Updated: May 14, 2010, 10:33 AM ET

Khan out to conquer Malignaggi in U.S. debut

Rafael By Dan Rafael
Amir Khan and Paulie MalignaggiJohn Gichigi/Bongarts/Getty ImagesLet's get down to business: Amir Khan, left, and Paulie Malignaggi put their fists to good use Saturday.

Amir Khan has fame, fortune and comfort when he fights at home in England, where he's been a star since claiming a 2004 Olympic silver medal when he was just 17.

But the junior welterweight titlist wants to be more than just a big fish in a small pond. So he's crossed the pond and hopes to make a splash in New York.

If he can make it there, he can make it anywhere, right?

"Its always been my dream to fight here in the U.S. and I know there will be a lot of pressure on me not fighting in front of my U.K. fans, but I made a name over there and now I'm ready to come make a name for myself here," Khan said.

Khan, now 23, gets the opportunity when he makes his second defense against Brooklyn's slick former titleholder Paulie Malignaggi at the Madison Square Garden Theater on Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET/PT).

In the co-feature, 23-year-old junior welterweight Victor Ortiz (26-2-1, 21 KOs), in his third fight since quitting against Marcos Maidana in '09, faces ex-lightweight titlist Nate Campbell (33-5-1, 25 KOs), 38, who was roughed up for three rounds by titleholder Tim Bradley before being cut by an accidental head butt in a three-round no contest in his last bout nine months ago. The winner puts himself in position for a major fight in the deep 140-pound division, perhaps against the main event victor.

Khan, the 2007 ESPN.com prospect of the year, didn't want to wait until late in his career to fight in the United States the way countrymen Joe Calzaghe, Ricky Hatton and Naseem Hamed did.

"A lot of fighters in the U.K. leave very late in their career to come to the U.S.," Khan said. "You look at Calzaghe and Hatton, I think they were over [40 fights] when they had their debut. I want to do it early. I think I won a world title a lot quicker than most British fighters because I trained at [Freddie Roach's] Wild Card Gym in L.A.

"I always used to get the question asked to me, 'When are you going to fight in the U.S.?' And that just made me more hungry, and now signing up with Golden Boy Promotions, I think, in a way, has made me more hungry to fight over here."

"Amir could've stayed in the U.K., where he has been extremely successful and gone for the paycheck," Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer said. "But no, he wanted to come to the U.S. and fight the very best. He's here to capture not only the New York fans, but the American fans as a whole."

Khan almost didn't make it, though, because he had to leave Los Angeles, where he had been on a tourist visa, to go to the consulate in Vancouver to handle paperwork issues related to a work visa. It turned into a nearly two-week ordeal of red tape. Roach and sparring partners flew up to be with him so he could finish training. It wasn't until last Friday that Khan, who is of Pakistani decent, received the visa -- which was no guarantee -- and was able to return to Los Angeles before heading to New York on Sunday.

Even with all the hoopla about his visa, which the Department of Homeland Security eventually cleared after a close look at him, most likely because of his name, background and the recent Times Square bombing attempt linked to the Pakistani Taliban, Khan is ecstatic to be fighting in New York.

"I really wanted the fight at the Madison Square Garden. I think it's the Mecca of boxing," Khan said. "I've been to a fight there. There've been some huge fights over in the Madison Square Garden. You've had [Muhammad] Ali fights. You've had [Mike] Tyson and big, big names. And hopefully they can put my name down there as well. Also, you had Naseem Hamed, who made his American debut there, and I'm sure my debut can be as good or maybe better."

Khan (22-1, 16 KOs), who blew away overmatched mandatory challenger Dmitriy Salita in 76 seconds in his first defense in December, may be hard pressed to make his American debut better than Hamed's.

However, the circumstances mirror Hamed's in many ways. In 1997, Hamed, then the brash and flamboyant featherweight champion from England, came to the MSG main arena to fight New Yorker Kevin Kelley, the experienced former titlist and trash-talker extraordinaire.

They produced a classic slugfest with numerous knockdowns with Hamed eventually scoring a fourth-round knockout. Khan, who already has been knocked out in his lone first-round loss to Breidis Prescott, isn't as flamboyant or powerful as Hamed. And Malignaggi (27-3, 5 KOs), closer to his prime than Kelley was, isn't nearly the puncher that Kelley was. Still, it's a similar situation.

"I'm fighting a guy who is very experienced, who is well-known in New York, and I'm going to be fighting him in his own backyard and hopefully be the guy to beat him there as well," Khan said.

Another similarity to Hamed-Kelley is that Malignaggi, like Kelley, feels disrespected as the B-side of the fight in his own hometown and in terms of the way the fight is being promoted.

"[Khan] may have a great career ahead of him, but on [Saturday], he will get his second loss," Malignaggi, 29, said. "The Hamed-Kelley fight was the first live fight I ever saw, when I had only been training for six months and wasn't even a pro yet. That was the fight that inspired me to pursue my career as a fighter. All of these Brits come to the U.S. to make their debuts against New Yorkers, and yes, they all have the common denominator that they have all beat us, but they were never tested like I will test Amir in his debut.

"I have a lot of respect for Amir, but he's going to get beat because when I get in the ring, I throw down. Madison Square Garden is Paulie Malignaggi. This is New York and it's my town. I will have all the answers."

Although Malignaggi is a pure boxer with very little pop, he talks like a knockout artist taking aim at Khan's questionable chin.

"If I get hit on chin, I'm not going to wobble," Malignaggi said. "If Amir Khan starts wobbling, I hope they have a pillow for him in the corner, because he's going to sleep. I'm going to enjoy sinking my punches into Khan. Some fights are just business, but not this one. I'm going to enjoy every punch I land.

"He talks a lot, and he's really getting a little bit ahead of himself, and now he's getting a little bit on my nerves. Actually, he's getting a lot a bit on my nerves, to tell you the truth. I think the most enjoyable part of [the fight] is going to be beating the s--- out of him, not even winning the world title. That's going to be like the second most enjoyable part."

Khan laughed off Malignaggi's tough talk.

"Malignaggi is a funny character," he said. "I think I'll be the first guy to shut him up properly with my boxing skills and speed and power."

Guerrero-Casamayor talks

Ethan Miller/Getty ImagesJoel Casamayor wants to see the money before he dusts himself off for a fight with Robert Guerrero.

One of the fights Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer is proposing for the July 31 HBO PPV undercard of the Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz rematch is an intriguing match between Joel Casamayor (37-4-1, 22 KOs), 38, and 27-year-old Robert Guerrero (26-1-1, 18 KOs).

The vastly experienced Casamayor, an ex-junior lightweight and lightweight champion, has been inactive but rebounded from his September 2008 knockout loss to Marquez to outpoint Jason Davis last fall. Guerrero, a former featherweight and junior lightweight titlist, returned from an eight-month layoff April 30 for a knockout of Roberto Arrieta. The winner of the proposed bout would be in a tremendous spot for a bigger fight.

Schaefer said if it's made it would be at a catchweight between 135 and 140 pounds because Casamayor can no longer make lightweight.

Luis DeCubas Jr., Casamayor's manager, told ESPN.com that they're considering the fight.

"Golden Boy offered it. Joel will fight anybody, but we have to talk about the purse," he said. "If we can work out the money he'll fight him. We didn't talk about the specific weight but it would have to be closer to 140 than 135. We'll see. Joel needs to do something. He's not getting any younger."

The Guerrero side is also interested and willing to concede weight to Casamayor. "We would fight at 137 or so. We'd meet him in the middle," said Shelly Finkel, Guerrero's manager. "We would like to make it."


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