"This is the first time he's committed to coming to camp in between fights and working on his game, and the improvement is dramatic, so we're looking forward to this fight and we're looking forward to winning that fight. And I think that fight is gonna be much more dangerous for Floyd than maybe they realize. Floyd's gonna have to fight a different fight than what he's been fighting. Is he capable of doing it? Yes. We're talking about Floyd Mayweather here and he has all of my respect, but that don't mean I don't want to beat him. I want to beat him. He has all of my respect and you can't take anything away from him, but I do want to beat him, and it would be great to see. I believe that I have the horse that can do it. I believe that I have the kid that can do it," stated world-class trainer Virgil Hunter, who addressed the naysayers who criticize a potential clash between undefeated pound-for-pound king Floyd "Money" Mayweather and his fighter, former jr. welterweight champion Amir Khan. Check out what else he had to say as Hunter makes a strong case for Mayweather vs. Khan.
BT: What's up, Virg? I know no official decision has been made yet, but Floyd Mayweather recently said that Marcos Maidana is now in the mix to possibly fight him in May. There's a few critics out there who believe that his performance against Adrien Broner makes him a better option than Amir's performance against Julio Diaz. What are your thoughts on that?
VH: We can't be concerned with how good it looks to the critics. We have to see if we're developing or not. I think in the Diaz fight, that was the first time he got knocked down and didn't go rush back in and do something careless. It's the first time he got knocked down in a fight and he came away winning, which he won a unanimous decision. Diaz only had two moments in that fight, you know. They don't seem to remember the shellacking he took the majority of the fight.
BT: Do you find it kind of ironic that his critics like to point to his last outing against Diaz, yet Diaz fought to a draw with Shawn Porter prior to losing the rematch with him, and Porter went on to defeat Devon Alexander and become the IBF welterweight champion?
VH: Exactly! I think they're making a real mistake on this kid if that fight comes about. We're not going into that fight just to look good and get his rep back; we're going in that fight to win. You have to have a horse that can run the race. I don't care who you have; you have to have the right athlete, and in this case, it is the right athlete, but the thing about Amir is he still has an upside. He still has room for development. If you get a veteran like Miguel Cotto or somebody, he's set; he's at the height of his boxing prowess, so you get him in condition, you get him a strategy, and he can pretty much take it from there. But Amir still has a learning curve; he still has an upside for development, physically and mentally, so when you have a young fighter like that, on any given night, he can take it to another level that you never saw before. People are kind of writing him off at the levels that they have seen him and not the levels that he is going to, and I think that's where they're making a mistake.
BT: Do you think that Maidana's performance against Broner kind of validates Amir's potential and abilities inside the ring given that he was able to drop Maidana en route to winning a decision?
VH: Absolutely! Again, Amir, I understand he has a lot of negative critics and, you know, he's a confident, young man, which comes off sometimes as being arrogant, which comes off as being uppity, but I've personally found that not to be true. He's the only kid that I know that has come off a knockout and didn't lose one iota of confidence. He just has this demeanor about himself that it's not going to get him down, and that's why I say he has a tremendous upside.
BT: One thing that the critics say a lot is that Amir Khan doesn't "deserve" a shot to face Floyd Mayweather. Looking at his resume, he stopped Paulie Malignaggi, he stopped Zab Judah, some people think he deserved the nod against Lamont Peterson, he was extremely competitive against Danny Garcia, he beat Marcos Maidana, and he beat Julio Diaz, who fought to a draw with the new IBF champ Shawn Porter. That being said, do you think he's done enough to warrant a shot at Floyd?
VH: Well, no doubt he does. I mean, you just can't take that away from him. People forget he had Maidana on the floor, and it's debateable whether that fight could've been stopped in that round. So just as much as they say, "Well, the ref saved him," which how can the ref save you? If you hurt, you hurt. The ref can't save you. He just kept his head about him and he was able to survive the fight because he has the athleticism to survive the fight. He took a hellacious punch from Danny [Garcia], but he got up. He just made some bad decisions after he got up, and those are the things that we're addressing in camp; some of his decision making because of his carelessness and his desire and courage to fight. He has a tremendous amount of courage and he will fight, so if you hurt or knock him down, he becomes even more aggressive. What he's understanding is you have to pick your spots where you become aggressive. You have to make sure that you're aggressive at the right time and just not any time because you feel like you're hurt and the crowd is going on. I agree with you. I put his resume up against anybody's, even Canelo's, for the simple reason of who he's beat. And let's not forget, he was handing Danny a sound defeat. And that's not taking anything away from Danny. I think he and Angel deserve everything they get; he's a tremendous champ, but we still can't take away the fact that until he made a couple careless decisions with a big puncher like Danny, he was beating him soundly, and didn't mind fighting him again. I think when they write him off, I think they're really underestimating a fight that's going to catch the world by surprise.
