Just ahead of this weekend's fights, Olympic medalist and multi-world champion Amir Khan called it quits at 35. Khan last fought in February, losing to rival Kell Brook by a TKO in the sixth round. “I could feel that my love for the sport just wasn't there anymore, and I decided I was going to call it a day,” Khan said.
As a fighter, Khan had one of the more fascinating and entertaining careers of anyone in his era. Khan first made a splash at the tender age of 17, winning a silver medal for Great Britain in 2004 at the Athens Olympics. Khan's hand-speed and boxing skills were positively electric, and Khan was on a meteoritic rise, blasting through his first 18 opponents with relative ease.
And then Khan's Achilles chin was exposed by slugger Breidis Prescott, losing by a shocking first-round KO to the less-heralded prospect in Khan's own backyard of Manchester, England in 2008; Khan bounced back from that stunning defeat to capture the WBA junior-welterweight title just one year later with a unanimous decision over Andreas Kotelnik.
Khan was able to hide that glass jaw over his next six title defenses, five of which he won (over the likes of Paulie Malignaggi, Marcos Maidana, and Zab Judah), and the sixth of the string found Khan on his feet, losing a much-disputed split decision to Lamont Peterson in December of 2011 (Khan's belt was later returned to him after Peterson failed a post-fight drug test). The Briton was sturdy enough over those fights to perhaps lead one to believe that the Prescott fight was a fluke. Khan's record stood at 26-2 with 18 KOs, and he had stayed upright (enough) at the end of his last seven fights against quality competition.
But then Khan came up to the next level, the level that separates the very good from the truly great. And what we (and I suspect he) discovered is that Amir Khan could not sustain on that plane. A devastating fourth-round TKO defeat to Danny Garcia followed the loss to Peterson, and while Khan picked himself up (literally and figuratively) after getting blasted out by Garcia with a five-match winning streak (which included quality wins over Luis Collazo, Julio Diaz, and Devon Alexander), Khan took another shot against the best of the best – Canelo Alvarez.
Once again, Khan's jaw went slack, and the legendary Mexican battered Khan for six rounds before knocking Khan loose from his senses. After the 2016 Canelo crushing, Khan's pace slowed, fighting just twice more before getting into the ring with another pound-for-pound contender – Terence “Bud” Crawford in 2019. A bout that went so similarly to the Canelo contest that it even ended in the same round (the sixth) and in much the same fashion, with Khan taking a pounding before the fight came to a close.
A nice fourth-round TKO victory over Billy Dib followed that same year, but then Khan all but disappeared from boxing. His final bout against Brook took place after a 31-month layoff and also ended in the sixth due to stoppage.
So no, Khan does not take his place in the pantheon of the truly great. But you know what? Over the course of his career, you would be hard-pressed to find a more entertaining fight than one with Amir Khan in the ring. Wildly talented but with a fatal weakness, whenever Khan was in the squared circle, you knew just about anything could happen. And while Khan was often on the rough end of things (there are numerous YouTube videos of Khan getting knocked down or out—and they are all lengthy), far more often than not, it was his hand that was held aloft at the end of the fight.
Of all the things you might say about Khan, and he can be a fun guy for fight fans to knock, he was never boring, he never ducked anyone, and every time he went into the ring, he had to know more than anyone how much he was at risk.
You might call that courage, and being a brave fighter who made great fights is a fine legacy to leave behind.