Amir Khan’s trainer Virgil Hunter believes he “could have achieved more” in a brutally frank assessment of the fighter’s career.
Bolton boxer Khan may be an Olympic silver medallist and former unified world light-welterweight champ, but Hunter feels he had “too much, too soon” in a fight career that peaked seven years ago when the Brit last held a world title.
That frustrates Hunter, because he believes Khan had the talent to be a multi-weight world champion — like Terence Crawford, the Brit's opponent at Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday.
While Khan’s career has tapered off in recent years, Crawford’s has gone supersonic since he won his first world title against Ricky Burns in Glasgow in 2014.
“Of course, he could have achieved more. His ability is insane,” said Hunter. “What he was gifted with, you take that and max it out.
“But I think he had too much, too soon. You don’t think you have to work any more. You think you’ve arrived, when you haven’t.
“Your promoter can get you to the title, he can get you to the belt. If you put bums on seats, they will manipulate the governing bodies to get you there.
“I think once he got there, I don’t know the full story, but his approach was he thought he’d arrived. He had people in his ear telling him how great he was. He had some great performances, like Paul Malignaggi and Zab Judah. They were all illusions and stopped him thinking he wasn’t good enough yet – and stopped him looking ahead.
“In this sport, you have to keep looking ahead. That’s the whole key.”
Hunter feels Khan’s brutal KO by Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in May 2016 was a shattering blow, not just for his body, but for his career.
Khan, 32, lost two years out of the ring as he battled a hand injury which nearly forced him to quit boxing, and Hunter says he should have ignored Canelo and accepted the offers for world-title fights.
“I think if the decision had not been made to make the Canelo fight, things might have been different,” said the American cornerman. “He had the option of other fights – I think Danny Garcia was champion, Keith Thurman was champion. He had the opportunity to compete with these people.
“Instead, they took the Canelo fight, which I was totally against, and that was a major setback.
“It broke my heart to see him lying there, and it didn’t have to happen.
“He tells me now he didn’t want the fight, but he didn’t want people to think he was scared.
“He was on a roll before Canelo. He had beaten Devon Alexander and that was when he was putting it all together. If he had built on that, and taken each fight seriously, he could have gone on a great run.”
* Amir Khan challenges Terence Crawford for the WBO welterweight belt, live on BT Sport Box Office, on Saturday. For more information, go to www.bt.com/btsportboxoffice