Molina bout sees Khan at crossroads

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Britain’s Amir Khan says it’s his head, not his heart, that will put him back on the path to boxing’s summit when he takes on unbeaten American Carlos Molina in December. “We know we have to win the fight, not only win it but win it in good style,” Khan said Tuesday at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, where he and Molina will face off in a light welterweight bout on December 15. “I want to be back up there. I want a good win. I aim to win this fight to be back where I want to be.”
Former world champion Khan is coming off two successive defeats, including a fourth-round knockout loss to light welterweight world champion Danny Garcia in July. Khan has since sacked famed trainer Freddie Roach, mentor of Filipino icon Manny Pacquiao, and says that thanks to his preparations with Virgil Hunter, fans will see “an Amir Khan who is smarter, an Amir Khan who is thinking about everything”. That’s the prescription from Hunter, who scoffed at the notion that Garcia’s victory indicated Khan had a suspect chin. Hunter said it wasn’t Khan’s inability to take a punch, but his inability to stick to his strategy after a third-round knockdown, that cost him that fight. “He has to temper his approach,” Hunter said. “He’s a little ahead of himself, he has to learn how to harness his speed.” Khan, 26-3 with 18 knockouts, admitted that the loss to Garcia — coming after he dropped a controversial split decision to American Lamont Peterson — was especially bitter.
“I think I let him and his father get to me,” Khan said. “I lost my cool. I could have just boxed him and I tried to get into a fight with him and I got into his game.”
Hunter, who trains unbeaten super-middleweight world champion Andre Ward, has counseled Khan that boxing is about business, not revenge. But Khan clearly has Garcia in the back of his mind, saying that’s a rematch he’d like to make before perhaps moving up from the 140-pound division. First, however, comes the 17-0 Molina, who says he’s looking forward to fighting in front of home fans in a venue that has hosted Olympic boxing as well as three Muhammad Ali fights. Khan says his preparations are progressing quietly in the peace and quiet of Hunter’s Oakland gym, which has none of the hubbub of Roach’s Wild Card gym in Hollywood.
“We all know he’s a great trainer,” Khan said of Roach. “(But) I need to be with someone who can spend 100 percent of time with me.” Khan also likes training outside Britain, where his private life has become tabloid fodder. “It is a distraction when you’re preparing for a fight,” he said.
Home favourite wins first Afghan pro bout: Afghan-German boxer Hamid Rahimi beat his Tanzanian opponent in Kabul on Tuesday in Afghanistan’s first professional bout, prompting jubilation among thousands of home fans. Ecstatic supporters mobbed the ring in the capital’s Loya Jirga (grand assembly) tent as the referee declared Rahimi, 29, winner after Said Mbelwa withdrew with an injury in the seventh round. It may not have been the “Thriller in Manila”, but the bout billed as the “Fight 4 Peace” marks another sporting landmark for the war-torn nation after the resounding success of the Afghan Premier League football tournament. Amid tight security, around 2,000 fans including dignitaries such as the head of the intelligence service packed the Loya Jirga, and hundreds of thousands were expected to watch live television coverage. The crowd cheered every blow as Rahimi, who grew up in Germany, dominated the early exchanges, while his 23-year-old opponent looked to frustrate the home favourite by dancing round the ring before a shoulder injury got the better of him 17 seconds into the seventh.
“I thank you all for coming — you gave me power, this belt belongs to Afghanistan. It is yours,” Rahimi told the crowd after receiving the WBO intercontinental middleweight belt. After more than three decades of war, Afghans are no strangers to fighting, but Tuesday’s bout was their first taste of top international boxing and the clash began with the sport’s usual theatre and razzmatazz, much to the delight of the sell-out crowd, many of them waving the national flag. “I’m very happy to be here, I’ve waited for a month to come and see this match. I’ve never been to a live boxing match before,” said fan Abdul Maqsood, who paid 5,000 Afghanis ($95) for his ticket — around a month’s salary for an average government employee. “Rahimi is my favourite boxer, he is our pride.” Despite their penchant for floggings and public executions, the Taliban declared boxing to be “against human dignity” during their hardline rule and banned it, along with most other forms of entertainment.