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Amir Khan looking to make a statement in Las Vegas debut

British light welterweight eyes division’s best with a win this weekend

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Steve Marcus

WBA super lightweight champion Amir Khan of England shadow boxes during a workout in Las Vegas, Wednesday, December 8, 2010. Khan will take on Marcos Maidana of Argentina in a WBA super lightweight title fight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday.

Maidana Khan workouts

Super lightweight boxer Marcos Maidana of Argentina wraps his hands before a workout in Las Vegas, Wednesday, December 8, 2010. Maidana will take on Amir Khan of England in a WBA super lightweight title fight at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday. Launch slideshow »

British boxer Amir Khan says he’s always dreamed of seeing his name featured in the lights on the Las Vegas Strip.

Should he do well in his Vegas debut this weekend, the city often referred to as the boxing capital of the world will certainly invite him back.

Khan (23-1, 17 KO) is looking to make a statement Saturday when he takes on Marcos Maidana (29-1, 27 KO) for the WBA junior welterweight title at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.

Already a big draw in the United Kingdom, the 24-year-old Khan brought his talent overseas for the first time earlier this year in a TKO win over Paulie Malignaggi at Madison Square Garden in New York.

He’ll looks to leave an impression on Las Vegas next and continue building his status among American fans.

“My dream is to become a global star, not only a star in Britain,” Khan said. “To do that, I have to fight the best in America.

“I’ve come here at a young age. Not that many fighters have the balls to come here at this age and do what I’m doing. I could make more money fighting at home. I choose to fight here and prove to the world that I want to win everything.”

A win over Maidana won’t turn Khan into a household name in the U.S., but according to his trainer, Freddie Roach, it’s a matchup that offers other incentives.

In addition to likely putting Khan in line with a big-name fighter down the road, a good performance Saturday against a knockout artist like Maidana should silence critics who have said he has no chin.

“I think Maidana is well known in the boxing world but not to the general public,” Roach said. “We need an opponent who is more popular with the fans.

“But we win this and everyone saying, ‘This guy has no chin’ will go away. And the winner of this fight will get another big name in the division.”

The bout is being promoted as a clash of styles. Khan, who has been compared to pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao in terms of speed, will be the technically sound fighter with the intelligent game plan. Maidana, the knockout artist, will play the role brawler.

It’s a sound prediction of how the two will approach the fight. But Khan says he takes an issue with anyone downplaying his punching power.

Like his sparring partner and friend Pacquiao, Khan says he’ll demonstrate his skill but actively look to hurt Maidana as well.

“When this fight was put together, there were a lot of people talking about how it’s a boxer versus a fighter,” Khan said. “I think Marcos Maidana’s record says it all — 27 knockouts of 29 opponents.

“But I really think in this fight I’ll be coming in a puncher. People are taking away from my power and saying that Maidana is the bigger puncher. It’s something I’ve been training.”

Although just 24, Khan has been fighting professionally for six years now and British media especially have noted changes in his demeanor and appreciation for the business side of boxing.

Khan agrees he’s grown a lot in the past years but says the inner drive he started his career with is still very much with him.

And according to some, the opportunity for Khan to be considered among the sport’s best could be just one fight away.

“I think you’ll start hearing the name of Saturday’s winner along with the elite fighters, like the Mayweathers and the Pacquiaos,” said Kerry Davis, senior vice president of sports programming for HBO.

“And he’ll deserve it.”

Brett Okamoto can be reached at 948-7817 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at LVSunFighting

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