- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Former unified junior welterweight titlist Amir Khan is moving up to the welterweight division with his next fight shaping up to be an elimination bout for a future opportunity to face pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr.
"I think I'll be a lot more comfortable at 147," Khan told ESPN.com. "I've been struggling to make the weight. I've been at 140 for a long time (since mid-2009). So I'll be looking to fight at 147."
Khan's next opponent will now likely be Devon Alexander.
"I'll be a lot stronger at 147, a lot more confident," Khan said. "Look at guys like (lightweight titlist) Adrien Broner and (Robert) Guerrero. They moved up two weight classes and fought for world titles and you see their confidence. You can do a lot more in training. You can build your strength and not always be worried about the weight. I think I'll have a lot more power."
Khan was ringside in Atlantic City, N.J., on May 18 when Alexander (25-1, 14 KOs), 26, of St. Louis, retained his welterweight title by stopping Khan's British countryman Lee Purdy in the seventh round. After the fight Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer, who promotes Alexander and Khan, talked about a possible Alexander-Khan fight.
Schaefer, who was in New York for a few days to attend Khan's wedding on Friday night, still hopes to make the fight and told ESPN.com on Sunday that it could wind up taking place in Dubai.
"There is a possibility that the Khan fight might be in Dubai," Schaefer said, regardless of who Khan might fight in December. "But the fight is not done and I am working on different things. We will not know about Dubai until sometime in August."
Khan (28-3, 19 KOs), 26, is not planning to fight again until December. He is taking time off after his wedding and also will observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan this summer, after which he will begin training again. The schedule works out well for Alexander, as well, as he broke his left hand against Purdy and will be sidelined for a few months.
While Mayweather, who holds world titles at welterweight and junior middleweight, is scheduled to face junior middleweight titlist Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in a world title fight on Sept. 14 at a catchweight of 152 pounds, he still has up to four more fights remaining on the deal he signed earlier this year with Showtime/CBS.
Khan and Alexander have already heard their names mentioned as possible future opponents for Mayweather. Alexander, a former junior welterweight titlist, moved up to welterweight in 2012 and Schaefer said it makes sense for Khan to do the same.
"If your goal is to fight Floyd at some point, obviously, the action is at 147 and you might as well go up and introduce yourself in that weight class, where he could actually be stronger at the higher weight," Schaefer said. "Amir feels that will be the case with him. He won't have to worry about making weight so much and he can focus on training. He is excited to move up to 147. He realizes there are tremendous opportunities."
In his last fight, on April 27 in England, Khan fought for the first time over 140 pounds and outpointed former two-time lightweight titlist Julio Diaz in a fight contracted at 143. The weight was a concession to Diaz, who had been fighting at a heavier weight for the past few years, but Khan said he felt comfortable.
"(Golden Boy matchmaker) Robert (Diaz) saw at the weigh-in that he was dry and asked if he had a problem making the weight," Schaefer said. "He was at 149, 148 (in the days leading up to the fight) and to get down, those last few pounds usually come off easy. But this time he had more of a difficult time getting them off. Robert noticed that and felt like he didn't look like he usually does. He's been at 140 since 2007, so obviously it's time for him to move up."
Although Khan is leaving behind 140 pounds, where he lost a controversial decision in a world title fight to Lamont Peterson in December 2011 and then got knocked out in the fourth round in his next fight by Danny Garcia in a title unification fight in July 2012, Schaefer said those rematches -- which Khan said he wants -- eventually could take place at welterweight.
"Nobody says those rematches can't happen at 147," Schaefer said. "Those are great fights and it won't matter if they are at 140 or 147. People will still want to see them."
Khan believes the move up in weight will also help his ability to take a punch. He has been widely criticized for having a poor chin because of the way Garcia knocked him out and because he was stopped in 54 seconds by Breidis Prescott in a stunning upset in a 2008 lightweight fight.
"Part of my punch resistance is due to my weight," Khan said. "Sometimes you need that extra little bit (of weight) to take that punch. If you're not making weight properly, you're not going to take the punches as well. (Trainer) Virgil (Hunter) has seen me spar at 147. I talked to Virgil about moving up and he said, 'Who you looking to fight?' I said, 'Alexander.' He said, 'That's a good fight.'"
But a Mayweather fight remains Khan's ultimate goal, like it is for most every other top welterweight.
"When we are young the dream is to be world champion and now the dream is to fight and beat Floyd Mayweather," Khan said. "Once you beat Floyd Mayweather you become pound-for-pound and that's what everyone aims for. But you have to be in that weight division to be noticed. Everywhere I've been going people ask me when I'm fighting Floyd. Maybe I got knocked out or didn't perform well in some fights, but my style would be exciting to watch against him.
"He has five fights left. Five more opponents. Who brings him money, excitement, recognition and global recognition? I've been in the U.K., the European, American and Middle Eastern markets. He'll make a lot of money with Canelo Alvarez, but I can't think of any other boxer with as big of a following or pull that I have that he can make a fight with."
Amir Khan is moving up to the welterweight division with his next fight shaping up to be an elimination bout against titleholder Devon Alexander for a future opportunity to face pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr.