IN a span of less than two months, Freddie Roach’s two best boxers in his Wild Card gym stable have lost their world titles one after the other.
After Filipino great Manny Pacquiao's controversial loss to Timothy Bradley, it was Amir Khan’s turn to fall in a stunning upset as he suffered a fourth-round technical knockout against Danny Garcia on Saturday (Sunday, Manila time) to yield his World Boxing Association (WBA) super-lightweight crown.
Ironically, the twin setbacks came at a time when the 52-year-old Roach was elevated to the boxing Hall of Fame.
Khan was a 7-1 favorite against the Philadelphia native, who won the World Boxing Council (WBC) version of the championship with a 12-round unanimous decision over former Pacquiao rival Erik Morales last March.
The 25-year-old British from Bolton, Lancashire, United Kingdom, won the first two rounds of the 12-round unification bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas as he had Garcia bleeding from a cut in his eye.
But the unbeaten Garcia turned the tide in the third when he sent Khan reeling to the canvas with a vicious left hook. Khan managed to survive the round but obviously failed to shake off the effects of that stunning knockdown.
Garcia knocked Khan down twice more in the fourth before referee Kenny Bayless finally put a stop to the carnage at the two-minute, 28-second mark.
Roach, the man behind the success of Pacquiao, admitted he was on the verge of stopping the fight just before the start of the fourth.
“I was real close to not letting him off the stool,” said the five-time Trainer of the Year. “'Are you okay, are you okay?' I asked him. He said, `Yeah,’ so we let him continue. It was a real touch-and-go moment.”
Khan’s shocking loss came on the heels of Pacquiao's split-decision loss to Bradley in their World Boxing Organization welterweight title fight last June 9 at the MGM Grand. Pacquiao's loss caused an uproar with most experts scoring the bout in the Filipino star's favor.
But unlike the Pacman’s loss, the setback suffered by Khan was more overwhelming.
Roach admitted the British veered away from the fight plan and went toe-to-toe with Garcia, who has 15 KOs in 24 fights.
“He wanted to go out and knock this guy out. The plan was to counter, I told him to box and use his jab. In and out. But then his heart got in the way,” said Roach.
Like Pacquiao, Roach believes Khan (26-2,18 KOs) will also be a stronger and more intelligent fighter when he returns to the ring.