"I think this fight will go a long way to answering the questions on peoples' minds about Khan," says Papa, the HBO announcer. "This is the perfect fight for him."
Maidana, on the other hand climbs through the ropes with only one intention: to blast you out. So far he has been very good at it. Only four times in 30 fights has Maidana been forced to go beyond six rounds, and he has seen the 12th only twice. Tellingly, both fights that went the distance were against excellent boxers, Andriy Kotelnik and wily veteran DeMarcus Corley in his most recent bout. That raises the question: what if Maidana can't put away Khan? "Maidana's only chance of winning is to knock Khan out," Papa says. "If it goes the distance, Khan's superior boxing skills will win out."
That all depends on whether Khan can keep his newfound composure over 12 rounds in which he will face a relentless, attacking Maidana. "What nobody can answer yet is, 'Can Khan maintain the discipline he acquired in Freddie Roach's gym in big spots under pressure?'" Papa says. "How will he react to adversity? There is no script you can develop in the gym which will automatically translate in the ring. This is the Theatre of the Unknown."
Behind the curtain of that theatre, Khan has rehearsed for this play by sparring countless rounds with the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet, Manny Pacquiao, also trained by Roach. As good as Maidana is at applying physical pressure, he's an amateur compared to Pacquiao.
"This is a case where the sparring with Pacquiao will have a great residual effect," Papa says. "It's got to be an incredible benefit for Khan, especially in the mental aspects of the sport. You can't duplicate that experience anywhere else. It would be like a basketball player practicing with Michael Jordan in his prime. It's got to rub off on you."
Khan believes it has. "The rounds that me and Manny do in sparring are tough rounds," Khan said recently. "We don't go in there and hold back. People who watch us spar say that you could sell tickets to our sessions, because Manny is a great fighter and I push him as hard as I can. If you can hit Manny cleanly once or twice, then you are catching the best fighter in the world and it makes the likes of Maidana look easier to hit."
If that turns out to be true, Khan's power, which has been overlooked in all the fuss about his chin, could come into play. "Not only does he have decent power, but also under Roach he's throwing more efficient punches, very straight ones and using smart combos," Papa says. "Khan could very well knock this guy out."