HE MAY have moved his training camp to the town of that name in California, but Amir Khan is definitely not suffering a case of the Union City blues.
As he talked to the UK press before Saturday’s massive clash with Devon Alexander in the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Khan sounded as confident and cheerful as at any time in his professional career which next year will reach the decade mark.
Gone is the fresh-faced, star-struck Lancashire lad who thrilled British sports fans by winning a silver medal at the Athens Olympics of 2004. Khan will celebrate his 28th birthday tomorrow and his new-found maturity, largely the result of fatherhood, has seen him turn his back on his home in Los Angeles, and Freddy Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, for Union City in the San Francisco Bay Area, an industrialised enclave with large minorities of Asian and Hispanic people.
It’s an almost symbolic move for Khan, swapping the bright lights and famous friends for a much smaller town where he has only his family for company.
“Sometimes, LA, it did become a big distraction,” said Khan. “I used to come in the gym, and I’d have Mark Wahlberg and a lot of these actors coming to the gym and watching me train, and then they would invite you for dinner afterwards and you can’t really say no to them, because they came to see you, you have to spend some time with them.
“It started getting really busy, and everyone comes to LA for holidays and vacations. Whenever they come, they all come to the Wild Card Gym, which is always busy, and I mean it got too much, really. I just needed to get away from that.
“And, when I came to Union City, it was just really quiet and I could focus more and rest more and you don’t really think of anything else. It’s very quiet and chilled and I’ve got my dad over here with me and my brother, so it helps me to chill a little bit. A little boring at times, but it’s only a week left now.
“Whereas in Hollywood, where I was based, it was just crazy at night-time. There were huge parties going on and in the daytime it was so busy meeting different types of celebrities, so you never got to restreally.”
Khan has buckled down to work since joining Virgil Hunter’s camp but knows he needs to impress against the tough and durable Alexander. The fact that the fight is in Vegas and is effectively an eliminator for the chance to fight living legends Floyd Mayweather Jr or Manny Pacquiao – rumoured to be meeting next year in what would be the most lucrative contest of all time – has Khan purring with anticipation. Khan said: “Devon’s never fought in Vegas. So, for him, it’s all new.
“I’ve fought there four times before, but this time it’s even bigger because the MGM is the main arena in Vegas and I can just imagine when it’s up against someone like Floyd Mayweather, it will be even more huge.”
Is he getting ahead of himself? Emphasising how focused he is on Alexander, Khan nevertheless permitted himself to speculate about meeting the best and most famous fighter on the planet.
He said: “After I win this fight people are going to demand me to fight Mayweather because of the performance. But we’ll just see how the fight goes, how it pans out.
“It’s much easier to make the Mayweather and Khan fight than it is the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight because, obviously, it’s all about public demand.
“We’re coming to a position where Mayweather, he’s fighting hard to get the fight against me, so it’s all about getting the public behind me and getting the public demand to force the fight to happen.
“So, you put a good performance on where the public starts believing that Amir Khan is the next guy to beat Mayweather or Pacquiao, and the money’s in that fight.”
Khan cannot wait to step into the MGM Grand Arena again after defeating Luis Collazo by a huge points verdict there in May. That night he was on the undercard of Mayweather’s narrow win over Marcos Maidana, but next Saturday his fight is top of the bill.
Khan said: “It’s something I always wanted. I always wanted to be on the Vegas strip with big posters of me.”
Devon Alexander is top class. He has suffered just two defeats in his 28-bout career, both in world title fights against Timothy Bradley and Shawn Porter.
Khan knows the danger: “He has never been stopped, he comes to fight and he’s very durable, quick hands, quick feet.
“So, we’ve been working a lot on the endurance, on the explosiveness at times and also good foot movement as well. We’ve been working on all different types of techniques to win this fight.”
Khan has sparred between 150 and 170 rounds in preparation for the southpaw Alexander, and, in only his second fight at welterweight, he is feeling physically and mentally comfortable at the weight.
He added: “What makes this fight even better, is that this fight can lead us both to a huge fight in the future with Pacquiao or Mayweather.”
Win in style and Khan will be in the mix for the defining fight of his career that will make him millions. Lose, and all that would be on the horizon would be a world title contest against IBF champion Kell Brook of Sheffield.
With all due respect to Brook, that would not be in the same league for Khan as a bout with Mayweather or Pacquiao. The stakes could not be higher.
Amir Khan v Devon Alexander is live on Sky Sports on Saturday 13 December.