Amir Khan is on the comeback trail and trying to resurrect a stuttering career after two years out of the ring. On Saturday he faces Canadian welterweight Phil Lo Greco at Liverpool’s Echo Arena. Khan last fought in May 2016 when he went up two weight divisions to lock horns with Saul Alvarez in Las Vegas.
It was a brave step up in size and class, but proved a big bridge too far as he was badly knocked out in the sixth round by the bigger and taller ‘Canelo’. Last year Khan’s personal life went off the rails as boxing was put hold and a mega-fight with Manny Pacquiao never eventuated.
He split up with his wife, but they have now reconciled, and appeared on TV show I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here!. But now at 31 the Bolton-born brawler seems focused and determined once more. A defeat of Lo Greco would get his career back on track and led to bigger and more lucrative bouts, particularly against fellow Englishman Kell Brook, in the year to come.
Lo Greco hails from Toronto and has a professional record of 28 wins, 15 by knockout, and only three losses from 31 fights. He is comparable in height and reach to Khan, and is two years older. The welterweight is coming off a majority decision over Mexican Jesus Gurrola, in May last year, and has never won a world title.
All three of his defeats have come in his last six fights, all against elite opposition. He has lost unanimous decisions to Shawn Porter, in 2013, and Joseph Elegele, in 2016, while he was knocked out by Errol Spence Jr three years. Lo Greco, though possesses a fast mouth and enjoys mind games, is not as experienced as Khan and has not been anywhere as successful in either the amateur or pro ranks.
After a long hiatus, it’s now or never for Amir Khan. Once Britain’s golden boy, after claiming silver at the 2004 Athens Olympics, he has been overshadowed more recently by the likes of Anthony Joshua, Kell Brook, George Groves, James DeGale, Billy Joe Saunders and Lee Selby. Khan won his first 18 professional fights in a row before a shock loss to Breidis Prescott in 2008.
But he recovered from that upset to rebuild his career and win his first world title a year later. Khan went on to defend his belt several times, beating Pauli Malignaggi and Marcos Maidane in the United States, before adding the IBF light-weltweight scrap by knocking out Zab Judah in Nevada.
In 2011 he had the boxing world, including most boxing betting enthusiasts the world over, at his feet but then it all fell apart in what seemed like an instant. Khan chased the tantalising prospect of a super fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr and then was controversially defeated by split decision by Lamout Peterson.
Peterson was later stripped of the title after a positive drug test. In his next fight Khan suffered a damaging fourth round upset TKO against Danny Garcia. He won his next five fights, but the big opponents he wanted eluded him and he lost momentum. If he is ever to regain his elite status and top billing, then the time is now.
On home soil Khan is the heavy favourite against Lo Greco according to most of the top boxing bookmakers online. He needs not only a victory but a comprehensive one to show the world he is not a spent force. Defeat would all but end the Lancastrian’s career. With William Hill there is no value for a straight win, with Khan getting odds of 1/20, and 1/3 for victory by either knockout, TKO or disqualification.
But there is value in picking the round that Khan’s dominance will ultimately tell. There are odds of 12/1 for round five and odds of 10/1 for round six, which are worth a look. A Khan win on points is 5/2, which is decent considering Lo Greco has only been knocked out once in his 31-fight career.
The Canadian has decent staying power and is a decent chances to last the full 12 rounds. This should be a straight-forward fight for Khan, a tune-up for better opponents to come. Getting an early knockout would send a strong message, something he needs. Ladbrokes also have Khan wining on points at odds of 5/2, a very safe choice when compared to some of the other odds listed.
Again the value is in what round the decision comes. A round seven or eight victory is penciled in at 9/1, while round 11 is as high as 12/1. It remains a question of when Khan gets the result, not if, against a boxer described as a “well-paid punching bag” but some newspapers this week.