Urban Cookie Collective
Feels Like Heaven
Kevin Mitchell in Las Vegas, Friday 13th July 2012 11:02
Racism, the ugliest currency in sport, has given an unexpected edge to an already compelling world title fight here on Saturday night between Amir Khan and the unbeaten Philadelphian Danny García.
Not content with regulation ballyhoo, Angel García, Danny's father and trainer, took his role of cheerleader to absurd lengths at the final press conference for their light-welterweight unification bout at the Mandalay Bay by saying that Khan's DNA, "is fucked up". On top of his earlier remark that he'd never seen "a Pakistani who can fight", this seriously ratcheted up the temperature of the contest.
García Sr, who came to the United States from Puerto Rico when he was six and was, by all accounts, a reasonable amateur never good enough to turn pro, added: "If he were American, nobody would care. Khan has never faced a Latino like Danny. This is Latino blood, a nation. We are going to show the world who is the boss." García Sr denies being a racist.
When the closing pleasantries were getting a bit tasty on the podium, Khan's new conditioner, Ruben Tabares, stepped between his fighter and a blazing-eyed Angel, and the entertaining shambles dispersed.
Throughout, Shah Khan stood at the back, expressionless. His input in his son's career is paternal and encouraging, quietly absorbing advice from all quarters but leaving the imparting of expertise to others, such as his trainer Freddie Roach.
Danny insisted that his excitable father "knows what he's doing ... Twenty-three times in my career, my father has given me hell, and 23 times I've won. On Saturday night, he will give me hell for the 24th time, and for the 24th time I will win."
Khan, the newly reinstated WBA champion, replied that he was a proud Pakistani Brit.
He added later, "I am going to go in there to hurt his son. It's the sport I'm in. I'm a nice guy outside the ring but, once I put those gloves on, it's a different story. His dad was going all crazy. You could see they're all on edge, a little nervous. This is his biggest fight. When he beat Erik Morales to win the WBC title [in March], he won by maybe two rounds. He can believe he beat a great legend, but Morales is not like he was 10 years ago. García has never met anyone as quick as me, as strong as me, or who can hit as hard as me. I will hurt him.
"That confidence comes from the gym. I've been putting sparring partners down with 14oz gloves. These are 147 [lb] 154 guys. When you see their legs go, you know. When I hurt guys who are heavier, I know I've got the power. It's not like I'm looking for it. These are from little shots that you don't expect."
Before the arrival of some cooling rain, Vegas has sweltered all week in temperatures as high as 114F (45C), the sort of conditions to not only sap a fighter's strength but ruin the crucial closedown to his preparation. "We've been waking up four, five in the morning," Khan said, "hitting the track, finished by 5.45am. But my weight's not a problem, so we didn't have to spend too much time on track work, just getting my legs moving."
Tabares, who succeeds the strong-willed Alex Ariza, has adjusted the champion's water intake, making it less of a chore, and ensuring his body remains in a more constant state of hydration. The champion, a good listener, has responded well to the new regime.
Tabares also reckons he has seen an exploitable weakness in Garcia's handling of the horrific heat.
"Before the public workout this week," Tabares said, "I noticed he came to the ring dry. That's not a good sign in these conditions. It means he is not getting his hydration levels right and, when he does sweat, there is not enough water in his system to carry the electrolytes. That means he will really start to feel the pace after maybe six rounds and will not be able to do anything about it."
García dismissed the suggestion. "I watched my work," he said. "I'm in good shape."
Khan rounded out his training on the pads at the nearby Top Rank gym with Roach, and looked as sharp as I have seen him. His balance, hand speed and footwork were a joy to watch‚ unless you were Roach, who was taking some big shots to the liver, elbows and chest. Khan glided neatly under and around counters and should not neglect sideways movement after landing his own punches, which is what cost him dearly against Lamont Peterson in Washington last December.
Shah Khan lent on the ring apron, proud but unobtrusive. "You know what?" he said. "Danny seems like a nice guy ... but I think Amir is going to knock him out."
He could be right.