After 156 punches eaten and a 10th round barely survived, Amir Khan (24-1) retained his WBA super lightweight title before a far from capacity crowd at Las Vegas's Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. In a high-action instant contender for Fight of the Year, the heavy underdog Marcos Maidana (29-2) lost a close, but unanimous decision (114-111, 114-111, and 113-112).
At the opening bell, Khan attempted to touch gloves, which Maidana swatted away in an attempt to land an early potshot. What Maidana lacks in natural boxing ability, he more than makes up for with a lack of sportsmanship. Throughout the night, he threw rabbit punches, hit off breaks called by referee Joe Cortez, and ultimately refused to admit defeat.
For his part, Khan followed Maidana's lead: at one point, attempting to sucker-punch his opponent as he adjusted his trunks and continually pushed down on Maidana's head in clinches as he bull-charged forward. Ultimately in the 12th, Cortez played the reconciliatory schoolmarm, grabbing both Khan and Maidana's gloves and forcing the two fists to touch up.
The first round saw Maidana hit the canvas from a left hook to the body, as Khan's height, speed, and elegant combinations appeared to outmatch the Argentine's pressure. Maidana would suffer another 10-8 round on the cards in the fifth, but this time due a point deduction for throwing an elbow on a break. Even retaining those two points, the Argentine could not have garnered the victory.
Hit flush in the third, Khan was wobbled and Maidana pressed the action to win the stanza. Maidana, however, looked displeased with himself. Given his comparative deficit in speed to the Briton, Maidana appeared to care less about winning a round and more about knocking his man out within one. In the eighth, Maidana punched without power in a veteran decoy: he took the round off to reload for the ninth and tenth as well as hope to lure Khan into overly exposing himself on account of over-confidence. Whether so intricately schemed or not, the plan worked.
Though the ninth went to Khan, Maidana seemed reinvigorated. While Khan proved the more accurate puncher, with 273 connecting shots of 603 to Maidana's 156 of 767. In some cases, however, Maidana's punches should have counted for two. In the tenth round, he landed a few right hands on Khan's chin that could have counted for 10. So debilitating was Maidana's power in that round that all three judges scored it a 10-8 round in his favor. While Khan went on the defensive, he reawakened in parts of the eleventh and twelfth with combinations. Ahead on the cards, Khan easily could have avoided fighting at all for the championship rounds, but elected not to do so. It revealed his heart, which had yet to be tested.
Throughout the fight, Khan attempted to imitate his inimitable stablemate, Manny Pacquiao: using angles to land combinations; slapping his gloves together when he got hit flush; fighting a puncher off the ropes as Pacquiao recently did against Antonio Margarito; and taking breaks by shelling up which allowed his opponent to land uppercuts at will. At times, it may have inspired Khan, but at others it came at perilous cost.
This match-up had been a referendum on Amir Khan's chin, suspect by experts ever since his first round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott in 2008. While Khan showed again that a puncher may stand a chance against him, he did prove that the odds of knocking him out with a single blow are fewer than many thought. Days before the fight, fellow junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley said, "I can't wait to see Khan get his ass knocked out." As Khan continues to mature and refine his arsenal under trainer Freddie Roach, Bradley may be waiting a long time. Khan's future opponent will hopefully be the winner of Bradley's title unification bout against Devon Alexander on January 29. Prospects Victor Ortiz and Lamont Peterson took themselves out of contention on the undercard tonight with an unimpressive draw.
For Khan's trainer Freddie Roach, the victory likely cements his unprecedented fifth Trainer of the Year honors. In 2010, Roach's record from the corner was 27-2, winning all five of the title fights he worked between Khan, Pacquiao, and Viacheslav Senchenko.
After the fight, blanketed in a blood orange robe whose hue resembled patches of battered skin on his face, Amir Khan sat in his locker room as a doctor inspected him, telling the WBA champion, "You'll need a CT scan. Just precautionary. You sustained many blows to the head." Khan viewed the physician's comment of concern as an ultimate rebuff to his critics, as he then said to the assembled crowd around him, "No one can question my chin now."