• Steve Bunce

Chasing the Money

Steve Bunce December 9, 2014
Amir Khan faces the dangerous Devon Alexander knowing a shot at one of boxing's greats is on the line © Getty Images
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Amir Khan has to beat Devon Alexander on Saturday in Las Vegas at the MGM and he has to look good doing it.

The problem for Khan on Saturday night, and the reason that he has to look so good, is that he is just one part of three fights, at two rival casinos that feature men in the great money race for a fight against either Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather. There is also the Alexander problem and the southpaw, former world champion at two weights has been for a long, long time one of the world's most avoided and neglected fighters.

Buncey's Vault

  • There seemed to be more riots at the fights back in the Nineties. In Reading, Geoff McCreesh retained his British welterweight title in the seventh round against Cardiff's Michael Smyth, but "before the [final] round could start there was a six-minute break as fans from rival camps left their seats and fought."

    It was very serious: "The ringside announcer pleaded for calm but chairs were thrown from side to side and the emergency services were busy patching head wounds and leading away injured hooligans."

    The violence was not over and in the seventh round with "Smyth on his knees listening to the count of 10, it was inevitable that more rioting would come". It did and it came with a vengeance: "The calm was shattered by more chairs, many of which struck the television lights above the ring sending dangerous shards of glass showering on the fans." It was very lively and the second outburst "lasted seven minutes and on this occasion the security guards had less chance". There were three arrests and a lot of people were bleeding; eating in the curry house next door to the venue after the fight/riot was just like sitting down with the extras from The Walking Dead.

    As reported in The Daily Telegraph, July 7, 1998.

"It has never been easy for me," said Alexander, who is a veteran but still younger than Khan. "I'm blessed because I'm just getting better and better. There has been talk of a fight with Khan before, it never happened and that is why this fight is so important." Khan, it needs to be remembered, withdrew from a fight with Alexander in December last year because he falsely believed that he had secured a fight with Mayweather.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town at the Cosmopolitan, Tim Bradley, who has a win and a loss against Pacquiao, is fighting Diego Chaves - a good win for Bradley and he would take up a prominent place on Mayweather's shopping list for 2015. Mayweather refers to the list as the 'sweepstakes', which is a bit vulgar but very true. Bradley, by the way, has far more chance of looking good.

Fighting alongside Khan and Alexander at the esteemed MGM is unbeaten and overlooked Keith Thurman, who will be defending his WBA welterweight title against the extraordinary Italian Leonard Bundu, who is unbeaten in 33 fights and 40! If Thurman wins then he would be an ideal next opponent for either Manny or Little Floyd; Manny has been braver in accepting hard fights, but Floyd needs a good opponent to satisfy his increasingly demanding paymasters at ShowTime - I guess that can happen when the pay-per-figures are under performing and hundreds of millions of dollars are changing hands.

Oscar De La Hoya - a loser on a controversial decision to Mayweather but stopped by Pacquiao - is convinced Khan is in a favourable position, a nice place to be when something like $10 million is the real prize for a fight against either of the modern sport's top cash cows. The casino operators would also like Khan in a big, big fight because of the travelling British fans and their willingness to empty out their wallets and bank accounts once they land in Las Vegas.

"Amir Khan is a real threat to the welterweight division," said De La Hoya. "I would put him in with Mayweather and Pacquiao and don't be surprised if he wins - he is that type of character."

The shameless pursuit of a life-changing fight with either Pacquiao or Mayweather is becoming an even more ruthless race because both of the veterans are coming to the end of their fantastic careers. I would be amazed if they each fight three more times and right now there are as many as 12 boxers desperate to get a call for the fighting last dance, the multi-million dollar waltz that is a win-win for any of the losers.

I forgot, next year is meant to be the year that Mayweather and Pacquiao finally fight each other - it has been 'next year' since 2007 and strangely Mayweather v Pacquiao now is no longer, in my mind, the fight that I want to see most involving the two fighters. Thurman v Floyd and Khan v Manny would both make me happy. First, Khan has to beat Alexander and he is never an easy man to beat.

© 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.