like he has everyone else put in front of him since the Breidis Prescott wake-up call.
If 2011 was King Khan’s, the next 12 months promise to be much the same – and he may just have Murray for company too.
How will the duo do? Have your say.
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