Returning Khan concentrating on CollazoMay 2, 2014
Former unified junior welterweight titleholder Amir Khan and former welterweight titlist Luis Collazo both have the same goal: They both want in on the Floyd Mayweather Jr sweepstakes and each is in prime position to make the case that he should be Mayweather's fall opponent.
Of course, Mayweather, the pound-for-pound king, must defeat Marcos Maidana in their welterweight unification fight on Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena before he can think about his fall opponent.
Khan (28-3, 19 KOs) and Collazo (35-5, 18 KOs) will square off in the card's scheduled 12-round welterweight co-feature, and although there is no world title on the line, the fight is in essence an eliminator to claim the Mayweather lottery ticket. Both are happy to be part of the big show.
"I never thought I'd be an undercard. It was a bit of a surprise when they said I'd be on the undercard. I thought it would be a good idea, because for the millions of the people that would be tuned in to watch the fight - as we all know, Floyd does get a huge crowd of people, plus he gets a lot of viewing figures - I think it would be good to showcase my skills," Khan said. "But yeah, it was a bit of a surprise. But we're here now, so I'm going to grab it with both hands."
Collazo said: "I believe this is the most exposure that I have seen in my career. When Floyd fights, everybody watches. Now to be able to fight in the fight right before he steps into the ring is tremendous."
Before Mayweather decided to fight Maidana, who was coming off a rousing title win against then-unbeaten Adrien Broner in a December upset, Khan was the leading candidate to fight Mayweather on Saturday.
In fact, Khan was so confident that he was going to land the fight with Mayweather that he pulled out of the late stages of negotiations to challenge then-welterweight titlist Devon Alexander in December, electing to sit until May.
And then Mayweather changed direction. He picked Maidana and left England's Khan out in the cold. Khan, who has not boxed since getting knocked down in a shaky decision win against faded former two-time lightweight titlist Julio Diaz 13 months ago, was extremely disappointed and maybe even a little embarrassed.
"It is upsetting. Yeah, I was upset, but look, I've got someone else in front of me now, Luis Collazo, who is going to be giving 100% in there," said Khan, who is making the jump up to 147 pounds. "So, all of my focus is on that fight now. Whatever happened in the past I just let it go, and, you know, I'm just focusing on this next fight now.
"This is a big fight for me. If I lose this fight then forget a Floyd Mayweather fight. I have to focus on this fight against Luis Collazo. He brings a lot to the table. He's given all the guys a tough fight, the likes of Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Andre Berto. He's given them a lot of trouble. He's a game fighter, likes to come forward, he's southpaw, he's awkward. We've trained really hard for this fight. We gonna be ready come Saturday night."
Although Khan, 27, missed out on facing Mayweather on Saturday, he is aware what a win against Collazo, 33, would do to boost his chances to get the next fight.
"I'm not really going to get into all that, the hype about it happening in the future," Khan said. "I mean, if it happens, it happens. I'm just going to be focused on one thing, and what I need to do is keep winning. I know we'll be in Floyd's eye. Even though it didn't happen [Saturday], it's not going to affect me in any way. I'm just going to be focused for my next fight, really. I know I'm up against a tough guy.
"I really believe that this fight can steal the show on the night, because you've got two young, hungry fighters, you know, who, who want to prove it, prove themselves."
Khan has become a bit philosophical about losing out on facing Mayweather even though he owns a 2010 decision win against Maidana in an action-packed junior welterweight title bout that some regarded as the fight of the year.
"Things happen for a reason. It wasn't meant to be," Khan said. "I think that gives me a chance to get into the 147 division and get my feet wet, get to feel what it's like fighting at this new weight category, where I'm not killing myself to make weight.
"I would have loved to fight Floyd Mayweather [on Saturday] but maybe it happened for the best. Gives me more time to spend with [trainer] Virgil Hunter, working on the defensive side, the footwork. I've been changing a lot of things in my style and see a big difference."
Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer, who promotes Khan and Collazo, said he understood it was a tough blow to Khan to have Mayweather pick someone else, but he is impressed by Khan's willingness to take on Collazo instead.
"I mean, the guy's got balls, you know? Taking on somebody like Luis Collazo, moving up in weight, not just taking some sort of a tune-up, but he wants to go in the welterweight division with a bang," Schaefer said. "And he and his team, they picked somebody who is clearly bigger, is more experienced, and Amir Khan is going to want to make a statement."
Although Khan owns the win against Maidana, he said he understands why Maidana got Saturday's fight instead of him.
"People always remember you from your last fight. My last performance wasn't the best. People remember me for that fight," Khan said. "I'm a totally different fighter from then. Even though I beat Maidana I think he still deserves credit because he had a great fight in his last fight against Broner. So I give him respect. I wish him all the best in the fight."
Collazo was never under consideration to face Mayweather on Saturday night, but he put himself in position to land the fight with Khan, and perhaps Mayweather later on with a win, with an electrifying performance January 30.
That is when Collazo, fighting at the Barclays Center in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, upset former welterweight titleholder (and onetime Mayweather knockout victim) Victor Ortiz, who was coming off a long layoff because of a broken jaw but was still the favorite. Collazo wiped him out with an impressive second-round knockout and then declared that he wanted to face Mayweather.
But, like Khan, he knows he has to take care of business first on Saturday night.
"Right now my main focus is Amir Khan. My radar is on him and in the future, tomorrow has its own worries," Collazo said. "But today I'm just dealing with today's worries, today's reality and with this fight here. This is all I'm focused on."
Collazo did, however, admit that a possible Mayweather fight was at least in the back of his mind.
"Oh, absolutely, but I'm not thinking about it," he said. "I don't go to sleep thinking about - 'Oh, I might get the Floyd fight.' Of course not. My main focus is Khan, and [Saturday] is going to be the night."
Both fighters are saying the right things about not looking ahead to a possible Mayweather fight. Fact is, they are unlikely to be in an easy fight Saturday.
"I believe this to be a 50-50 fight," Schaefer said. "I can give you 10 reasons why Collazo is going to win, and I can give you 10 reasons why Khan is going to win."
This article first appeared on ESPN.com