• Steve Bunce

Khan needs trainer who'll crack the whip

Steve Bunce September 4, 2012
Amir Khan has grown frustrated with Freddie Roach's decision to prioritise work with Manny Pacquiao © Getty Images

I'm not convinced Amir Khan is making the right call if he decides to split with Freddie Roach, his trainer. But at the same time, in Khan's past two fights I've had serious concerns about Roach's influence. It's a really tough call.

In the Lamont Peterson bout, which Khan lost on points in December 2011, the strategy as the rounds progressed just wasn't there. Alex Ariza, Khan's strength and conditioning coach at the time, seemed to be doing most of the talking between rounds - and that was comical. He is a man who mixes protein shakes; you cannot expect him to come up with plan B or C during a tough fight - and, sure enough, he didn't. Frankly the corner was rubbish, and that was expensive.

As for the Garcia fight, in which Khan was stopped in the fourth, you have to wonder at the tactics. It's not a cut-and-dried issue - you can't just blame Khan or Roach - but both made big mistakes. And so Khan is faced with a major decision, potentially leaving himself open to ridicule if he leaves Roach and then loses his next fight. Let's not forget Roach was Khan's saviour after he was blown away by Breidis Prescott inside a round.

There's a chance Roach might make Khan's mind up for him. He might decide it's not worth the aggravation: Khan's not a great listener at the moment anyway, and the people around him are constantly in his ear. The American might have had enough.

Khan has complained about having to share training camps with Manny Pacquiao, who Roach also trains, but the fact is that between rounds in the Peterson clash, Roach was not in Manila, he was in the corner - and there was only muddle and confusion.

Khan badly needs a disciplinarian, someone to stamp on him and strike down his tendency to let his heart rule his head. He needs to get someone he respects, and who asserts their authority. Freddie could do that five years ago - but, as great as a coach as he is, he can't do it now: their relationship has, on Khan's side, shifted from one of awe and wonder to one of irritation at Freddie's agenda. It looks and sounds a bit strained.

Khan suffered a devastating knockout defeat against Danny Garcia in his most recent bout © PA Photos

Nazeem Richardson is the name being thrown around as a replacement for Roach, and that sounds like a good shout to me. There could be an arrangement in place where Khan trains in Manchester with Joe Gallagher and then goes out and works with Richardson for the last few days before a fight.

That's what Angelo Dundee did with Muhammad Ali: he wasn't with him for two months, waking up early, going out for runs. Dundee followed that stage of the preparation by telephone, then came in for the last week or so. Dundee's work was in the 60-second break between fights, and that is really what Khan needs now.

Essentially, you're not going to teach Khan anything now - you've got to make sure you remind him what he's forgotten. The trainer doesn't need to be there for eight weeks anymore. If Richardson, Manny Steward, or whoever needs to be with Khan for eight weeks to teach him things, then Khan may as well walk away from the business now.

Khan has seemingly grown frustrated at not being Roach's No. 1 priority, but he doesn't need to be. All top fighters, when they're out there working with various mercenary trainers, have to accept that the coaches have different priorities. If boxers are going from trainer to trainer, then they have to expect the trainers will flip from fighter to fighter.

The only way that it would be any different is if Khan knocked out Garcia in a rematch, beat Pacquiao and then fought Mayweather. Then he'd be earning massive money, and that would get the full attention of anyone! But if Khan's involved in a fight where he's making $500k, he won't get as much special treatment, and he has to accept that.

And on that note, if he does leave Roach, then the Pacquiao fight will move closer, no matter the damage done to Khan's reputation against Garcia. At the end of the day, Khan is still a name. He's in exciting fights for all the wrong and right reasons.

Whether that will be the case if he leaves Roach remains to be seen.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
Steve Bunce Close
Steve Bunce has been ringside in Las Vegas over 50 times, he has been at five Olympics and has been writing about boxing for over 25 years for a variety of national newspapers in Britain, including four which folded! It is possible that his face and voice have appeared on over 60 channels worldwide in a variety of languages - his first novel The Fixer was published in 2010 to no acclaim; amazingly it has been shortlisted for Sports Book of the Year.