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Monday, November 2, 2009

Amir Khan's chance to grab a grand from distracted Manny Pacquiao

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The smartest move Amir Khan ever made was taking his imperfect but promising game to the United States to learn from the most astute trainer in boxing, Freddie Roach, at his Wild Card gym in Hollywood. It has been the making of Bolton's world champion.

But Roach is no big-hearted Uncle Freddie, doling out his wisdom for no return. He knows he has a gem in Khan – as well as the perfect sparring partner for the star of the stable, Manny Pacquiao. And that is why he wanted to get the Pacman away from the Philippines and sharpen his reflexes against Khan.

In a business brimming with horse manure, Roach smells of roses. I don't know too many trainers who would be as candid about their fighter's faltering preparation on the eve of a major fight as Roach is about Pacquiao. There is tension in the camp, no question, as the Philippines' most revered public figure struggles with the adoration of his 90 million compatriots when he should be thinking only about Miguel Cotto and their fight in Las Vegas on 14 November.

"His focus is just not there right now," Roach says on HBO's 24/7 show, as the Pacman glories in another motorcade, "and I can't wait to get him out of here, get him back to Los Angeles and get him back on track."

Roach has been unimpressed with Pacquiao's sparring – so much so he has offered US$1,000 to any of the hired help who can put him down. There seems a lack of intensity in Pacquiao that Cotto surely will take as encouragement.

Michael Jennings, who was outclassed by Cotto in four rounds, thinks the Puerto Rican wins it; so, too, does Kell Brook, who had to pull out of a British title fight with Jennings because of a virus.

Unless Roach can clear Pacquiao's mind and get him down to some serious work with Khan over the next two weeks, Jennings and Brook could be proved right.

And, if Pacquiao really is off his game, Khan might be picking up an easy grand.

Rodney King wants a rematch

Rodney King's name went around the world when he was on the wrong end of a filmed street beating by four white members of the LA police department 18 years ago.

King, 44, a one-time thief and mugger who now raises money for charity, is coping with long-time alcoholism. Boxing is part of his rehab. The downside is he wants a rematch with his chief tormentor that night, Laurence Powell – in a boxing ring.

It is Powell who is most prominent in the video footage of the attack he and his colleagues visited upon King's cowering body with metal batons after a car chase. Their acquittal the following year sparked riots across the country that lasted six days and cost at least 50 lives.

As yet Powell, who later was sentenced to 2½ years' prison on federal charges of violating King's civil rights, has not responded to the challenge. It would be better if he didn't. King's involvement with an organisation called the Celebrity Boxing Federation smacks of the lowest form of race-driven prurience.

He's had one of these bizarre fights already against "a disgraced, small-town Pennsylvania-cop-turned pugilist", according to the Boston Herald.

It's fine that King has found boxing. I hope it keeps him clean and gives him purpose. But to indulge in this sort of voyeuristic exercise is demeaning and pointless.

GB men and women face US

I'm not a big fan of women's boxing, and I don't want to go over the reasons again here. But, given the sport is in the 2012 Olympics, we should get behind them.

Now the amateur boxing authorities in this country don't always get things right but they are giving two of the best British women – Natasha Jonas from Liverpool and Savannah Marshall from Hartlepool – a decent profile alongside the guys when Great Britain boxes the US in a charity show for the Atlantic Cup at the Royal Lancaster Hotel in London on 13 November.

The GB men's team have already beaten the US three times recently, over there, and are clearly on a roll. They will be represented by: the Olympian Khalid Yafai (Birmingham, 51kg), Andrew Selby (Barry, 54kg), Martin Ward (Repton, 57kg), Tom Stalker (Liverpool, 60kg), Stephen Simmons (Edinburgh, 91kg) and Simon Vallily (South Bank 91+kg).

These are just names on a page to many people now. In three years' time, some of them may be heroes – and heroines.

Source: guardian.co.uk

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