Forget any doubts about Amir Khan. Forget about ring rust, or a busted career. The former light-welterweight world champion produced a huge statement here on Saturday night on his ring return after two years away with a vicious knockout of opponent Phil Lo Greco, blitzing the Canadian and dropping him twice in under 39 seconds.
Khan’s blistering fists did all the talking he needed. Speed kills, they say in boxing, and Khan’s hand speed has always been dangerous early in fights.
Some perspective is needed, given that Lo Greco is not an elite fighter, yet he went the distance with former world champion Shawn Porter, and Khan joined current world welterweight champion Errol Spence as the only other boxer to stop Lo Greco.
Khan delighted a sold-out arena here beside the Mersey, going to work with a determined immediacy, looking fast, precise and emphatic.
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It was an electrifying left-right that was unleashed by Khan for his first knock-down of his opponent, followed up by a series of left hooks seconds later to finish the show. “I caught him early and speed was causing him big problems,” said an elated Khan. “It’s been two years but I have not lost anything. The hunger is still there, my body just needed that break.”
The arena erupted at Khan’s triumph, as did the needle between Khan and British arch rival Kell Brook, a rivalry that has bubbled darkly for several years.
Intriguingly, it was Spence who defeated Brook to claim the Sheffield fighter’s welterweight crown last year. Brook stepped into the ring after the fight, with the two men renewing their grudge and rivalry. Khan threw down a challenge to Brook and left the ring with his entourage.
“It’s all banter, I respect Kell. It’s a fight that can happen down the line. The option is there, we’ll sit with Eddie Hearn and discuss it next week. The main thing is I’m back.”
Brook, though, was not so impressed with the Khan tete-a-tete. He said: “He gave me no eye-contact, said his thing, and ran off. I’m getting hounded about fighting him. I just want to punish him, knock him out. We are both on a high after wins and it is time for us to fight.”
Hearn agreed, but admitted there was much negotiation to do. “It’s a stadium fight,” he said. “They asked if Amir Khan still has it. Does he still have the speed? He was even faster. What a statement after his absence from a British ring. This was just brilliant.”
Just before Khan’s ring return, there was a majestic, disciplined performance from Tommy Coyle who stopped Sean Dodd in the sixth round to claim the Commonwealth lightweight title. It was the perfect precursor to the Bolton fighter’s ring walk.
Earlier, the thrilling Conor Benn, son of former world champion Nigel, extended his unblemished ledger to 12 victories with another stoppage over Birmingham’s Chris Truman, the fight being stopped in the fourth round.
Benn, 21, is still learning on the job, with his father reiterating afterwards that he only had 20 amateur fights.
At the start of the night, Natasha Jonas landed her first professional title with a seventh round stoppage of French fighter Taoussy L’Hadji, the popular Liverpool boxer claiming the vacant World Boxing Association international super-featherweight crown.
Hearn told Telegraph Sport on Saturday night that he will be looking to create a deal “for Jonas to fight for a world title next”. “I think she is ready,” said Hearn. Eva Wahlstrom, the WBC champion, of Finland, is the likely opponent.