Khan keeps it real
Khan talks Canelo, Manny and UFC during his recent visit to Dubai
The first time I met Amir Khan it was at a small gym in the east end of London. The owner had asked for the fighter’s help as he needed to raise money to stop his boxing facility being closed down.
At the time, Khan was the golden boy of British boxing. Having first made headlines at the 2004 Athens Olympics, where he won a silver medal at just 17 years of age, Khan had just claimed his first world title in his 20th pro fight.
For three hours he spoke to aspiring young boxers and happily posed for photos. That was eight years ago and much has changed in Khan’s professional life.
He has won and lost world titles, moved up through weight divisions and become one of biggest names in the fight game.
Yet there is still that unrelenting desire to spend time with the aspiring fighters and young fans that idolise him.
During a family vacation in Dubai he stopped by two gyms to talk to fans, sign autographs and pose for photos. And as usual, Khan said yes to every request. Even to another interview. There was only one place to start: did he regret taking the fight with Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez?
“No, when he caught me it was a right hand that would have knocked anyone out. But beforehand I wasn’t really feeling his shots,” said Khan.
“He’s a very good fighter, I’m just upset he isn’t taking a chance and a big fight. He is only fighting smaller guys.”
What is irking Khan is Canelo’s refusal to face middleweight king and knockout specialist Gennady Golovkin.
Instead the Mexican sensation will step into the ring with light-middleweight champion Liam Smith, a British fighter who American fight fans know little about.
“He needs to take a risk as I did and fight GGG [Golovkin],” he said.
“When he fought me he came into the ring at 187lb. I was only 158lb. Canelo says he isn’t the same weight as Golovkin, but what is he talking about! He’s almost as big as a light heavyweight.”
Instead of Alvarez facing Golovkin, it is Khan’s verbal sparring partner Kell Brook who will step into the ring with the feared Kazakh.
There is no love lost between Brook and Khan, two British fighters at the same weight who have yet to share a ring together outside of sparring sessions a number of years ago.
In truth there is bad blood between the duo, they don’t like each other, but Khan admits he does have respect for Brook after agreeing to step up two weight classes to fight Golovkin.
“I have to give him props for taking that fight. It’s a very hard fight so I give him a lot of credit. He can win…”
Khan then pauses and considers for a moment before adding: “Well, actually, no I don’t think he can.
“Certainly I still think a fight between myself and Kell will happen because he has proven himself now by being willing to step into the ring with Golovkin.
“I still don’t like him, in fact I hate him. But the UK public want to see that fight and it is a fight I would like to give them.” Currently sidelined as he recovers from having surgery on his injured hand, Khan has a hit-list as he bids to return to the ring in January. If it is not Brook then there are two other fighters he hopes to face, both men he knows extremely well. One handed Khan a devastating stoppage defeat, the other trained alongside him under the tutelage of Freddie Roach.
“I’m mandatory for Danny Garcia’s belt so that it is a big fight for me right there,” said Khan. “There are also talks about Manny Pacquiao and business wise it makes perfect sense. “We could hold it in Dubai as you have the British expats, Pakistan round the corner and the Filipinos here as well. So it would be massive. But [Pacquiao’s promoter] Bob Arum doesn’t want to make that fight. So let’s see.”
‘When he caught me it was a right hand that would have knocked anyone out.’ – AMIR KHAN
A FUTURE IN UFC?
Khan knows that selling any fight is the key to getting it signed, sealed and delivered. He has become a master at selfpromotion and while in Dubai doesn’t miss an opportunity to make headlines.
Having previously mentioned that he would consider a fight with UFC ace Conor McGregor he heads to the UFC gym in Business Bay to pose in the cage with a title belt.
“I think a Conor McGregor fight would be massive. It would be a full MMA fight as I’m not scared of him,” Khan confidently declared.
“He is a great fighter and I’m not saying I want to fight him because I don’t like him, it’s because he’s the best fighter and the biggest name.”
In truth it is more likely a way for Khan to stay in the headlines while he recovers from his injury.
He is a savvy, business-minded 29-year-old who knows that a boxing career has a short shelf life.
But away from the hype and hyperbole is a fighter who is simply eager to please.
It is a side of Khan few see and it is refreshing to witness a fighter who has not been changed by fame and fortune.