Amir Khan now realizes he was too exciting for his own good.
A boxer can only survive so many heedless brawls before his record and his health begin that inexorable decline toward retirement. Khan (26-3, 18 KOs) felt himself teetering on that downslope last July when the British 140-pound champion lost his belts to Danny Garcia in a dramatic stoppage.
''It's in my blood,'' Khan said. ''I want to have wars. I want to be in exciting fights. But why do I have to do that?''
Khan asked that question constantly for the past few months while rebuilding himself into something better. With a newfound dedication to intelligent boxing and a new trainer in his corner, Khan begins his climb back to the top on Saturday against Carlos Molina (17-0-1, 7 KOs).
Khan's loss to Garcia was the type of defeat that causes soul-searching, particularly on the heels of a decision loss to Lamont Peterson late last year. After examining the effects of fame and machismo on his style, he placed blame on himself for giving in to the primal urges in anybody who takes up boxing for a living.
''I was getting bored in there,'' Khan said of his loss to Garcia. ''I was beating him so easily, and I started to want to put on a show and take chances. That's when I got caught. If I had stuck to the type of fight that I should have, I would have beaten him. ... I see myself as the underdog now, in a way, after my last fight. This is the hardest I've ever trained, and I'm in top form.''
Khan's fight against Molina, a rising local prospect, is the grand finale of a marathon show at the venerable Los Angeles Sports Arena downtown, starting roughly eight hours earlier with the first live boxing on CBS in 15 years. Leo Santa Cruz will defend his IBF bantamweight title against unbeaten Alberto Guevara, and U.S. Olympian Joseph Diaz Jr. will make his pro debut along with a handful of fellow Olympic boxers.
Golden Boy isn't trying to make stacks of cash at the gate for this daylong event: Fans will be allowed in free for the afternoon session, and Golden Boy will give tickets for the evening session to anybody donating a toy for a charity drive.
The evening show features exciting 154-pounder Alfredo Angulo's next comeback fight against Jorge Silva, along with unbeaten heavyweight Deontay Wilder's attempt at his 26th consecutive knockout victory against Kelvin Price.
Khan concludes the event with his attempt to put his career back on an upward trajectory. The biggest move in Khan's self-evaluation over the past few months was a change in trainers, dumping Freddie Roach for Virgil Hunter.
''I wouldn't say he's changed his style, but I would say he's changed his mindset,'' said Hunter, the mastermind behind Andre Ward's rise up the pound-for-pound rankings. ''He just had to understand who he was, and how to get the most out of that. He knows how to fight, but he was never taught how to box.''
That's just one of several swipes directed at Roach by Khan's camp in recent months. Khan's camp decided he needed more full-time attention than Roach could give him - and Khan stoked a little acrimony by saying Roach had slowed down due to his Parkinson's disease, an opinion hotly disputed by Roach and Manny Pacquiao.
But Khan and Hunter appear to mesh particularly well. Although Khan still lives a big lifestyle after nearly a decade of enormous fame in Britain, complete with an exorbitant entourage of hangers-on and sycophants, he willingly moved to San Francisco to train with the East Bay-based Hunter.
''He's very coachable,'' Hunter said. ''If you tell him something, he believes in you, and he does it. I've always believed if a fighter is confident, he's going to be coachable, and that's been the case with him.''
Khan insists he's still an exciting fighter, and he's confident in his chances of finishing Molina, a 26-year-old with no topflight opponents on his resume. If Khan survives, his global name recognition and Golden Boy backing will put him back in the division's biggest fights - but Molina could join that same group by handing Khan his third straight loss.
''We're going to fight him in my city,'' Molina said. ''We're going to fight in the hood, so I'm going to make this a street fight. He can't come into my city and beat me.''