By Jeremy Wall
Amir Khan (31-3, 19 KOs) defeated Chris Algieri (20-2, 8 KOs) by unanimous decision Friday, May 29th at the Barclays Center in New York. Scores were 115-113 and 117-111 twice. The fight aired on Spike TV.
Khan has been rumoured as Floyd Mayweather's opponent for Mayweather's final fight on his contract with Showtime, which will take place on or around September 12th. Khan, however, needed to get past Algieri in New York in order to make the fight with Mayweather possible. Khan did just that and then called Mayweather out after the bout.
"We all know what we want next, a fight with Floyd Mayweather. I'm now the number one WBC [contender], and he's the champion. Let's make it happen," Khan said in his post-fight interview.
There were no knockdowns, although at one point Khan tripped over the referee, who was badly out of position. Khan won most of the rounds by slipping punches past Algieri's guard, but Algieri's boundless energy made the fight interesting. Khan controlled the first few rounds, although Algieri was landing enough to make the rounds close enough that some of them could have been judged either way.
Algieri, however, was much more aggressive than he has been in past high-profile fights against Ruslan Provodnikov and Manny Pacquiao. Algieri's aggressiveness threw Khan off his game a bit and allowed Algieri to score and earn a few rounds.
The crowd was split between the two, which was surprising because Algieri is from New York and Khan is of Pakistani descent and grew up in England. There were strong chants of "Algieri" and "USA", but a lot of people in the audience came to the fight with Pakistani flags to show support for Khan.
Late in the fight Khan began scoring more. Algeri, who has a master's degree in sport nutrition and is a fitness freak who mentioned before the fight that his purse will bring him close to paying off his student loan, still had a ton of cardio late in the fight, but wasn't able to use that edge to his advantage as he was outboxed by Khan late in the bout. It was Khan's first fight in New York since defeating Paulie Malignaggi at the Madison Square Garden Theater in 2010.
Khan, 28, landed 218 of 609 punches for 36-percent, and Algieri, 31, landed 199 of 703 for 28-percent.
"A few mistakes I made. Obviously, I didn't think Algieri would come forward," Khan said. "I figured he would be on the back foot. Virgil [Hunter] gave me a game plan, and it worked for me."
"The judges seemed to like Khan being cagey and spinning off even though I thought I landed the cleaner shots and hurt him several times, especially to the body," said Algieri.
Khan has incredible hand speed and great conditioning, but has high profile losses to Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia, the latter by fourth round TKO. He also looked vulnerable enough against Algieri, who isn't considered an elite boxer, that Khan might not pose too much of a challenge against Mayweather, who will be looking to keep his undefeated record intact as he attempts to match the 49-0 record of Rocky Marciano.
“Yes, that’d be a good fight for him," Floyd Mayweather Sr said a few weeks ago regarding Khan. "My son would beat him. It would be easier than Pacquiao. Khan has a pretty decent jab but all the technical things, he can’t do."
The possibility of a fight with Mayweather was mentioned by Spike play-by-play broadcaster Scott Hanson during Khan's introduction at the beginning of the bout against Algieri. Jeremy Piven of Entourage was also interviewed at ringside during the bout. Piven is a friend of Khan's and mentioned that Khan was hoping to fight Mayweather in September.
"I spoke to Len Ellerbe, his manager, I saw him in the media room and he came over to say '[Floyd's] ready when you are.'" said Khan, claiming that he spoke with Ellerbe at the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight on May 2nd. “Where does Floyd go? If he doesn’t fight me once I get past this fight [with Algieri], who else is there for him? If he wants to have an audience from around the world … there’s not a lot of fighters who can bring that drawing power. I know I’m not at the scale of Manny Pacquiao, but it’d still be a big fight."
Khan seems to be the strongest of possible available names to face Mayweather. Khan doesn't have a ton of name value in the US, but he could bring valuable television rights fees from his native Britain. The other logical opponent for Mayweather would be Keith Thurman, but Thurman is fighting in the main event of PBC's debut on ESPN on July 11th. Thurman looks to be the future of boxing's welterweight division and may have been a tougher opponent for Mayweather compared to Khan.
I thought Thurman would have been a more logical opponent than Khan for a few reasons. First, Thurman is American and Khan isn't and Mayweather's opponent in September is somewhat about creating a new star. Mayweather isn't going to put anyone over on his way into retirement, though, which may be the reason why Thurman didn't get picked.
Second, Thurman had a high profile win over Robert Guerrero, a former Mayweather opponent, in the debut of PBC on NBC back in March that was one of the most watched boxing matches in many years. Executives for NBC have publicly talked about trying to create a new star on NBC to face Mayweather. Al Haymon, the de facto promoter of PBC, is currently in a complex time buy with NBC and if the long-term goal is to convert the time buy into a situation where he is getting paid to sell audiences to NBC, then appeasing the NBC executives would be high on Haymon's to-do list.
Third, Thurman's high profile win over Guerrero on NBC was certainly watched by more people than Khan's win over Algieri on Spike. When PBC announced a few weeks ago that Khan vs Algieri would headline a Spike broadcast, I thought it was a strange choice because Khan was already being discussed as Mayweather's opponent for September and I thought it would make more sense to get Khan fighting in prime time on NBC to give him as much exposure as possible leading into the fight with Mayweather in September. That made me think that Thurman was Mayweather's likely September opponent until Thurman was announced for PBC's July debut on ESPN, replacing the recently canceled Friday Night Fights.
