Champion Amir Khan defeats Marcos Maidana in Las Vegas
Amir Khan inflicted only the second defeat of Marcos Maidana's career
By Nabil Hassan
Amir Khan defended his WBA light-welterweight title with a unanimous points victory over Marcos Maidana in a thrilling fight in Las Vegas.
The Bolton fighter had his opponent down in the first with a brutal body shot after being rocked himself with two huge hooks from the Argentine.
Khan looked to have the fight under control but was wobbled in the 10th and was lucky to survive the round.
But he rallied to win a 114-111, 114-111, 113-112 verdict.
In his five fights prior to facing Maidana, Khan had won the world title, beaten ring legend Marco Antonio Barrera and outclassed Paul Malignaggi, but had not fully shed the memory of losing inside a minute to Breidis Prescott in September 2008.
And he had to be at his very best to edge an action-packed fight that will surely go down as one of the bouts of the year.
I have to say Maidana's a warrior, he never took a step back and it shows that I've got a lion's heart
Khan had previously spoken of his desire to meet pound-for-pound superstar Floyd Mayweather in 2011, while a light-welterweight unification bout with the winner of Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander's bout in January could also be on the cards.
However, the astonishing 12 rounds he shared with Maidana in the Nevada desert mean those plans may have to be put on hold as there is sure to be a clamour for a rematch.
The fight started with Khan taking two huge right hands from the free-swinging, big-hitting Maidana which rocked the champion as memories of his 60-second defeat by Prescott resurfaced.
As on that chastening night at the MEN Arena, the champion's legs stiffened but he proved that under trainer Freddie Roach he is now a very different fighter, showing great resolve and heart as he fought rather than froze, peppering Maidana with a series of shots.
A brilliant body shot at the end of the round landed flush on the ribs of Maidana and floored the Argentine, who looked in agony as he went crashing to the canvas.
Maidana survived the eight count, but he was still under pressure in the second as Khan came out in electric fashion, connecting with a left hook flush to the chin and stinging body shot.
Khan looked to have control but, in what was to become a feature of the fight, the momentum turned in an instant, Maidana landing a right hook and then pressing late in the third with Khan looking to clinch and give his head time to clear.
The superior speed of Khan became an increasing factor in the middle rounds, the 2004 Athens Olympic silver medallist producing some fine combinations to both the body and head, though Maidana's power remained a constant threat - a stiff uppercut late in the fourth round a prime example.
Docked a point for use of an elbow in the fifth, Maidana ploughed forward and fought inside to gain an advantage before Khan opened a cut above the South American's right eye to regain some of the initiative.
But going into the eighth, Maidana appeared to have wrested the initiative having connected with jabs and a stinging uppercut against an increasingly ragged champion, although the Bolton boxer's superior stamina was beginning to come to the fore.
As the pace slowed, Khan used his boxing ability to peg back his opponent before sending a stunning three-punch combination through the 27-year-old's guard and later connected with an uppercut that sent Maidana to the floor, though the referee rightly ruled it a slip.
Khan was in real trouble in the 10th round
Perhaps confident he was ahead, Khan boxed from range in the 10th, though the tactic almost misfired as he was caught with a thunderous overhand right to the chin. He had two minutes to hold on until the end of the round and had to withstand several sickening blows. Somehow he made it to the bell and stumbled to his stool, which he initially failed to locate.
Sensing victory, Maidana came out flying in the penultimate round with Khan moving backwards. The punches were only coming from the Argentine until, from out of nowhere, Khan found a massive uppercut that rocked Maidana, although there was still time for the South American to find another painful riposte.
Maidana was ending the round the stronger with Khan holding on for the final bell. The final 30 seconds saw both boxers go toe-to-toe, with Khan showing unbelievable spirit to end the fight on top as he abandoned survival mode in favour of the grandstand finish the remarkable bout deserved.
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