Amir Khan over Marcos Maidana.

WBA junior welterweight champion Amir “King” Khan firmly established himself as a force to be reckoned with at 140 lbs. on Saturday night at Mandalay Bay, outlasting Argentine knockout artist Marcos Maidana over 12 rounds to retain his title.

In doing so Khan (24-1, 17 KOs) may have finally silenced questions about his chin that have persisted since his first-round flooring at the hands of Breidis Prescott in September 2008. That fight increasingly looks like an anomaly, in no small part due to the subsequent hiring of trainer extraordinaire Freddie Roach.

Khan showed more intestinal fortitude in going the distance than many in boxing may have previously thought he possessed. Always blessed with strength and speed in abundance, against Maidana (29-2, 27 KOs) the lad from Bristol finally showed himself to have the heart of a champion as well.

Despite being forced to steady himself after catching repeated overhand rights Khan refused to clench, insisting on throwing back whenever he saw an opening. He dropped Maidana in the first with two devastating body shots but inexplicably focused on the Argentine’s iron jaw for the rest of the fight. Khan also survived a stiff challenge in the late rounds, showing a fighting spirit that should serve him well in future superfights.

Khan’s shots seemed crisp but credit Maidana for never failing to advance regardlessof how much punishment came his way. Marcos came back strong in the tenth, wobbling Khan with a series of heavy blows and seizing control in the second half of the fight. Unfortunately for him a series of questionable decisions by ref Joe Cortez may leave some wondering if the best man really won.

Doubtless some critics will also chide Khan for failing to engage sufficiently in the 12th, and it is a valid complaint. Khan did unleash a few combinations but his running in the final round will be a small blemish on what was otherwise a superb victory.

But Maidana was first-rate opponent called out specifically to answer questions about Amir’s willingness to battle and King Khan has passed the test. To any who watched the fight in its entirety it should be clear that Khan won a hard-fought and bitter contest that was a credit to both fighters. Khan’s speed and ability to land rapid flurries make him an attractive draw when combined with his sizable British fan base and overall marketability.

The obvious next step would appear to be a unification bout against the winner of Devon Alexander-Tim Bradley, who will fight on January 29 in Detroit at the Silverdome. Bradley in particular would present an appealing contrast of styles that would make for an exciting fight, one of the biggest boxing has seen this decade.

On the undercard Washington, DC-area junior welterweight Lamont Peterson scratched out a majority draw against “Vicious” Victor Ortiz. Ortiz’s nine pound size advantage was apparent early in the fight as he put Peterson on the canvas twice, only to see Lamont rise and regain control in the later rounds. Still, it appeared to this TV viewer that Ortiz did more damage in the fight and the majority draw (one card for Lamont) was certainly a surprise. 

Also on the undercard, former Michigan State linebacker Seth “Mayhem” Mitchell of Brandywine, Maryland knocked out Taurus Sykes in the fifth round.

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