Friday, July 13, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Yes, Freddie Roach is worried about the judges.
Manny Pacquiao’s trainer hasn’t let go of the highly controversial decision that saw his fighter lose a decision to Timothy Bradley at MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 9. In fact, he used it to emphasize his point in fellow Wild Card Gym fighter Amir Khan’s training camp leading into Saturday night’s title fight against Danny Garcia at Mandalay Bay.
“When the chance comes,” Roach said, “we will knock him out.”
Rare is the fight where at least one side doesn’t promise a knockout — in fact, this one has both of them doing it — but this is one of the few times where there is actually motivation behind the talk besides just hype.
Roach and Khan (26-2) have been through this before. There was controversy after Khan’s split-decision loss to Lamont Peterson in Washington, D.C., last December. And that only got louder after Peterson tested positive for synthetic testosterone ahead of the scheduled rematch on May 19.
After the failed drug test, Garcia (23-0) came into the picture. And this week, the WBA reinstated Khan as the 140-pound “super” titleholder, which means Khan could unify the titles with a victory against Garcia, who owns the WBC belt.
With more on the line and recent history letting them know anything can happen once a fight goes to the judges, Roach is confident Khan has heard his message to leave all compassion outside the ring.
“With Amir, that’s not a problem,” Roach said. “With Manny, that’s still a bit of a problem. Manny’s a nice guy.”
Khan’s camp — all 17 weeks of it — has been different, according to the fighter. He emphasized strength training to get more knockout power, started eating primarily organic food and even switched to non-fluoride toothpaste because he believes fluoride is bad for him.
“Totally changed the way I lived,” Khan said.
Garcia comes into the fight still looking to prove himself. The Philadelphia native is 24 years old with several big wins, but this is the one that could put him over the top.
Garcia most recently defeated Erik Morales in a unanimous decision and Kendall Holt in a split decision before that. His last fight in Las Vegas was on the preliminary card of Morales’ loss to Marcos Maidana at Grand Garden Arena on April 9, 2011.
Both of his fights since then were supposed to give him legitimacy, but after each victory, the talk focused on how his opponents were past their prime. But nobody can say that about Khan.
Garcia was given a good opportunity with this fight, and his relaxed nature at Tuesday’s fighter arrivals suggests he’s comfortable with the situation. To this point, he has left most of the trash-talking to his father and trainer, Angel, who got into a yelling match with Khan at the fight announcement press conference.
“Khan’s team’s worried about my dad. He’s fighting me; he’s not fighting my dad,” Garcia joked. “My dad’s going to be sitting back chilling.”
Garcia plans to attack, breaking through Khan’s defense with power that has led to 14 knockouts.
Khan has 18 knockouts, the most recent against Zab Judah at Mandalay Bay last July. An aggressive Garcia is exactly what Khan said he wants on Saturday.
“If he wants to come forward and fight me,” Khan said, “it’s the biggest mistake he could make in this fight.”
And the biggest mistake Khan could make is letting anyone besides he or Garcia decide this.