AMIR KHAN has had his boxing brain reprogrammed by trainer Virgil Hunter in a bid to outsmart star student Terence Crawford.
The pair meet on Saturday night and few fans, outside the 32-year-old Bolton hero's die-hard supporters, are giving him a chance.
Crawford's WBO welterweight strap is his third title at a different weight and the switch hitter is regarded a one of the planet's pound-for-pound best thanks to his ring IQ.
And Hunter has admitted Khan's classes have been a struggle at his San Francisco gym, especially after the year and two fights spent apart after the American was hit with a life-threatening illness in 2018.
Hunter said: "Focus is his main Achilles' heel. I used to tell him all the time, I shouldn’t have to re-programme you every time you came back to camp. I had to re-programme him when it should all have sunk in.
“He’s never been a student of the game. He goes to camp, he’s very coachable, he gives it his all, but you develop as a fighter in between fights.
"I used to encourage him to do mini-camps, but there was always some business he needed to do.
“Then he had to go somewhere, so there were always obstacles. So I just took it upon myself to help him be the best he can be.
I used to tell him all the time, I shouldn’t have to re-programme you every time you came back to camp. He's never been a student of the game.
“I keep saying to him that the sky is the limit with your ability, but you can’t keep relying on your reflexes in situations because that’s going to go.
"Your physical ability is going to go, but your brain can make that up.
"Pressure has always been Amir’s problem when a fighter puts pressure on him. He said that himself, that’s where IQ comes in."
Khan was dropped by Samuel Vargas last time out, in September, but won a unanimous decision.
The lapse in concentration was similar to the one that led to the devastating KO he suffered to Canelo Alvarez in 2016 but thankfully not as costly.
And mastermind Hunter knows even a second of stupidity could cost his man in New York.
He said: "Amir has to be focused for every second of every round and he has to be prepared for anything Crawford may do, switching, southpaw, if he puts pressure on you or runs around the ring. Amir needs to be patient too.
"Amir has a wandering mind in the gym if you don’t constantly give him the focus. He can be shadow boxing and his mind can be a million miles away.
“I’ve been working on certain things with him, the speed bag, shadow boxing, it’s not just about throwing punches. I want him to have a plan and be focused."
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