Column: Amir Khan should go down in history as boxing superstar, not an MMA flop

Picture by Allan McKenzie/YWNG - 29/01/15 - Press - Amir Khan Penny Appeal - Wakefield, England - Amir Khan at the Victoria Chambers where the Penny Appeal is based.
Picture by Allan McKenzie/YWNG - 29/01/15 - Press - Amir Khan Penny Appeal - Wakefield, England - Amir Khan at the Victoria Chambers where the Penny Appeal is based.
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Amir Khan should go down in history as a boxing superstar and not a cross-code flop.

The man from Bolton, who was knocked out in vicious fashion by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez on Saturday, has made noise about potential involvement in another sport – mixed martial arts (MMA).

For the uninitiated, MMA is another full contact fight sport, but one that requires a multifaceted skillset and takes place in a cage.

Khan has puchased a stake in an MMA promotion, and admits he has added some grappling training to his regime.

There aren’t many, if any, in the sport of MMA with the level of boxing skill Khan possesses.

But the sweet science will not keep you from defeat when your opponent is well versed in Brazilian Jiujitsu (BJJ), judo, kickboxing and wrestling.

Khan could walk into almost any BJJ club in the UK and find himself tapping the mat in submission to blue belts.

Doing a bit of grappling to assist with his clinchwork would be of little help if any judoka worth their salt got hold of him.

The same can be said of wrestlers.

A kickboxer would simply chop away at his legs, taking away his base and footwork.

In MMA you can ‘stand and bang’ with your opponent, looking for a knockout with punches, kicks, elbows and knees, or you can take the fight to the ground and use submission holds, or strikes.

It’s no disrespect to Khan as a boxer or an elite athlete to suggest that any fight that went to the mat would end very quickly and painfully for the 29-year-old.

His comments, as a self professed MMA fan, that he would fare well against ‘the champion around 147lbs’ are ill informed and naive.

Khan is a boxer, a great boxer at that, but unless he dedicates himself entirely to learning the art of other martial arts, he would be a fish out of water in the cage.

We’ve been here before.

James Toney, a former three-weight world champion boxer, stepped into the cage for a fight in the biggest MMA promotion of them all – the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

A man who had achieved a great deal in the ring, became no more than a comical cautionary tale inside the cage.

He fought a 47-year-old called Randy Couture, himself a two-weight UFC champion with serious credentials as a wrestler.

Toney’s only chance of victory was catching Couture, and wearing those 4oz gloves he would no doubt have put the MMA legend to sleep.

Just 15 seconds into the fight Toney’s chances evaporated, Couture taking him down with ease and gliding into a dominant position.

After 3:19 of round one, Toney gave up, ensnared in a chokehold.

For a man with over 70 pro boxing wins, 11 of which were against world champions, it was humbling.

Hopefully if Khan is intent on enduring a similar experience, his comes in the confines of a gym, well away from the cameras and the millions who would tune in on pay-per-view television.

Could Amir Khan compete, successfully in mixed martial arts? Probably, but with this caveat – he would need to devote all his time to learning how to stop a takedown, how to defend a choke, how to get back up off the mat without exposing a limb to danger, how to protect his legs from being battered by an opponent’s shin.

Time is, of course, still on his side at a relatively tender 29 years of age.

He might well light up any foe stupid enough to stand in front of him.

But Khan wouldn’t present the same danger Toney did in the smaller gloves – his last knockout win came in 2011, he’s not known as a big puncher.

And there are some very big punchers in MMA, who can knock you out standing, or hit you so hard, so many times on the mat that the referee has to save you.

Khan is a sportsman, they live and die on confidence, so his quotes on MMA, as disrespectful as they might be to those who have spent years honing skills in multiple arts, can be forgiven.

But perhaps he would do well to consider this quote, from BJJ legend Renzo Gracie: “A boxer is like a lion, the greatest predator on land. But you throw him in the shark tank and he’s just another meal.”