BT: I think the one thing that does make Amir Khan an intriguing opponent is the fact that he brings a different style to the table that Floyd hasn't seen in awhile. A lot of the guys that he's faced recently have had similar styles and similar game plans.
VH: I'm in 100% agreement with you, and the cold part about it is I've seen him do some things that can leave you just kind of spellbound that he hasn't even shown in a fight yet. That's why I go back and say he has an upside, he has a development side that hasn't even come to fruition yet. Like Andre [Ward]. I always say Andre's right around 80% of what he's going to be and he still has that upside. Well Amir still has that upside also where there's so much room to get better and better and better. And he was just a few understandings away from taking his game to the next level. He's ready for it. As he and I discussed, he's gone through his two fights where we worked on some things. We promised each other that we wouldn't listen to what the critics say, that we would stick to the plan in these fights, and this is why we picked these particular opponents. And let's face it, Diaz wasn't no slouch. Diaz is proven, with the exception of the Kendall Holt fight and some earlier problems he had making the weight and his lack of dedication as a lightweight. When he made his mind up, just like most veteran fighters that come from a pedigree like his, when he makes his mind up that he's going to be serious about it, he's going to formidable for anybody. And it's amazing to me how they can say, "Oh, he's a lightweight. He came up to welterweight from lightweight." Well nobody had a problem with Manny [Pacquiao] coming from, what, 112? He brought his punch with him, so why can't Diaz bring his one weight class up. One weight class up, he's blown up, but everybody else can bring there's several weight classes up. But when it came to Diaz, he didn't get that luxury. They minimized Diaz just as much as they criticized Khan.
BT: Another criticism that the naysayers like to bring up is the fact that Khan hasn't really had a true fight at welterweight yet. Does that really matter at all considering that Floyd isn't a big 147-pounder to begin with?
VH: We're looking at a division, 147, 154, and 140, they do more flip-flopping than any other divisions; those three divisions right there. I mean, you know, up until Canelo fought Austin Trout, he never fought a jr. middleweight. He always fought welterweights and jr. welterweights, so what's the big deal? Amir's a big kid. He began struggling with the weight. He's got middleweight height and middleweight length, so it's quite natural that he's going to grow into his body, but why can't he? So he's never had a fight at welterweight; well, Matthew Hatton never had a fight at jr. middleweight either, but he came up and fought Canelo for the title, so they can squash that right there. He moved up to 54, got a number one ranking and was able to fight for the title, and he had never even been in the top 10 at 147. He never was even in the top 10 and hadn't beat anybody of significance, but he was able to get a title shot, so they can just squash that. It don't carry no weight.
BT: The main thing that critics constantly say about Khan is that he has a "glass jaw". I know you've addressed this several times in the past, but one more time, explain why that's not an issue as far as you're concerned.
VH: Well, I've said it time and time again, every big punch that this kid has taken, he's gotten up. He's never finished a fight on his back if you stop to think about it. He got up from two hellacious hooks from Prescott; he was hurt, but he showed you his resolve. He showed you his determination. He was hurt, but he kept trying to get up to finish the fight on his feet. Against Danny, he was on his feet when they stopped the fight. He got up. But I will watch his recuperative powers against anybody. Amir and I have talked about this time and time again. He understands that he's made some decisions after he's gotten knocked down, not giving himself time to clear, regroup, and get back to understanding that, hey, I've already lost this round, let me regroup, let me go into my prevent defense so this guy can't get another punch through, I'm in great shape and I should be able to clear my head in a matter of seconds. So that was my job to teach him, in case he keeps going down, to survive. We had a situation in England when Diaz knocked him down, although he wasn't hurt from that knockdown. Their feet got tangled up really is what happened. Julio, being the veteran that he is, he punched while Amir was trying to free his feet, so he did catch him and he caught him flush, but he was up and he survived the round and wasn't in anymore danger. He got into a little trouble again I believe in the 10th. He ran into an uppercut; never saw the punch. And that's another thing, Amir gets hit with punches he never sees because of his tendency to rush in with his head up, so we know what we need to work on to correct that. So I'm saying, wow, he's getting hit by these hellacious punches, and he's getting up, so I'm confident that once he understands his distance, his range, and his points of attack, that even if he does gets caught with a punch, which is evident in boxing, he'll be able to deal with that punch because he'll be able to see it, and those are the things that we're working on and he's committed to that. This is the first time he's committed to coming to camp in between fights and working on his game, and the improvement is dramatic, so we're looking forward to this fight and we're looking forward to winning that fight. And I think that fight is gonna be much more dangerous for Floyd than maybe they realize. Floyd's gonna have to fight a different fight than what he's been fighting. Is he capable of doing it? Yes. We're talking about Floyd Mayweather here and he has all of my respect, but that don't mean I don't want to beat him. I want to beat him. He has all of my respect and you can't take anything away from him, but I do want to beat him, and it would be great to see. I believe that I have the horse that can do it. I believe that I have the kid that can do it.
[ Follow Ben Thompson on Twitter @fighthype ]