Amir Khan has denied Terence Crawford’s accusations he “quit” six rounds into their WBO welterweight title fight at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
The 32-year-old had already suffered a knockdown in the opening round and had continued to take significant punishment up to the sixth when Crawford landed a sickening low blow.
Khan was by then also appearing to struggle with an injury to his right arm and, instead of taking the full five minutes he would have been allowed to recover, was withdrawn by his trainer Virgil Hunter having used only a fraction of it, ensuring his defeat via stoppage.
The conclusion was both unsatisfactory and out of character within the context of Khan’s career, in which of his five defeats four have come inside the distance but previously without questions surrounding his heart.
Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s knockout of him was devastating and against both Breidis Prescott and Danny Garcia he was admirably attempting to fight on, but the crowd in New York was so angry at his withdrawal against Crawford that he was loudly booed until he left the ring.
Crawford, 31 and after Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko widely considered the finest fighter in the world, even interrupted Khan’s post-fight press conference to insist he “tell the truth” about his defeat, but his challenger responded: “I could feel it in my stomach.
“I recovered from shots in that fight but I just never recovered from that last shot. I don’t want to take anything away from Crawford, he put on a great fight; it was a pleasure to be in the ring with him.
“I would never quit – I’d rather get knocked out. I’ve been knocked out because I’ve tried. The leg? It was the balls.
“I’ve never quit from a fight. A great fighter beat me. I don’t quit.
“I’ve had a few little problems in camp (with my right arm) but it was fine; the adrenaline kept it going. I was okay to continue.
“If I quit I would not be sat here in front of you – I wanted to face you and to face Terence as well.
“I wanted to fight the best out there and win as many titles as I can. I’ll spend time with my family and see where I go from there. I lost to a very good fighter – he’s very skilful. I’m 32. I’ve still got a lot left in me and I still love the sport.”
There will be even greater interest in Crawford next fighting fellow American and welterweight champion Errol Spence, and he said to Khan: “You didn’t quit? Tell the truth. I’m asking you what happened.
“It was low, it was low; it probably was low.
“I saw Amir’s face and he was shaking his head. I was getting disappointed because I knew he was looking for a way out. I thought ‘Oh, man, he’s about to quit’, and I was right.
“That’s not the way I wanted to finish the fight but Virgil’s in his corner for a reason, he has to look out for his fighter; he thought his fighter didn’t want to fight anymore so he stopped it.
“I was touching him more, picking up the intensity, and he was looking for a way out.”