Trainer says Khan a potential 'new No. 1'

Amir Khan has moved up from welterweight to middleweight in order to get the title fight against Saul Alvarez in Las Vegas tonight.
Amir Khan has moved up from welterweight to middleweight in order to get the title fight against Saul Alvarez in Las Vegas tonight.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LAS VEGAS • Amir Khan's trainer, Virgil Hunter, has said that the British boxer can be the sport's "new No. 1" if he defies all predictions and beats World Boxing Council middleweight champion Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in Las Vegas tonight.

However, the Californian admitted: "If he loses focus, it could be over in a blink."

Sounding as if he was drawing up a get-out clause for himself and his fighter, Hunter added: "He has to take one round at a time. That's what I will be saying to him. He's a joy to train and his instinct is to fight his way out of situations - not to manoeuvre, not to think his way out.

"He could be the new No. 1... He can be the man if he wins, and he should feel like he's the man. It can do a lot of good things for him and his career. It would be a catapult to bring everything to fruition."

Those are some encouraging words from Hunter, but he turned a few heads when he proclaimed recently that Khan could have been a global superstar on a par with Floyd Mayweather had he been part of the trainer's stable from an early age.

It was a put-down on Khan's past trainers, including Freddie Roach, who remains bitter about his split with the British boxer four years ago. Roach made his name with Filipino boxing star Manny Pacquiao.

Did Hunter reckon he had improved on Roach's work with Khan?

"That's already been proved in my estimation," he replied.

"When you look at what we have done and how he's done it, I think it proves what we have worked on is beginning to show and has shown.

"But Saturday night, because of the name and magnitude of it all, it will be much more significant."

It is a fight that could end Khan's career or push him to a level he cannot have imagined was within his grasp when he was fighting a couple of divisions down at welterweight.

Khan said earlier in the week he would not quit boxing until he won another title. Hunter is not convinced: "I pay more attention to the walk than the talk, but I encourage him to back up everything he says. I would like to support him on that. Time will tell; it's hard for me to look past Saturday.

"Amir can use his speed to win on points, which is logical. If Canelo gets hit in an area where there are nerve endings, you may see something happen."

While Hunter might not like to admit it, he is fighting on Saturday night too, for his vaunted reputation.

THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2016, with the headline 'Trainer says Khan a potential 'new No. 1''. Print Edition | Subscribe