Amir Khan's next fight may be coming two months later than originally scheduled, and against a different opponent than he was supposed to be facing, but he is ready to roll after some trying times and the longest training camp of his career.
England's Khan will meet fellow junior welterweight titlist Danny Garcia of Philadelphia in a 140-pound title unification bout on Saturday night (HBO, 11 p.m. ET/PT) at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, in a fight that came together only because Lamont Peterson tested positive for synthetic testosterone, prompting their May 19 rematch to be canceled.
"Training camp has been brilliant," Khan said. "It was a long camp, but we paced it well. We were very professional and smart with the way we did things. It was a 15-week camp, and I enjoyed every second of it."
Khan had been eager for the rematch with Peterson. In December, he traveled to Washington, D.C., Peterson's hometown, and in one of the best fights of the year, Khan lost a controversial split decision and his two world title belts in a fight marred by questionable point deductions from Khan by Washington-area referee Joe Cooper.
After a very tough negotiation, the much-anticipated rematch was arranged. But less than two weeks before the fight, one of Peterson's random urine tests came up dirty for the banned substance, even though it was Peterson who had asked for the random testing leading to the fight. The positive test left Khan in search of a new opponent, facing a lengthy delay before a new fight could be schedule and disappointed that he wouldn't be able to avenge his loss to Peterson.
"You still think about what happened and stuff because I would have kind of preferred to settle the score properly and gone in there and fought him," Khan said. "I mean, even when he got caught positive, I thought there was still a chance of me fighting him, and I told my team and my team still advised me not to because it's not fair. But I would have like to have settled the score properly. But now I've just put it behind me because this is another tough fight for me and I need to stay focused."
After the cancellation of the Peterson rematch, Khan (26-2, 18 KOs), 25, took a short break to go home for a couple of weeks before returning to trainer Freddie Roach's gym in Hollywood, Calif., to prepare for Garcia.
"The game plan doesn't really change much because it's quite similar fighters," Khan said. "We're going to be more than ready. We're going to bring the 'A' game to the table and come [Saturday], we're going to put on a great fight for the fans and for all the fans watching at home. I'm looking forward to it, and hopefully the game plan that we have for the fight will be perfect and we'll win the fight."
The change of opponents and delay was more of an annoyance than anything serious, according to Roach.
"We have had a great training camp. We are ready for this fight," he said. "We had to switch gears in opponents a little bit, but there were no major setbacks."
The 24-year-old Garcia (23-0, 14 KOs) won his title via unanimous decision against Erik Morales on March 24 in Houston, in a fight that got very tough in the late going.
"I think I showed my heart in that fight; I showed a lot of heart," Garcia said. "In the 11th round, when he cut me on my eyebrow and I started bleeding, and my nose was a little swollen, I stood there and I traded with a Mexican warrior and the fans loved it, and that's what people want to see in boxing.
"They want to see blood, sweat and tears, and when the time got heated when people thought my nose was broken and my eye was bleeding, my heart could have easily went off, but my heart got pumped up. I stood there and traded. If I showed anything in that fight, it was my heart under pressure."
With little rest after the fight with Morales, the bout with Khan came together quickly and with relative ease, because they are both promoted by Golden Boy. Garcia, making his first defense, was eager to face Khan.
"The opportunity came across and I was excited," Garcia said. "You've got to fight the best to be the best. I'm the champion, so the champion's got to fight the best. I've been presented an opportunity and I'm ready to perform."
Khan also didn't hesitate to accept Garcia as his new opponent.
"When the new name came up and we spoke to Golden Boy Promotions and they said, 'What do you think of Danny Garcia as a new opponent?' I jumped to the occasion," Khan said. "When I saw videos of Danny Garcia, I remember watching the highlights when he beat Erik Morales. He's a good fighter."
If the Peterson-Khan rematch was an A-level fight, substituting Garcia for Peterson was probably the next-best thing.
"This matchup is a matchup that we don't see every day," Golden Boy's Oscar De La Hoya said. "We have two young champions who are at their peak. This is what really drives me, when you have two young fighters who are willing to fight anybody, when you are willing to fight the best, which is what boxing is all about."
Originally, the fight was going to be contested only for Garcia's belt, but Khan received a lift Wednesday when one of the sanctioning organization titles that he lost to Peterson was stripped and returned to Khan in the wake of Peterson's positive drug test.
"Whatever happened with Peterson is behind us," Asif Vali, a Khan adviser, said. "Now we have an opportunity to unify those belts."
It sounded as if Khan was looking to take out whatever frustrations he had because of the delay on Garcia.
"I did make a lot of mistakes in my last fight [against Peterson], but it was a wake-up call," Khan said. "I learned a lot from that fight. We will win the title. I will knock Danny Garcia out. I will take the world titles home. I know Danny didn't train as hard as me. I promise I will knock him out. That is the only way."