Amir Khan’s emergence, the willowy man-child that he was in 2004, to capitalise on the exposure Olympic predecessor Audley Harrison brought to boxing, will one day be considered pivotal in the history of the British fight-game.
His slender frame, flashing fists and boyish face catapulted him in to the hearts and minds of fight fans across the country, and via the broader reach of terrestrial television, to their families too.
Now 14 years later, it speaks to all of the clichés about how swiftly time passes that this weekend’s fight, versus Canada’s Samuel Vargas, will likely prove to be his last before his 32nd birthday. This enduring appeal ensures that all the top boxing betting sites are offering markets on this bout.
Here are five key indicators to inform those keen to bet on this intriguing contest.
Both Khan and Vargas are relatively tall fighters for the Welterweight division and regard the division as ‘home’. Although Khan began his career as a Light Welterweight, which is a full 7lbs below for the uninitiated, and did take a lucrative, if ultimately futile, fight at Middleweight against Saul Alvarez in 2016 – he is a Welterweight and determined to remain so.
Vargas has fought his entire career at the 147 limit; contesting the Canadian title in his 10th bout back in 2011.
An area of unquestioned advantage to the former World Champion Amir Khan who fought his first 12 round bout, for the Commonwealth title, in 2007 and won his first world title belt in 2009. Victories over Barrera, Maidana, Malignaggi, Judah and Alexander evidence of his pedigree and ability to perform on the highest stage.
Vargas is accustomed to long fights over championship distances too but at a less glamorous level than his high profile opponent.
The doubt in the fight is not Khan’s obvious advantage in class, but whether he retains the stamina, the speed and most keenly, the desire, to return to the top of the division. Following another highlight reel knockout loss to Alvarez, to add to stoppage defeats to Prescott (2008) and Garcia (2012), Khan fell into inactivity for almost two years. He returned in April, destroying the over-matched Phil DeGreco in the opening round.
In short, Khan hasn’t fought a distance fight since May 2015.
Meanwhile, his more workmanlike opponent has remained busy, fighting 12 times, though it includes stoppage defeats to shared opponent Danny Garcia and the emerging Errol Spence Jnr. There is some credence to the argument that a longer fight suits the rugged Canadian, subject to the damage he may accumulate.
There could be value in covering a late stoppage for Vargas on this basis, for those inclined to follow this form; SportNation offer a generous 12/1 on victory by any method and round betting offering at least 100/1 returns.
Amir Khan’s style matches up well with the more methodical Vargas and in the assumption of good stamina and tactical preparation under the tutelage of Joe Goossen – who trained, among others, Michael Nunn and Joel Casamayor – he could be presumed to be too quick and too skilful to fail.
In Vargas’ most recent bout, versus the Argentinian Maura Godoy, he was repeatedly caught by straight right hands and counter right hooks. Despite being busy, both in his stalking, forward marching style and in the frequency with which he fights, Vargas has developed a lazy left hand.
He leaves it low as he moves and is slow to bring it back when finding distance with his jab, Godoy had success and almost closed Vargas’ left eye in their 10 round draw. Khan will exploit similar opportunities; he has quicker hands, is smarter on his feet too and will capitalise without permitting Vargas the chance to counter.
While Vargas is dogged, he hung in there with Errol Spence much longer than his hopes of victory did, and Khan is still potentially rusty, there is enough to suggest the British fighter could win inside the distance via either the referee’s intervention or retirement due to the damage Vargas sustains.
Khan is unquestionably the attraction and is being manoeuvred by lofty partners for lucrative bouts with the many attractions in the Welterweight division – veteran Manny Pacquiaou a whispered target.
Vargas is very much the opponent, fighting away from home and whilst he has won on foreign shores, a low level victory against a 5-4 journeyman, his defeats tend to occur when on the right hand side of the bill.
Notably, his three defeats were in Philadelphia, Brooklyn and Mexico City. The most generous outright winner odds can be found at 888, who offer a still ‘skinny’ 1/20 on Khan. Despite his flaws, Khan doesn’t lose to straightforward opponents.