AMIR KHAN ducked out of his final shot at greatness as a low blow from welterweight champion Terence Crawford forced him to quit.
The 32-year-old Bolton hero was dropped in the first round and looked doomed but rallied his way back into the contest up until the sixth.
But a groin-shot at 47 seconds of the midway point forced him to cash out with £5million in the bank and his crown jewels badly bruised.
Khan was booed when he tried to explain: “I would never give up. I had a feeling in my stomach and in my legs after the low shot. I couldn’t continue.”
And in the post-fight press conference, he added that coach Virgil Hunter, not him, had made the decision to end the fight.
The pre-fight pyrotechnics for the WBO welterweight clash seemed excessive, when Crawford guarantees fireworks with both hands.
At the foot of the four steps to the ring he crossed himself in a bid to connect with God but, as he slid through the ropes, Khan came face-to-face with a devil.
Switch-hitting Bud started orthodox but Khan was busier, not deterred by taunts of “USA”.
But moments later he was floored by a right hand and two left hooks that turned his legs to jelly. Khan shook his head as he rose but he was in deep trouble.
It was a miracle he survived the round, his lower limbs betraying him once again after his whiskers were tickled just too hard.
Somehow Khan recovered his composure for the second and escaped without any real damage. He took no risks and stayed well out of range, surviving to campaign for another session at least.
In the third a lead-left hook right hand gave Khan an encouraging start and ambidextrous Crawford soon switched to southpaw to see out the round.
Cries of “Amir, Amir” rang out at the start of the fourth and he was encouraged into throwing a one-two. But everytime the brave Brit dared to attack Crawford upped a gear and panicked him.
Khan appeared to be shaking off an arm injury but caught the Omaha man with a straight right toward the end of the session that showed no signs of pain.
The fifth started with a thunderous left hand that rifled into Khan’s face, inexplicably he beckoned of more of the same, displaying the crazy courage that had got him seriously harmed in the past.
But, to his credit, he once again recovered and even smashed a short right hand into the left side of Crawford’s jaw right on the bell.
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The champ’s punches were stunningly accurate but, having moved up three weights, he did not possess the concussive KO shot to end the night too early.
At the halfway point 31-year-old Crawford returned to orthodox perhaps it affected his judgement as he slammed a looping left hook into Khan’s groin that left the father-of-two doubled over in agony.
The referee waved it off, Crawford held his right arm aloft seeming to flex his muscle and Madison Square Garden fell into a clueless frenzy.
The replays of the looping low blow earned bellowing boos from around the famous arena but it took an age to explain the official ending.
The laws state he could have taken up to five minutes to recover but he informed referee David Fields that he was done.
Finally it was announced Khan had quit via coach Virgil Hunter and Crawford was awarded the win through technical knockout.