Khan lands a punch before enduring a late onslaught from his Argentine opponent in Las Vegas [Reuters]

Amir Khan defended his WBA light-welterweight title with a narrow unanimous decision over Marcos Maidana in Las Vegas, surviving the stiffest test of his career with guts and skill.

Khan knocked down Maidana with 10 seconds left in the first round of the British champion's Vegas debut with a vicious left hand to the body, and the fight never really slowed down from there.

The free-swinging Maidana seemed to be close to stopping Khan during a brilliant 10th round, but Khan absorbed every shot from his Argentine opponent and responded with a strong 11th.

Khan, who suffered a first-round knockout loss in his only defeat more than two years ago, finished his third title defence with blood dripping from his nose.

"I know I made mistakes, but I worked hard and came back stronger than ever," Khan said.

"He's a strong fighter, and he hits hard. My chin was tested. I'm not taking anything away from him. He's a great champion. I proved today I've got a chin."

Hurt

Maidana was hurt by a point deduction by referee Joe Cortez in the fifth round, apparently for throwing an elbow at Cortez in frustration when the referee broke a clinch.

Two judges scored the bout 114-111 for Khan, with the third favouring the British fighter 113-112.

Maidana attempted to leave the ring after the decision was announced, but his promoters pulled him back.

"I thought I won," Maidana said through a translator. "I thought I did enough in the final rounds to win the fight."

Bolton-born Khan rocketed to British stardom at 17 with a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in 2004, but he doesn't yet have the international drawing power of Ricky Hatton, from nearby Manchester.

Hatton got several thousand Brits to make the transcontinental trip to Las Vegas for his biggest fights, but Khan appears to be on the way. Hundreds of Khan's British and Pakistani fans showed up at Mandalay Bay, blowing vuvuzelas and waving both nations' flags.

The fight also was a breakthrough for Maidana, who was largely unknown outside Argentina until his stunning sixth-round stoppage of Victor Ortiz last year in Los Angeles.

Source: AP