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Fight Recap: All hail! King Khan takes Malignaggi

"The jab is the key," said Amir Khan's trainer Freddie Roach in the white-walled locker room of the Theater at Madison Square Garden, awaiting the WBA junior welterweight title showdown with Paulie Malignaggi. He added for good measure, "Gonna f------ knock this mother------ out."  

Tonight the jab, the first punch every boxer learns, was to be the last tactic Roach integrated into Amir Khan's assault:  

Cut off the ring. Attack at angles. Don't stand directly in front of the opponent.  

And jab.  

Khan

Perhaps his best punch, Khan's jab came with instructions: "not to the head, to the shoulder." Roach explained, "Paulie likes to drop his left and expose his shoulder. If we can dislocate it, we will."

Khan would follow the orders, but also defy them: jabbing to the shoulder might have been effective, but for the champion jabbing to the face elicited equal satisfaction, landing 151 jabs to Malignaggi's 57 and generally overpowering the Brooklynite with 259 to 127 punches total.  

Widely heralded, Amir Khan (23-1) was making his American debut, after emerging from Ricky Hatton's wreckage and Joe Calzaghe's retirement as the dominant British fighter active today. During an interview with a British TV station in his locker room before the fight, Khan said, "I'm not going to go looking for a knockout, but I think one will happen with this fight." Khan, the WBA champion, trounced Malignaggi (27-4) with a stoppage at 1:25 of the 11th round.

During Friday's weigh-in, a shoving match began that boiled over with the opening rounds.

Six years Khan's senior, Malignaggi, 29, started out overeager, more concerned with finishing his combinations than landing them on anything in particular.  

In the first, Malignaggi had some success with a jab to the body, but Khan adjusted to it, seeming to spot that Malignaggi's hands would drop before his head, like the face of Wylie Coyote before the fall. Khan timed it, retiring Malignaggi's jab to the body for the rest of the fight.

In the second, Khan landed a hook off a feint flush, snapping Malignaggi's head back. By the third, Malignaggi's face began to puff like a chipmunk's. Outpacing his opponent, Khan worked the jab, hooked to the body, then pivoted having created the opening. In the fifth, Malignaggi would not permit the move: buckling after Khan's hook landed and in the ensuing clinch Malignaggi slumped to the canvas. It was ruled a slip.  

As the fight grew increasingly lopsided, a tense crowd grew restless for competition, as several fights broke out.  

By the eighth, Khan's punishing jabs and hooks formed a welt the size of a mouse under the chipmunk's left eye. A ring physician would thoroughly look Malignaggi over after that round. To his credit, Malignaggi declined the doctor's veiled invitation to quit. In the eleventh, the referee would not give him an option of refusal.

Khan's debut has won him fans, but critics will hope for a greater test against an opponent with heavier hands. After suffering a 1st round knockout a few years ago, Khan's chin has allowed his detractors a convenient counterargument against each of his successively dominant performances. Tonight, he was pressed to call out Marcos Maidana, a puncher whom Khan's critics believe the Brit will never face. Khan was more than happy to accept the challenge, then proceeded to name the two other title holders of the division: Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander. Tonight, the jab was key, opening a door to America for a fighter who may prove to be England's best boxing import.

Khan's debut has won him fans, but critics will hope for a greater test against an opponent with heavier hands.

Posted 12:00 AM | May 15, 2010

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