The Pugilist

Amir’s no glassjaw, but that’s not his chief concern

The Pugilist

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Diaz drops Khan in round four (Getty Images)

Amir Khan is a curious case in a very curious sport.

As one of Britain's most exciting fighters in a long time, a trans-Atlantic hit and an Olympic hero, one would expect the Bolton lad to be more nationally-embraced than he is.

Instead, in his first bout on UK soil in two years, Khan had many people riding his choice of opponent, predicting a quick knockout defeat, or even hoping he a prospective third loss in four would compel him to retire.

[READ FULL KHAN-DIAZ REPORT HERE]

Unfortunately that is the price that comes with success, especially if you have also fallen on your sword a few times as the 26-year-old has.

But while those watching him reside on one extreme or the other, Khan currently finds himself in a state of transition, lacking direction despite knowing where he wants to end up.

As much as some think fighting Carlos Molina and Julio Diaz following two straight world title defeats is 'taking it easy' or 'dodging any real tests', the immediate challenge facing the Brit is the man he sees in the mirror.

Until Khan has fully regrouped, he is doing the right thing in not signing on for rematches with Garcia or Peterson.

When he was stopped by 'Swift' and Breidis Prescott, Khan developed a reputation of having a weak chin. It's a lazy label slapped on halfheartedly by those who, perhaps, read more results and summaries than they actually watch fights and how they unfold.

The abuse Khan endured during the closing stages against Diaz in Sheffield brought forth a degree of resilience which has always been there, believe it or not.

In fact, when Amir was dropped in round four, 'glass chins' had nothing to do with it.

Khan had just entered full flow, controlling the pace of the fight with compelling movement; drifting in and out to land well-timed flurries. Suddenly, he was on his backside.

After spending 10 minutes defending astutely whilst remaining alert, Khan lost focus, even if for a matter of seconds. He got careless, and as we know it was not for the first time.

His footwork, as good as it is on offense, had zero poise on the back foot and left him off-centre enough that a feather probably would have knocked him over, let alone a stiff left.

And as tough as his chin was whilst clinging on during the championship rounds, nothing can be very sturdy when it sticks out like a beacon, guard nowhere to be seen.

Khan's defence suffers mentally in fights, not physically. His brain leaves these gaps, not his chin.

It makes sense of the switch from Freddie Roach to Virgil Hunter, in a way. Tactical tweaks are required, not toughening up.

Some have argued that Roach possibly had too many big-name charges to focus enough attention on Khan. Or maybe more specifically, to stop Khan from letting his own attention wander during fights.

Unfortunately, as much as Hunter and Khan appear united in their goals, there is no sign of instant dividends. There is a vague outline of how Hunter wants Khan to fight, but those flaws continue to rear their ugly heads.

There were definitely moments in the Diaz fight when Virgil was guilty of not protecting his man with his words - such as when he told Khan that the Mexican was tiring, when in fact the opposite turned out to be true, leading to a rough finale for the Englishman.

They at least appear aware that the changes and the results they want will not happen overnight, and if they stick at it I suspect we may well see a more polished and complete 'King' Khan one day, with a world title back around his waist.

Not that many fans will grant someone under such an intense spotlight as Amir Khan much patience, but that is precisely what he needs right now.

Garcia, Peterson, and the ridiculously-ambitious talk of a fight with Floyd Mayweather can wait. For the next two or three contests, Khan and Hunter must continue to pick out opponents who allow room for errors as Molina and Diaz did.

Khan is not in a position where he can afford another slip-up any time soon. So why risk it until he is completely ready?

Blogs I wrote post-Garcia and -Molina both had one recurring theme: it will be a long, gradual back road to the top for Amir, if he does ever return there.

And just as he did in rounds nine through 12 in Sheffield, he will need to display the same toughness nobody ever gave him credit for to weather the scrutiny and expectations being thrown at him while he attempts to fix those holes in his defensive game.

Whether you want to believe it or not, Khan has the chin to take the abuse. The real question is: Does he have the head to work his way back to his throne?

Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter

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