MONTHS of training preceded the bout, but it took Amir Khan just a split-second to throw a left jab-right hook combination andput the hapless Dmitriy Salita on his backside. This was boxing at its dramatic, jaw-dropping best.
There will be those who quibble about value for money. When tickets are going for as much as £400, most would expect the main event of the evening to last rather longer than just 76 seconds, but that is the nature of the beast and Khan is turning into a monster.
The speed and precision of his punches are frightening and Salita was not the only one who did not know what had hit him inside ten seconds on Saturday night. For most watching ringside it looked as though he had been felled for the first time by a solitary punch. Only with the benefit of television replays could you tell he had been caught by two. Khan’s hands move so fast, they play tricks on the eye and this was a career-defining performance which has pushed the young Brit into the spotr’s international elite.
It is just 14 months ago that Khan was the one humiliated. Crushed in similar fashion because of his naivety by a big-hitting Colombian Breidis Prescott – beaten on Saturday by another exciting British prospect, Kevin Mitchell – paying public and critics alike had begun to question whether the Olympic silver medallist was really as good as the hype had led us to believe.
But, paired with new coach Freddie Roach, many are now talking about Khan – including his promoter Frank Warren and Roach – becoming one of the best this country has ever sent into a ring. Hype is to boxing what water is to a fish, but there is something special about Khan, not just as a fighter but also as a person.
In an era of religious suspicion and continuing racial tension, the 22-year-old from Bolton is the perfect antidote. A British Muslim in every sense of the word and it was sad to hear him talk about the abuse he has received in this country since that Prescott defeat.
He is a sporting icon and has the talent to back it up. Mega-fights will follow this one. Ricky Hatton, perhaps, but more likely one out of Marcos Rene Maidana, Victor Ortiz or Devon Alexander. Other options are the WBO champion Tim Bradley and the IBF title-holder Juan Urango, but the ball is firmly in Khan’s court and he will be looking to smash it back with venom. He can pick and choose and make an even bigger name for himself before, like Hatton before him, looking for the historic super-bouts.
Salita may have been destroyed, but he was no careful selection to make Khan look good. He was the WBA’s light-welterweight mandatory challenger and unbeaten in 31 fights. He will feel as though he needs to start from scratch again this morning because of Khan. It was impossible not to feel sorry for Salita. He had come across as a likeable and deeply respectful man in the pre-fight build-up despite some cruel comments from Roach.
But when he looked over at his wife and support team with tears in groggy eyes his heart was exposed. Khan had not just broken it with a gradual battering, he had shattered it. “I didn’t know what hit me,”conceded a shell-shocked Salita. “I knew he was quick but I didn’t see the punches coming, I didn’t know how many times I had been knocked down.”
Faster and stronger, Khan had exposed his limitations in the cruellest of fashion. But that is boxing, it is animalistic, aggressive and cruel and it is why there were 10,000 people roaring their appreciation inside Newcastle’s MetroRadio Arena.
Every single fighter on Saturday night praised the atmosphere inside the venue and paid tribute to the passion and support of the North East public. It has been a while since this sort of quality boxing was seen on Tyneside, but it surely will not be long before it is back.
Whether Khan fights here again is open to question. He was thrilled by the support he received, but America awaits him and it will be fascinating to see who he squares up to next.
But for now he deserves to enjoy his success and he will, just as Mitchell, Billy Joe Saunders, Frankie Gavin and James DeGale will enjoy theirs as the three Olympians all won their fifth professional fights on Saturday’s under card.
“There are a lot of fights out there for me,” Khan said. “There have been guys talking trash and there have been some calling me out in the media. They will have had to take notice of this fight.”