Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Crawford-Khan: KO, Controversy, Or, Blunder?

An encounter between two of the best fighters in the sport of Boxing usually is reason enough to draw the interest of a Boxing fan of any description. When such a fight also takes place in a historic venue rich in Boxing history, such an encounter is given the ingredients what could be a special night in the sport’s history. The encounter between undefeated WBO Welterweight world champions Terence Crawford and former unified Jr. Welterweight world champion Amir Khan appeared to be one such occasion.

In previewing this fight, this observer stated that this would be an interesting clash of styles between two boxer/punchers. It appeared that when Terence Crawford and Amir Khan entered the ring on April 20th at Madison Square Garden that would be exactly what this fight would produce. In some ways, it is exactly what happened. Two world-class boxers who each have the ability to play the role of aggressor and counter puncher.

Both fighters had periods of effectiveness throughout this fight, but it was Crawford’s counter punching and more specifically his accuracy that proved to be the difference. It was a counter punch, a right hand that would send Khan to the canvas in the first round. Although this was a flash knockdown, it did establish who had more power between the two fighters. As has been the case in some of his more notable fights, Amir Khan’s hand speed was the focal point of his offense and when he was able to get off first, he did have success. What has been in some ways Khan’s Achilles’ heel throughout his career has been a problem in managing distance between himself and his opponent, which leaves him vulnerable to getting caught in exchanges and lunging when he is not at a distance where he can control the tempo of the combat.

Despite having a reputation as having a suspect chin, Khan to his credit was able to get up from the knockdown in the first round and had periods of effectiveness. The flaws that have led to his downfall in previous fights however, were all visible in this fight. An inability to control distance resulted in his being countered by Crawford, most notably with the champion’s right hand throughout the fight. Khan was also caught in exchanges where the champion was able to get the better of the action.

What appeared to be a fight that was competitive, but also one that was turning momentum in Crawford’s favor as it progressed, was suddenly stopped in round six when Khan suffered a clear low blow and rather than taking five minutes as per the rules to see if he could continue, the fight was stopped by his trainer Virgil Hunter. While it is indisputable that Khan was recipient of a clear low blow, the outcome of a technical knockout in favor of Terence Crawford has some questioning whether or not the outcome was a knockout as a result of a fighter more or less looking for a way out when an opportunity presented itself, a controversy in the result being a technical knockout rather than a disqualification in favor of Khan, or a blunder by Khan’s trainer to stop the fight.

Was Amir Khan looking for a way out of a fight that appeared to be getting away from him in terms of his ability to compete effectively? It is important to remember that despite Khan having suffered three previous knockout losses of four previous losses in his career prior to challenging Crawford, Khan has never shown a tendency to back out in a fight when circumstances were not in his favor. From my perspective, although it was indisputable that Khan was hit low by Crawford, the decision to stop the fight appeared to be a little quick.

Should the result of the fight have been a disqualification against Terence Crawford? Things like low blows and other fouls are something that comes with the territory in not just Boxing, but all of combat sports. Fans of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) are not just familiar with the potential of a fighter being hit with a low blow, but also the potential of a fight ending due to a fighter being poked in the eye by their opponent, due largely to the fact that fights in MMA are fought with open-handed gloves that enable a fighter to both punch and grapple, but gloves that leave the fingers exposed where things like eye pokes unfortunately do happened.

In this case even though it was clear that Terence Crawford landed a low blow on Amir Khan, I do not believe that it wasn’t intentional foul and thus it is difficult to say whether or not he should have been disqualified under the rules of Boxing. The central question here appears to be whether or not Amir Khan’s trainer Virgil Hunter was too quick to stop this fight.

Was there a blunder by Virgil Hunter? Although I would have preferred to see Khan take more time to see if he could compose himself in being allowed five minutes under the unified rules of Boxing, this appeared to be a call that was made by his corner and not him. With the momentum shifting more and more in Crawford’s favor, was the decision to stop this fight one made out of concern for Amir Khan’s well-being and safety having been a knockout victim previously in his career and having suffered a brutal one punch knockout loss to Saul Alvarez in his previous loss prior to this fight? Was the decision made out of a strategy to try and win the fight via disqualification as per the rules would suggest if a fighter cannot continue after being given five minutes after suffering a foul? Did Virgil Hunter jump the gun and stop the fight to quickly? Or, was this a case of all of the above playing a factor in his decision to stop the fight?

Obviously, I as a writer, Boxing journalist, and historian cannot answer these questions. The only one that can answer those question is Virgil Hunter. While the fight entering round six was still competitive prior to the low blow, it was clear that the momentum was in Crawford’s favor and Khan would need to do something to turn the ebb and flow in his favor. I do not believe that this was an indication of a fighter wanting out of a fight, but I do believe that a mistake was made by Khan’s corner.

Do I believe that if Khan had taken the full five minutes and couldn’t continue that Terence Crawford should have been disqualified? Not necessarily, but it would not have been the first time Yours truly has seen a fight end under such circumstances where a disqualification was ultimately the result. Given that it was an accidental foul and did not appear to be intentional, would the better option have been to go to the scorecards for a technical decision given that the fight had gone beyond four completed rounds as per the rules for something such as a cut that is deemed too severe for one fighter to continue that was caused by an accidental clash of heads? Perhaps… Or, was is the case of a trainer looking out for the best interest of his fighter in the long-term, but not wanting to stop the fight in a way that would result in a technical knockout loss?

Yours truly cannot answer these questions, but based on not only what has happened in Amir Khan’s career prior to this fight, but also what appeared to gradually be happening in the fight, one should not discount the possibility of a trainer looking out for his fighter, but also possibly looking to take advantage of a technicality that would have theoretically resulted in a victory for his fighter rather than a defeat. Only Virgil Hunter can say for certain what he was thinking, but ultimately the circumstances of which this fight ended was simply “Underwhelming.”

Whether or not there will be a protest by Khan to the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) in an effort to have the result of a technical knockout loss against him changed remains to be seen. For Terence Crawford, it appears to be on to the future business of who he will fight next. While this observer will be sharing thoughts on that subject in a future column, for now what was turning out to be another in a long line of impressive performances by the multi-division world champion as he continues to make an argument for himself as the best Welterweight in the world can be summed up by simply saying, “A win Is A Win.”

“And That’s The Boxing Truth.”

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