This past Saturday night, Amir Khan finally made his return to the ring. It had been two years since ‘Canelo’ Alvarez unforgettably floored him, and after some newsworthy events had crowded his personal life, Khan needed to head back to where he’s always been most comfortable: inside the ropes. As you’d expect, Khan’s return was a successful one, vanquishing the overmatched Phil Lo Greco within the bout’s opening minute. However, the real story came from the Liverpool crowd’s reaction, a mass excitement almost startling in its positivity.
Without a prior understanding, that may confuse some. Why wouldn't the British people be happy to see a former world champion back home? A man that 14 years ago, took an Olympic silver medal at the age of just 17. A fighter that’s even represented Britain under those famed Vegas bright lights. Well, for whatever reason, Khan wasn't always a beloved figure amongst his home fans. Often dismissed due to the harrowing memory of that disastrous moment opposite Bredis Prescott, Khan’s greatest nights have really come across the pond, furthering that disconnect that seemingly only grew with each year.
Speaking of such, Khan’s last fight on British soil somewhat symbolized that element. Fighting Julio Diaz in Sheffield, the 2013 bout didn't really have the feel of a major event, let alone one fitting for polarizing star’s homecoming. He’d already reached the mountain top by that point in time too, making the public’s disillusionment all the more damning. In fairness, that night would be far from Khan’s finest in the squared circle, struggling and even being floored en route to a scrappy decision win.
That was another example of the former champion’s bravery and grit regardless. The same courage that had once pulled him past a scare against Willie Limond or better yet, dragged him through a modern classic opposite fearsome puncher Marcos Maidana. Khan was flawed certainly, but valiant to a fault, a trait that at times put him in an unnecessary trouble against a range of opposition. Either way, Khan returned stateside after that Diaz victory, stringing together two of his finest performances in surprisingly dominant triumphs over Luis Collazo and Devon Alexander.
The following Chris Algieri win would be admittedly less impressive, and the combination of inactivity and a desperation to be on the grandest stage led to Khan taking that aforementioned fight with ‘Canelo.’ That seemingly ill-advised 155lbs bout brought some success early for Khan but in the end, the widely predicted result came to fruition as Alvarez emphatically ended his night with a single right hand. That brings us back to this past Saturday at the Echo Arena and Khan’s comeback conquering of Lo Greco.
Whilst the speed of it was undeniably impressive, this win was far from Khan’s best. When the Amir Khan story is reviewed in retrospect, Saturday won’t be a night that stands out from an achievement perspective. That doesn't change its meaning though. As Lo Greco was bundled over by a rapid flurry, the packed crowd didn't respond with a collective eye-roll or shared skepticism. Instead they shared the star’s celebrations, embracing his return with open arms after watching his career of dramatic ups and downs. They even took his side as he squared off with domestic rival Kell Brook, a response that seemed rather unlikely not long ago.
Amir Khan is frustrating at times, infuriating at others. He’s been exhilarating, admirable and enthralling along the way too though. Through the wins, losses and everything in-between, Khan has always been willing to fight fire with fire, at times to a fault. His skills are eye-catching and his shortcomings established but with Amir Khan, only one thing is certain: nothing is certain. It’s that trait that allows me to be completely unsurprised whether Khan wins within a minute or gets dropped in an instant.
Regardless of what Khan turns up though, it’s always one worth watching and perhaps that explains the crowd’s support for him this past weekend. The people’s adoration didn't come quickly for Khan but perhaps that’s about to change, all just in time for the final chapters of this captivating fighter’s quite crazy career.