Khan keeps it real

Khan talks Canelo, Manny and UFC dur­ing his re­cent visit to Dubai

7 Days in Dubai - - FRONT PAGE - By Adrian Back @aidy­back adrian@7days.ae

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.”

BAD BLOOD

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.

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