Amir Khan will admit it: He still thinks about Lamont Peterson.
Two months ago, Khan was scheduled to face Peterson, the man who took Khan's 140-pound titles in a scrappy (and controversial) contest last December. It was a well promoted, highly anticipated grudge match.
Then Peterson tested positive for an illegal substance -- he later admitted to taking synthetic testosterone before the first fight, though insists that it was for a legitimate medical reason -- and the show fell apart.
"What got to me a little bit was just not having the chance to win my titles back and to kind of [set] things straight," Khan said. "The [truth] is I fought someone who was on illegal substances."
It's true, and Khan has unabashedly made sure everyone knows it. Unless you live in a cave, one devoid of a television, radio or an Internet connection, you know Khan's feelings on Peterson. Khan has branded him a cheater, one that, in his opinion, should be banned from the sport for life.
Khan's frustrations stem not only from a desire to avenge his loss, but also because the loss -- and the subsequent cancelation of the rematch -- disrupted his plans. Peterson was supposed to be a tuneup, one final fight at junior welterweight before Khan moved up to 147 pounds, where a lucrative fight with Floyd Mayweather likely was waiting.
Khan may still get a Mayweather fight. Outside of Manny Pacquiao, Khan represents the biggest money fight in the division. But it won't be on his timetable and the dissatisfaction of not getting a chance to take it out on Peterson lingers.
"I would have preferred to settle the score properly and gone in there and fought him," Khan said. "Even when he got caught, I thought there was still a chance of fighting him. But I've just got to put it behind me."
On Saturday night Khan will get a chance to win a pair of 140-pound titles when he takes on WBC titleholder Danny Garcia (11 p.m. ET, HBO). The WBA belt will also be on the line after the sanctioning body stripped Peterson of his title in the aftermath of the positive test result.
Garcia doesn't have the profile of Peterson, but he is one of the hottest junior welterweights in the world, unbeaten with wins over Nate Campbell, Kendall Holt and Erik Morales in the last 15 months.
"It's always tough when you fight an undefeated fighter because he has never tasted defeat before and they come into the fight confident," Khan said. "[But] sometimes they can make mistakes because coming into a fight
Khan admits there is some concern about overtraining. After the Peterson fight was scrubbed, Khan took three weeks off before getting back into the gym. Khan says he tried to prevent overtraining by bringing his new conditioning coach, Ruben Tabares, who replaced the deposed Alex Ariza, back to England with him during his break.
"We have been very professional in the way we have done things," Khan said. "I think having more time in training camp [has made] me a better fighter because it has given me more time to work on my diet, my nutrition, my condition. It's like a full-time job."
If Khan needed more motivation, Angel Garcia, Garcia's father and trainer, provided it, saying recently that he "never met a Pakistani who could fight" and that "Khan's God is a punishing God, my God is a loving God."
Khan, a British Pakistani and Muslim, has taken the high road.
"At the end of the day, Danny's father is not the one who is going to be in the ring fighting," Khan said. "I let my fists do the talking in the ring because the only people that are going to be in the ring are me and Danny. We can sort things out [there]."
At 25, Khan is just entering his prime. And though bitterness about the Peterson fight remains, Khan believes there are positives to take from the experience.
"It was a great learning curve for me because it made me realize that I need to be more professional," Khan said. "I made a lot of mistakes in there. Sometimes, that's a good wake-up call."