It was bound to happen sooner or later but, on the surface, it appears some of the luster may have begun to fade from Freddie Roach and his now-legendary Wild Card Gym.
After guiding the blockbuster career of Manny Pacquiao, who may still be looking for the license plate of the car that committed highway robbery in the Tim Bradley fight, and now watching Amir Khan be upset by Danny Garcia Saturday night in Las Vegas, Roach and his stable may have plateaued after ruling the sport for nearly a decade.
Allow me to clarify something up front. Amir Khan was not robbed by Danny Garcia. He was beaten fair and square. Some may argue that Kenny Bayless's stoppage in the fourth round may have been premature, but it wasn't like he waved it off after a flash knockdown. Khan had been put down three times by that point and had been wobbly since going down in the third round.
This was a case of a hungry fellow champion taking advantage of his shot for another belt and capitalizing on a chance that wasn't even supposed to happen. I have no doubt Garcia went back to his hotel last night feeling absolutely nothing but confident of his victory.
It also wasn't a case where Khan was outmatched, either. He set the pace early on, popping his superior jab and using good lateral movement in setting up his right—and Khan caught Garcia several times in the early going. If they made an impact though, Garcia didn't let it show as he kept his composure and waited for an opening.
It came during a quick exchange in the third, when Khan threw a right uppercut from an angle that left his entire side open. Garcia caught him with a left hook that, had it landed on the point of the chin, may have ended the night entirely. As it was, having it catch Khan on the jawline right below the ear put him down and changed the fight entirely.
Garcia continued to apply pressure and Khan never really seemed to recover over the next two rounds, giving Bayless a reason to end it. And Bayless, still one of the more respected referees in the sport, did his job in keeping Khan from maybe getting more hurt.
With another title belt being taken away from him, the question now is where does Amir Khan go next?
He's now lost two of his last three fights, even though Lamont Peterson had to give the WBA junior welterweight title back after failing a PED test. At 25, Khan still has a good five or six solid years of his career left, and his style makes him an in-demand fighter for the paying crowds.
Khan may not be the flashiest fighter out there, but his fights are seldom boring either. Like Pacquiao, Khan seems to be interested in action once the bell rings.
Unlike Pacquiao, though, Khan's style is such that, when he presses the action, it leaves him vulnerable for a solid counter-puncher like Garcia.
Would it be better to move him up to welterweight? Maybe, maybe not. If Pacquiao were to beat Timothy Bradley in the November rematch, you can cross that potential fight off the list. If Bradley were to win, then maybe Khan could make a case.
That leaves Floyd Mayweather, Randall Bailey and Paulie Malinaggi as the welterweight title holders of his choosing. Khan won the WBA junior welterweight belt by beating Malinaggi so, if Paulie wants to keep his belt, a rematch isn't recommended.
No one has a clue when we'll see Mayweather back in the ring but, given his contentious position with Freddie Roach over a potential Pacquiao fight, it wouldn't be good PR for him to keep ducking his closest rival and go for a lesser-skilled stablemate.
So no "Money" and no Paulie means IBF champ Randall Bailey. That's 37-year-old Randall Bailey.
On the surface, this looks like the best chance for Khan, until you remember that it was just last month that Bailey knocked out undefeated up-and-comer Mike Jones to take the title.
Bailey may be older, but he's still got a punch. Against a questionable chin like Khan's, it doesn't seem as easy as it looks.
If he stays at junior welterweight, Khan could try and get back at Garcia in what could be another high-impact fight, or he could go after Peterson once his suspension ends for the IBF belt.
Or, if he wanted to take a chance, Khan could go after the WBO title. But, that would mean trying to down the seemingly immortal Juan Manuel Marquez.
There is still time for Amir Khan to come back and be a champion at ether 140 or 147 pounds, but it's not going to be an easy road for the once—and potential—future "King."
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