Boxing: Khan dream of world dominance in tatters after 54-second defeat
It took two seconds for the first punch high on the head, the second on the cheek and the third on the chin to separate Amir Khan from his senses and ambitions in front of 8,000 open-mouthed fans in Manchester on Saturday night.
Khan's body collapsed heavy and still to the bright canvas after less than 30 seconds of round one in his WBO intercontinental lightweight title fight against Breidis Prescott of Colombia and it looked like the referee would reach 10 without interruption. However, Khan is an old-school fighter and he somehow regained his feet. It was a monumental display of courage from the 21-year-old kid, but then again he has never been short of bravery.
Many will argue that Khan needed rescuing as he teetered unsteadily in front of the referee and tried his best to stay upright. However, the referee, Terry O'Connor, decided to let the fight continue and then the really heavy punches landed and Khan went down again. His head whipped savagely to his left as he dropped for the second time after a left hook connected with an awful thwack.
Amazingly Khan, who was clearly out cold as he fell, managed to scramble up like a man fighting against glue but this time the referee had seen enough. He waved it off as Khan fell into his cornermen and the time of the stoppage was 54 seconds of round one at about 11.16pm on 6 September. It is not a set of numbers that Khan will ever forget or ever be allowed to forget.
The inquest into the shock outcome started long before the doctors had finished looking into Khan's eyes and declaring him fit to pursue his boxing dream at some point in the future. There were many men at ringside, and climbing in and out of the ring, with looks of thunder and total devastation on their faces.
Khan was not supposed to get knocked out by Prescott because that is not what is meant to happen to British boxing prospects on their way to world title glory or failure. It is certainly not the preferred method of Khan's promoter, Frank Warren. Anyway, we thought Prescott was another hand-picked opponent with an unbeaten record of 19, which included 17 stoppages, but almost all of the men he had beaten were sacrificial.
In the minutes and hours after the terrible ending another version of events slowly emerged when it was revealed that Prescott was the choice of Khan's new trainer, Jorge Rubio, who has been with Khan for just two months. Rubio, a Cuban based in Florida, had seen enough of Prescott in Miami's gym to believe that his new fighter would win. Prescott was not Warren's choice of opponent, but the promoter accepted responsibility for what is arguably the most disastrous piece of matchmaking ever to take place in British boxing.
"Rubio's a good coach, but he's a bad matchmaker," said Warren. "The buck stops with me. When he is winning I am the greatest promoter and matchmaker and when he loses I have to take responsibility."
Warren added there were "a lot of things to sort out behind the scenes" and it seems clear one or two members of Team Khan are likely to receive the facts of life from Warren in the next few days. Khan was quick to defend Rubio and also to insist the loss was just a glitch and that his chin was fine. Sadly, it is now time for a new honesty to surround his once-glittering career. I will start by not quoting Warren, Khan and Rubio on the boxer's chances of a world title. His defensive frailties are immense: he has no punch resistance when clipped anywhere above his neck. It has nothing to do with a "glass chin" because Khan's problems extend in all directions from the point of his chin. In old money, he simply can't take a punch.
Now, if indeed there is to be a now for Khan, he will need to find his discarded boxing brain – I have not seen much sign of it since the Athens Olympics – and see if it can help him. "It's all about using my brains now," he admitted on Sunday morning.
I hope it is not too late.
Boy blunders: Great British prospects who fell short
Won Commonwealth Games gold in 1998 and Olympic gold in 2000. Signed a million pound deal with the BBC and remained unbeaten, untested and disliked. He lost to Danny Williams in 2005 and was knocked out by Michael Sprott, who had been his sparring partner, last year. Still dreaming and fought on Saturday but was booed from round three of his 10-round points win over a fat Brazilian called George Arias.
He was 18 when he won the Olympic gold in Melbourne in 1956 but he looked about 14. His marriage was reported by Pathe News and he turned pro with tremendous and justifiable ambitions. He did win the British featherweight title after 36 fights, including four losses, but never came close to emulating his Olympic glory ever again. The Kray twins took a shine to him, which was handy for dances on a Saturday night.
Britain's greatest ever amateur boxer. He remains the only man to have won all 10 British amateur titles and he also won the European Under-19 title in 1982. He turned professional and stopped or knocked out 12 of his first 13 victims before falling in one to Belgium's Jose Seys in 1984. It was a great, great shock. He fought until 1993 and was beaten seven more times, six by stoppage or knockout. After a brief career in stand-up he now trains City gents in the white-collar boxing industry.