Khan is a devout Muslim and observes Ramadan from June 18th until July 17th. Ramadan requires daily fasting and means Khan would be unavailable to fight around that time. He said, though, that he would be available to fight Floyd Mayweather on a tentative date of September 12th, although he has previously said he wouldn't be available to fight in September.
"It's possible I could fight in September, yeah," Khan said. "Ramadan is going to be a little bit earlier this year, so obviously it helps, gives me enough time to get the training done and everything. It can happen in September."
Two other possible opponents for Mayweather in September are Kell Brook and Danny Garcia. Brook faces Frankie Gavin on Saturday night in England, a fight Brook is expected to win. Brook is a star in England and like Khan would bring in heavy television revenue from England, but also like Khan would not mean as much as other possible Mayweather opponents in the US. Garcia is coming off a high-profile win for PBC on NBC. If Brook were to be the fighter to face Mayweather in September, it is possible that Garcia could be put against Khan in a rematch on PBC.
Regarding a rematch with Danny Garcia, Khan said, "I love that fight. That fight is something in the future that could happen for sure. I mean I’m a lot more comfortable at this weight whereas before I was killing myself to make 140. But this is a good weight for me and I’m very excited for what the future will hold for me once I get past this fight.”
"I could have fought Kell Brook in the UK but I only wanted to fight in May," said Khan. "I didn't want to go into June with Ramadan coming up. I don't want to be going into Ramadan tired, straight after a fight. It's too much for my body to take, I need to look after it."
Brook's promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing claims that Khan was avoiding Brook because Algieri was the easier opponent and Khan didn't want to lose and risk his showdown with Mayweather.
"Khan is petrified about him, because if Khan gets beat by a Mayweather or a Pacquiao, he can still fight Kell Brook in his mind," said Hearn. "His value is going down, but if he fights Kell Brook first and gets beat, then that’s probably the end of Amir Khan - and frankly we are a huge odds-on favourite for that fight."
"He should be fighting the big names of boxing like I'm doing," said Khan regarding Brook. "The only way Kell Brook's name gets pushed to me is because he has a title, if he doesn't, I don't think his name means anything to me or boxing."
Kell Brook said of Mayweather vacating all of his titles, "It's a bit strange but Al Haymon has probably advised him to do that so all of his fighters can pick up the vacant titles. I was hoping that Mayweather would keep the belts and unify the entire division against me in his last fight. After all, an American versus a Brit is always a huge event on both sides of the Atlantic."
Commentary for the Spike broadcast was provided by Scott Hanson, Jimmy Smith of Bellator, and Antonio Tarver. Dana Jacobson acted as host and Michael Williams, also of Bellator, was the ring announcer. Of all the broadcasters that have worked with PBC, Spike has been the most consistent with their broadcast team.
This was the third airing of Premier Boxing on Spike. The first show on March 13th drew 869,000 viewers on average. The return show in April was down 34.5%, drawing 569,000 viewers on average. The show also aired on SiriusXM satellite radio. It went up against the NHL playoffs, MLB baseball, as well as minor league boxing on CBS Sports Network.
The decline in viewership from the first airing of PBC on Spike to the second has been the sharpest decline in viewership of PBC broadcasts on a single station thus far. Viewership on NBC and CBS have held up much better. My guess is that Spike skews towards the male 18-34 demographic and boxing isn't a strong draw in that demo, causing a greater decline in viewership on Spike compared to viewership on NBC or CBS, both of which have a stronger cross-section of demographics among their viewers compared to Spike.
Spike airs PBC as part of their "Friday Night Lights Out" brand of combat sports that includes Bellator and Glory kickboxing. Bellator ratings have been markedly down this year as the promotion has failed to create new stars to capitalize on the ratings success of Tito Ortiz vs Stephan Bonnar from last November. Glory's ratings have been modest, but steady.
Last week's PBC on NBC drew a 0.85 overnight rating on a Saturday afternoon. The show started at 4pm ET and had James DeGale beating Andre Dirrell. It is down slightly from the 0.9 PBC drew for its second Saturday afternoon show and the 1.1 it draw for its debut Saturday afternoon show, both on CBS.
Glory returns next week with a show from France that airs live at 4pm ET. That is just a terrible time slot, as most people will still be at work. Also, kickboxing is a hard sell in the United States. Airing Glory on a weekday afternoon is similar to when ESPN would air Cung Le san shou fights or K-1 fights as time filler on weekday afternoons, which trained audiences to believe that kickboxing is unimportant. Having Glory air during the afternoon gets people back into that way of thinking about kickboxing, which is exactly the opposite of how Glory ought to be presented on Spike. They may as well just go with a tape delay airing later on Friday. What would be best for Glory and Spike, though, would be if Glory decided whether they are American-based or Euro-based because to become a real draw in the US, they need their fights to take place on this side of the Atlantic and air live in prime time.
In the prelim bout on Spike, Javier Fortuna (28-0-1, 20 KO) beat Bryan Vasquez (34-2, 18 KO) via unanimous decision to win the vacant WBA Superfeatherweight title. Scores were 116-112, 117-111, and 117-111. It was a rough brawl with both fighters taunting each other throughout the bout. Fortuna, 25, is a slick fighter with great speed, but also has natural heel charisma and is someone with star potential. He'll need to eventually move up in weight class as he gets older, though, in order to get the opportunity to face bigger name opponents.