We've been wrong before. Those of us who follow boxing -- impassioned fans and detached media members alike -- have been guilty of too quickly anointing boxing's next savior or, conversely, labeling a former great a has-been after one bad performance.
But in the case of Amir Khan, fresh off Saturday's flawless destruction of Zab Judah by fifth-round knockout in Las Vegas, there's no mistaking it: The sport's next big thing is not only here, he's ready to make his mark.
Whether Judah (41-7, 28 KOs) was too passive or simply unwilling to take a risk by countering amid an onslaught of lightning-quick combinations, Khan (26-1, 18 KOs) didn't face much resistance in unifying junior welterweight titles. But it may not have mattered. The result of Khan's maturation under elite trainer Freddie Roach has been so impressive that Judah's fate seemed inevitable from the start.
Everything that Khan did was smooth. The British star aggressively controlled the pace and kept Judah -- who landed just 20 punches in the fight, according to CompuBox -- at bay with his piston-like jab, using flawless footwork to dart in and out and land accurate combinations.
Khan made the fifth defense of his WBA junior welterweight title in a bout that was expected to be the toughest of his career. The victory further distances Khan from his lone career blemish -- a 2008 first-round knockout loss to Breidis Prescott -- to the point that the defeat seems like it happened to a different fighter. That's apropos when you consider the great strides Khan has made as a technician under Roach.
Aided by the unparalleled advantage of sparring with stablemate and pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao, Khan has grown into a confident, calculated assassin. And he appears poised to join Pacquiao in the upper room of the sport's elite pay-per-view attractions.
Khan has the looks, personality and demeanor of a star. And with size and speed advantages against almost everyone between 140 and 147 pounds, his broad shoulders appear ready to carry the pressure that comes with the territory of taking on the best.
A fight with Pacquiao is out of the question as things stand now, although any two potential foes need to be careful of saying never -- save for the Klitschko brothers -- when there is that much potential cash on the table for a single bout. Still, all signs point to Khan and promoter Golden Boy aiming for a 2012 showdown against Floyd Mayweather Jr., with Floyd giving the British media his blessing last week for London's Wembley Stadium as a potential site.
First and foremost, however, there is plenty of business at hand. Khan appears headed for a final bout at junior welterweight in 2010 before making the logical move up to 147 pounds. Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer has mentioned Erik Morales or the winner of the Aug. 27 Robert Guerrero-Marcos Maidana fight as possible opponents. The somewhat less likely possibility of a showdown with fellow 140-pound titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. -- who rejected a generous 50-50 offer to fight Khan earlier this year -- also remains.
Either way, Khan has plenty of crowd-pleasing options in front of him. And so, too, does the sport.
With the casual fan distracted by the incessant rumbling of a superfight that may never take place, the first half of 2011 -- complete with exciting upsets and action fights -- has gotten lost in the mainstream shuffle.
Not to worry. With a loaded fall schedule around the corner, boxing is as healthy as it's been in recent years. And it's got a new star in place that even the most fickle of fans will be unable to resist.