After winning the WBA light-welterweight title against Andreas Kotelnik in the summer of 2009, Amir Khan was launched into the big time in British boxing and after a 76-second title defence against Dmitry Salita, the Olympic silver medallist made his Stateside debut with an 11-round destruction of Paulie Malignaggi at Madison Square Garden.
That victory whetted the appetite of fight fans over in the United States and with Khan eager to unify the 140lbs division, he called out the hard-hitting Marcos Maidana, who had recorded 27 knockouts in his 30 appearances as a professional. From a technical standpoint, the likes of Devon Alexander and Timothy Bradley were considered tougher opponents but Khan was intent on proving his durability against a man who possessed the most power in the weight class.
Maidana had indicated his willingness to travel to England but on this day in 2010, the two fighters walked out at the Mandalay Bay resort in Las Vegas in front of a sold-out crowd who were expecting to see an entertaining encounter. The bout had been dubbed 'Thunder & Lightning', but ahead of the contest, it was difficult to predict the 12-round storm that would soon transpire in Nevada.
Seconds after the opening bell, it was apparent that Khan possessed the superior speed but it didn't take long for Maidana to rock him with a huge right. Maidana was eager to pounce but Khan quickly settled and towards the end of the opening stanza, the Brit floored the Argentine with a crippling bodyshot that left him in a heap on the canvas.
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Maidana was visibly hurt and looked on the verge of being stopped for the first time in his career, but he made the count and survived the round after the bell saved him from another Khan onslaught. The second round followed a similar pattern to that of the final 90 seconds of the first, but in round three, despite taking more punches from Khan, Maidana connected a heavy blow that momentarily had the champion on the ropes.
A number of blistering combinations were enough for Khan to take the fourth but it came at a cost as Maidana had success with several uppercuts that had Khan holding on. They didn't have enough bite on them to threaten a stoppage but they were enough to keep Khan aware that despite his dominance in the fight so far, he couldn't afford any complacency.
The fifth saw Khan raise his game to easily take the round, and he was handed a gift from Maidana who was docked a point for an attempted elbow that ended up connecting with the shoulder of referee Joe Cortez. During the sixth, though, the South American came on strong, consistently catching Khan with heavy blows that had the WBA title holder on the back foot for much of the round.
The seventh also went Maidana's way after more uppercuts landed on the button and it appeared as though Khan's considerable lead on the cards could prove irrelevant as he was drawn into a slugfest with the challenger. However, during the eighth and ninth, Khan began to regain a foothold in the fight, picking off Maidana at will as it looked like he was running out of steam, but the 10th saw a change in the tide, one that almost cost Khan his world title.
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Khan bossed the opening minute but out of nowhere, Maidana landed with a booming overhead right that wobbled Khan's legs and left him desperately hanging on to avoid the knockdown. Maidana sensed his moment and unloaded with heavy, persistent punishment for the final two minutes of the round but somehow, Khan survived, before stumbling to his corner aware that he still had six minutes to survive if he wanted to retain his belt.
As soon as the bell rang for the 11th, Maidana stalked Khan around the ring, but after doing well to stay out of range, Khan landed a powerful uppercut that discouraged the challenger and against the odds, the Brit was able to take the round. That left Maidana knowing that he probably required a stoppage to become world champion and for the majority of the final round, he threw everything that he had at Khan, who was content to try to hold on.
However, in what was a fitting end to a showdown that was widely regarded as the fight of the year, Khan gave one last example of his bravery and hand speed by trading with Maidana in the centre of the ring before the bell sounded. Khan lifted his arms, perhaps partly in relief, but he knew that he had done enough to retain his crown and he had proven a point to those that had criticised his ability to take a punch.
A unanimous verdict of 114-111, 114-111 and 113-112 was announced, all in favour of Khan, to confirm his third successful title defence. The Brit would go on to record victories over Paul McCloskey and Zab Judah but in his sixth defence, Khan lost his world title after losing a controversial points decision to American Lamont Peterson.