So spar, so good!
Jim Watt puts Amir Khan's 'brilliant' display against Andreas Kotelnik down to quality sparring...
Last Updated: 22/07/09 12:22pm
I thought Amir Khan was brilliant, from start to finish.
The way he kept his concentration throughout 12 rounds was terrific and I loved the defensive instinct he showed, which is something he just didn't have before.
Andreas Kotelnik put him under regular pressure all night - far more than we all expected him too - but Amir ducked, swayed, spoiled, and held and got out of the situation as soon as he could.
And when he did escape, he was right back onto Kotelnik throwing punches.
The performance just goes to show what a difference sparring in the Wildcard Gym with Freddie Roach has made. It has forced him to learn the art of survival and the art of defending himself, which is something he just couldn't do before.
It doesn't matter that a couple of times he was ducked down behind his guard, looking at the floor. He was defending himself instinctively and his chin was hidden away, only the very top of his head exposed.
The crucial thing he showed is that he now does something to avoid punches being thrown.
That has come about through sparring with quality partners and all of sudden, not getting things his own way in the gym.
You can spend as much time on the punchbag or on the pads, but that is all choreographed. Your trainer can hold out the pad and you can slip under it and fire back with some rehearsed combinations as long as you like, but what sparring does is teach you how to react.
Every time Khan was caught, he countered. And he usually did it faster and with more punches. Kotelnik might not be the biggest puncher out there, but he hits hard enough and even though he was far more aggressive than we expected, he was not allowed to build up any momentum.
As soon as he looked like getting on top, Amir was off, then firing back with the counters. To do that needed discipline and workrate and it was an unbelievable pace he set - and stuck to - all night.
You could see the confidence he now has quite clearly, especially if you go back 10 months to when he was crawling round on the canvas in that very same ring.
The big question is what's next for him. Or rather, who and where next?
I don't think it really matters whether it's in England or America, I really don't. OK, if it was a close judges' decision, you would always want to be the home fighter, but I don't see any problem with him fighting in the States next.
He might only be 22, but he's boxed around the world as an amateur and is used to the big stage.
He is already based in the States, so it makes complete sense. I think he could do worse than take a leaf out of Ricky Hatton's book, although it took Ricky a lot longer to get there.
Staying with Ricky, a fight between them both has been mentioned, and I am sure it would be great for Amir and the British public. But I am one of those that thinks Ricky should retire from boxing.
I know he has only lost twice to the best fighters in the world at the time, but that's not the problem; it's the fact he's dragged himself down to 10 stone too many times and it has taken its toll.
Those defeats against Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao were no disgrace, but a defeat to Khan would definitely dent his legacy.
As for Amir, he has to stay at light-welterweight t. What's the point in winning a world title then dropping back down?
His mandatory is Dmitriy Salita and that is not a fighter he needs to avoid. And nor is fighting in the States. Not on that display.