NEW YORK—Last month, the announcement of Amir Khan-Chris Algieri was met with a collective shrug. Algieri? Two years ago Algieri was a club fighter. He scored a debatable win over Ruslan Provodnikov and has ridden it longer than Corey Feldman did Goonies. He scored a $2 million payday against Manny Pacquiao and, now, a mid-six figure check against Khan, the popular Brit.
What did Algieri do to deserve a televised fight with Khan? What did a six-knockdown beating by Pacquiao earn? Nothing—which is exactly why Khan chose him. When you’re courting Floyd Mayweather, the last thing you want across the ring is a threat.
Khan picked up a win on Friday, outpointing Algieri in a unanimous decision. But if the goal was to look impressive—Hey, look at me Floyd!—the outcome was a defeat. Credit Algieri: Under the tutelage of John David Jackson, the brains behind Sergey Kovalev, Algieri was reinvigorated. He applied pressure. He loaded up. He stood in the pocket, took Khan’s best shot, grinned and kept on coming. The decision was fair—Khan edged Algieri in total punches (216–197) and power shots (154–145)—but far from decisive.
And that’s what Khan needed, isn’t it? The dream was to stop Algieri, to do what Pacquiao could not. That dream vaporized in seconds, when Algieri walked through everything Khan offered. Instead of an opponent, Khan got a fight; instead of a sparring session, Khan got a brawl.
All week, Khan talked about the future, about the super fight he believed he earned. Once, he did. Once, Khan silenced critics, outpointing Marcos Maidana. Once, Khan steamrolled Andriy Kotelnik, Paulie Malignaggi, and Zab Judah. Once, Khan credibly rose up the ranks. He fought like boxing royalty; now, he just acts like it.
Khan has had a Mayweather fight yanked away from him before, and after Friday’s effort there is a chance he does again. It’s true, if Mayweather fights in September—and he has yet to deviate from the schedule he presented when he signed Showtime’s six-fight deal—his options are limited. Keith Thurman is unknown, Danny Garcia is untested at welterweight and Gennady Golovkin is, well, unrealistic.
Kell Brook is out there, and wouldn’t that be something? Brook has been chasing Khan for years, clamoring for an all-England showdown when he was a contender, demanding it after he claimed the IBF title. Brook is popular—he will headline his second title defense in two months when takes on Frankie Gavin on Saturday—and powerful, a credible champion who, like Khan, carries a coveted British fan base.
Khan’s late night barroom desperation for Mayweather has been embarrassing, and ultimately his pleas could yield nothing. “All he wanted was that lottery ticket,” Jackson said. Instead of fighting his way to Mayweather, Khan chose to sit. Instead of taking on all comers—and it’s ridiculous that Khan-Brook didn’t take place this month—Khan chose to cherry pick. He thought he would blitz Algieri, kick back and wait for Mayweather to come calling in the fall. Instead, he will nervously wait to see if Mayweather spits out his name on Twitter.
Sitting on a dais, Jackson was defiant. “In defeat, [Algieri] still came out better than Amir did,” Jackson said. Indeed, it’s hard to argue with that.