Amir Khan continued his return to action in Birmingham, but was given a scare after being dropped by considerable underdog Samuel Vargas in the second round of their welterweight contest.
Fighting at 147lbs for the first time since a May 2015 bout with Chris Algieri, Khan began the contest in sharp fashion, boxing behind the jab and landing a solid right hand in the opening round.
The second round saw Khan continue to enjoy success, dropping Vargas with a sizzling one-two combination, much to the delight of a raucous pro-Khan crowd.
However, the success would be short-lived, with Vargas climbing off of the canvas to land a crunching overhand right of his own that sent the 2004 Olympic silver medalist crashing to the canvas.
Khan, whose well-documented chin issues have been a recurring theme throughout his career, rose to his feet shortly before the bell rang for the conclusion of the session.
With many expecting Vargas to be little more than a tune-up bout ahead of potential money-spinning bouts with Manny Pacquiao and long-time domestic rival Kell Brook, the sight of Khan hitting the canvas will do little to quell the claims that he is now past-his-best as a top-level prizefighter.
Regardless, Khan would once again show the same heart he has displayed throughout his storied professional career, choosing to fight fire with fire in the wake of Vargas’ advances, and would score a second knockdown in the third round after another well-placed right hand.
Despite exhibiting his signature hand-speed throughout, Khan displayed significant chinks in his armour against his limited opponent; finding himself too square on in the exchanges and leaving himself open to frequent straight right hands from Vargas.
After an explosive start to proceedings, the bout would meander through the middle rounds, with Khan taking a safety-first approach on the outside in order to negate the on-rushing Vargas; tying his man up on the inside while looking to referee Terry O’Connor for assistance.
To his credit, Vargas – who had been blown away by former Khan conqueror Danny Garcia as well as IBF king Errol Spence Jr. in previous bouts – continued to gamely march forward in search of another right hand howitzer and cause the upset. The end of the tenth round saw him almost achieve just that, with a right hand bouncing off of Khan’s chin and monetarily leaving him on spaghetti legs.
Although he would survive the scare and secure a deserved – if unexpectedly hard-fought – unanimous decision, the images of Khan hitting the deck will leave the lasting impression.
Though Khan would claim after the bout that he was pleased to have twelve rounds under his belt, the tumultuous nature of proceedings and the all-too-familiar-sight of Khan’s fragilities all-but-guarantee he is not yet ready to challenge those at the top of the welterweight tree.
With messrs Pacquiao and Brook waiting in the wings – and no doubt licking their lips at the prospect of a big-money showdown with the former two-time World champion – Khan and promoter Eddie Hearn will now plan their next move.
Based on tonight’s performance against Samuel Vargas, it beggars belief that Khan is ready for the elite fighters in the welterweight division: whether that bracket includes 39-year-old Manny Pacquiao or a surely-too-big-for-the-weight Kell Brook, remains to be seen…