AMIR Khan was delighted with his cool and calculated performance as he returned to winning ways against outclassed Carlos Molina after two devastating defeats.
Bolton native Khan knew nothing less than victory would do after losing against Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia in the last 12 months.
There was no such upset at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, though, as the former unified light-welterweight world champion produced a measured, mature performance to break down unfancied Molina and prompt his corner to pull him out after the 10th round.
Khan’s 26-3 (18KOs) record bore the scars of a turbulent year which the fighter himself admitted was the worst of his professional life. Molina, meanwhile, was unbeaten - with 17 wins and a draw - but also untested, having campaigned mainly at the lower lightweight division.
The form book suggested the apparently light-punching Californian was the perfect opponent in this 12-round fight for the vulnerable Khan, who still bristles at suggestions his punch resistance is weak.
After being given a largely hostile welcome by the largely Latin American crowd, Khan stayed true to his pre-fight vow that he would be more patient.
He moved forward in measured bursts, landing shots before coming out of the way and breaking his outclassed opponent down.
“I thought I stuck to my gameplan and was keeping faith in my jab,” he said. “Carlos took some really good shots but was still coming forward, so I thought to myself ‘I’d better stick to this gameplan’.
“Virgil Hunter, my new coach, is a great trainer and I’m getting better at boxing, being a complete fighter. He’s teaching me things, like speed, patience, picking the right shots and when to throw them.
“Sometimes I’m too brave for my own good but now I know it is better to stick to a gameplan.”
Khan added: “I’m my own biggest critic after a loss and I always ask ‘what did I do wrong, why did I make those mistakes?’
“In the Garcia fight he caught me with a good shot but I’ll fight Danny Garcia again anytime, anywhere.”
Molina was quick to hold his hands up and give credit to the better man.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I wanted to pull the trigger but for some reason I couldn’t get my hands to go.
“I had a lack of precision. He was fast with his jab and I was hesitant, trying to get in because he has a long reach.
“I didn’t use my jab and I lost my undefeated record. I felt like I connected two or three times but not from the right distance to reconnect after I wobbled him.
“I’m going to go back, work hard and get back into the ring.”
Khan was patient throughout, refusing to stand and trade for extended periods.
Instead he landed trademark lightning-fast combinations before utilising his footwork to get out of harm’s way.
Even Molina was arguably still in with a puncher’s chance but after another round of one-way traffic in the 10th, the American was spared further futile punishment and the win was Khan’s.
*Sheffield’s Liam Cameron recorded a first roound TKO over Paul Morby at the Octagon Centre, last night. See Monday’s Star.