By Sudipto Ganguly
MUMBAI (Reuters) – Amir Khan spent years trying to nail down a showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr yet the Briton is more than happy to see the undefeated multi-division world champion come out of retirement to face a man who has never had a single professional bout.
Mayweather hung up his gloves in 2015 with a 49-0 record but the 40-year-old American will return to the ring for a lucrative 12-round boxing match against Irish mixed martial arts champion Conor McGregor in Las Vegas next month.
Reports of a fight between former world light-welterweight champion Khan and Mayweather often surfaced in the media but the bout never materialized as neither camp came close to the negotiating table.
Despite plenty of criticism within boxing, the 30-year-old Khan feels the crossover fight between Mayweather and McGregor will be positive for the sport, which he feels has lost ground to the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) MMA promotion.
“It’s a business fight, one,” Khan told Reuters. “Two, what’s going to happen now is it’s between boxing and MMA.
“At the moment, MMA and UFC is doing so many great numbers on TV, on pay-per-view. Boxing is doing OK but it took little bit of a dip. We are not getting the good pay-per-view numbers we used to.
“For now to combine both sports together is going to be great for the sport of boxing (more) than MMA.
“We hit a wall and we didn’t really do anything. Boxing never moved forward around the world, whereas MMA kept moving forward and got bigger and bigger and bigger. Boxing kind of stalled in my opinion and we needed something like this.”
Undefeated middleweight world champion Gennady Golovkin has dismissed the bout as a ‘circus show’ but Khan disagrees with the Kazakh fighter.
“You have to respect everybody that goes into the ring, you have to respect everybody who puts the gloves on. You have to fight in front of millions… not easy,” the Briton said in an interview.
Khan, who won a silver medal as a lightweight at the 2004 Athens Olympics, is also hopeful that Mayweather’s return could ultimately lead to a long-awaited showdown between the two men.
“When he beats McGregor, which I think he will, that fight can still be there. It really can happen,” Khan (31-4) said. “There’s still some big fights out there for me, Mayweather, (Manny) Pacquiao…”
‘PACQUIAO DIDN’T LOSE’
Khan was slated to fight eight-division world champion Pacquiao in the United Arab Emirates earlier this year but that deal fell through over money problems.
The Filipino instead took on little-regarded Australian Jeff Horn in Brisbane last weekend and suffered a stunning controversial points loss to the former schoolteacher.
“I don’t think Pacquiao lost, he lost on paper,” Khan said. “This is boxing, it’s happened to me, it’s happened to many fighters. You can’t sulk about it. You just have to go back, have the rematch and beat him.
“We all know Manny is the better fighter. I just think he should have gone in there and knocked him out. Because sometimes fighting somebody in their own backyard is quite difficult to win with the advantages he has.”
Khan also did not rule out securing a bout against Pacquiao in the future.
“Maybe the Pacquiao fight will happen later, it’s all about timing,” he said. “Maybe Manny Pacquiao didn’t feel confident to take the fight with me this time, maybe he will take it next time.”
Khan has not fought since May 2016, when he moved up two divisions to take on middleweight Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, a sixth-round knockout loss that he admits was a mistake he would not be repeating any time soon.
“It’s now all about making the right choices for me, making sure I don’t take fights that I don’t need… like going up two weight categories,” he said.
“It was a mistake. But if you have to do something which is not ordinary, you have to go do something crazy. That would have taken me to a different level. So you have to take big risks. But it can be damaging for your career.”
Khan was in Mumbai to promote the franchise-based Super Boxing League which runs from July 7 to Aug. 12, will be televised live by Sony ESPN and is backed by the World Boxing Council (WBC).
(Editing by John O’Brien)