Amir Khan, left, and Carlos Molina during weigh-in for their super lightweight… (Damian Dovarganes / Associated…)
Since his last fight, Amir Khan has fired his famed trainer Freddie Roach and altered his fighting mind-set — he vows it's all for the better.
The crowd Saturday night at the Los Angeles Sports Arena will see if Khan is right.
"It's in my blood to get into wars, but I can make it so much easier on myself by just sticking to the boxing, to the game plan," said Khan (26-3, 18 knockouts) this week.
A year and a half ago Khan's aggressive style established him as one of boxing's new stars. He'd won a thrilling conquest of Marcos Maidana in boxing's 2010 fight of the year, followed it with knockouts over Paul Malignaggi and Zab Judah, and the British star seemed unbeatable as a junior-welterweight champion.
But last December, Khan lost a split decision to Lamont Peterson, then he suffered a knockout loss to junior-welterweight champion Danny Garcia in July.
Khan returns to the ring in the main event Saturday in a nontitle junior-welterweight bout against Norwalk's Carlos Molina (17-0-1, seven KOs).
The Showtime-televised evening card also includes a heavyweight bout between unbeaten Deontay Wilder (25-0, 25 KOs) and Kelvin Price (13-0, six KOs), and Alfredo Angulo in a junior-middleweight bout against Jorge Silva.
This week Molina tried to egg on Khan at a news conference, telling the former champion he was "in my city, in the 'hood, and I'm going to make this a street fight."
Khan, though, is intent to let his boxing speed and overall skill settle the matter.
"I've stuck my head in there too often trying to make more exciting fights for the crowd, but trying to please the crowd too much can be a bad thing," Khan said. "Maybe I've watched too many 'Rocky' movies."
After losing to Garcia, Khan fired Roach in favor of Virgil Hunter, who also trains unbeaten super-middleweight champion Andre Ward.
"Freddie Roach teaches offense," said Oscar De La Hoya, Khan's promoter, who briefly fought under Roach. "Sometimes you have to lean on defense."
That's most critical, Khan says, in the moments after absorbing a hard blow, like the third-round punch on the neck by Garcia that left Khan woozy. Khan got up, went back to battle in the fourth and got finished. Hunter wants Khan to take a round off if such a situation presents itself again.
"To me, it's not about the quality of his chin," Hunter said. "He can take a punch. It's his decisions after that where he can avoid trouble."
Khan said he aims for "a good win" against Molina to set up a 2013 rematch with Garcia, who is scheduled to fight Judah in early 2013. If Khan wins Saturday, his promoter Richard Schaefer likes the idea of matching Khan against Josesito Lopez in April at Staples Center.
The Sports Arena fight card starts at 1 p.m. with five afternoon fights — admission is free for the afternoon.
CBS will broadcast its first boxing bouts on afternoon television in more than 15 years with International Boxing Federation bantamweight champion Leo Santa Cruz (22-0-1, 13 KOs) facing San Diego's Alberto Guevara (16-0, six KOs). The afternoon card also features the pro debut of El Monte's 2012 U.S. Olympian Joseph Diaz Jr., who fights junior-featherweight Vicente Alfaro.
Meanwhile, it's the fifth bout of the year for Santa Cruz and another opportunity to display the body punching skill that has led to three technical knockouts this year.
"You hit them right here," Santa Cruz said, pointing to the rib cage, "you can really hurt them. It doesn't matter how strong someone is. That hurts, it takes the air out of you."