Thursday, July 9, 2009

Amir Khan vs Andriy Kotelnik Preview

Dave Oakes previews next Saturday's big Sky Box Office show from Manchester featuring Amir Khan and Andriy Kotelnik.

Amir Khan takes a step-up in weight and class on 18 July when he faces WBA light-welterweight champion Andreas Kotelnik in what is sure to be an intriguing match up at the M.E.N Arena, Manchester.

Khan is coming off a career best victory against a faded Marco Antonio Barrera and is brimming with confidence, whilst this will be Kotelnik’s first fight since winning on a split decision against Marcos Maidana in February.

The Maidana victory is looking far more impressive since Maidana went on to stop the much touted Victor Ortiz in the sixth round of an up and down tear up last month. Kotelnik had his hands full against Maidana and had to show courage, strength and stamina as well as his usual technical prowess and solid chin to get him through the fight.

Make sure to check out The Boxing Bulletin's live blog coverage of this event.

Kotelnik is a clever boxer who always takes the first few rounds of a fight to watch his opponent and work out a game plan to beat him. He’s very methodical in the way he goes about the job, he never throws desperate punches, always keeps his chin tucked in and is very astute when it comes to identifying and exploiting his opponents’ weaknesses. He doesn’t do anything exceptionally; he just keeps plugging away and adjusting to what his opponent does, he’s very much a textbook boxer.

Despite the fact that this will be Khan’s first fight at light-welterweight, I don’t think the added weight will have a negative effect on him. He’s tall enough to carry the extra weight well and looked much bigger than Kotelnik at the recent press conference for the fight.

A lot of people are wrongly viewing Kotelnik as a step down from Khan’s last fight against Barrera. Barrera may be a bigger name than Kotelnik but he’s well past his best and was much smaller than Khan. In other words, it was the perfect fight for Khan to look good in. That’s not to take anything away from Khan, who did a thorough job against him and looked much better defensively than he had done previously.

The move to Freddie Roach’s Wildcard Gym might be the best decision Khan has ever made. In the two fights under Roach’s tutelage, Khan has looked a much more rounded boxer; he now seems content to wait for his opportunity to attack rather than trying to force the knockout from the opening bell. There has also been a vast improvement in his footwork and defence; he’s stopped bouncing around as much as he used to and keeps his hands higher and tighter around his chin than before.

His chin remains the major worry for Khan. He still claims that his chin is solid but he’s been dropped and hurt that many times in a short career that it’s become obvious that he doesn’t take a punch well at all. The feather fisted Willie Limond, had him down and staggering around like a drunk, career super-feather Michael Gomez dropped him heavily and Breidis Prescott had him down and then out inside a round in Khan’s only defeat in the paid ranks.

The Prescott defeat may be a blessing in disguise for Khan, he seemed to think he was invincible before that fight and it must have been a real shock to him that he was blown away so easily by someone who was relatively unknown until then. That defeat brought about the change in trainer as well as a change in attitude for Khan. Out went the easy distractions and celebrity lifestyle in his hometown of Bolton; in came hard work, hard sparring and anonymity in Roach’s well run gym. Khan seems to be thriving in these new conditions and will be much better equipped to challenge for a world title now than he was twelve months ago.

Kotelnik might not be a big puncher, with only thirteen of his thirty-one victories coming inside the distance, but he’s very accurate and is capable of hurting Khan if he lands clean combinations like he did against Gavin Rees when winning the title in March of last year.

Kotelnik had an easy night against Rees, as the much smaller man struggled to penetrate Kotelnik’s defence and found himself getting caught more and more as the fight wore on. Rees’ face was bloody and swollen when he was stopped in the 12th round.

The victory over Rees was Kotelnik’s second attempt at the world title after a draw against Soulemayne M’Baye in his first effort. He’s also got a loss against M’Baye and a loss against former world champion Junior Witter in what are the only two defeats on his otherwise impressive record.

There’s a feeling in Kotelnik’s camp that their man will be too experienced and will break Khan down in the later rounds. It’s a point well worth making that Khan has only gone the championship distance on one occasion, a one-sided drubbing of Gairy St Clair, where as Kotelnik has gone the distance on nine occasions. Khan looked comfortable in doing twelve rounds against St Clair but there was very little for him to worry about in a fight that was barely more than a sparring session.

I believe Khan has the stamina be able to box the full twelve rounds but his concentration level has got to be spot on if he wants to avoid another defeat. Controlled aggression is what Roach will be looking for, if Khan can box to instructions and not get carried away by the atmosphere and occasion, he should be able to out-speed and outwork Kotelnik to take a points decision around the 117-111 mark.

A busy undercard sees Enzo Maccarinelli in a make or break fight against the undefeated Denis Lebedev. It will surely be the end of Maccarinelli’s career if he suffers another defeat after being knocked clean out in two of his past three fights.

Kell Brook, the hottest prospect in Britain, defends his British welterweight title for a third time against the light punching but always competitive Michael Lomax. Brook should get some much needed rounds under his belt before stopping Lomax in the mid to late rounds.

Matthew ‘El Torito’ Hall makes the first defence of his Commonwealth light-middleweight title against the big mouth from the south, Anthony Small. The slick, switch-hitting Small will be an awkward opponent for the short and aggressive Hall. That said, I believe Hall will knock Small out if he can get on the inside and land his trademark hooks.

The undercard also sees the further development of the Olympic stars of Beijing, with Frankie Gavin, James De Gale and Billy Joe Saunders all participating in four rounders.

e-mail Dave Oakes


Anonymous said...

Breidis Prescott is always interesting to watch after his destruction of Amir Khan. Unfortunately, Miguel Vazquez is a huge step down for Prescott. Nonetheless, this fight is worth watching: