Britain prides itself on being the birthplace of so many world class boxers. In the year 2004, it had to face the Boxing World at the Olympics with just one boxer. Athens, the home of the Olympic movement with Britain, the home of the Queensbury rules that couldn’t raise more than one potential Olympic champion!
Amir Iqbal Khan, 24-1, 17 KO’s, a British born Pakistani climbed into the ring and didn’t win the Gold. He had managed Gold at the 2003 Junior Olympics and at the 2004 European Student Championships and World Junior Lightweight title in South Korea. He returned from the Olympics and promised he would pursue and bring back Gold after Beijing in 2008. We all thought we had one of the most exciting prospects in the World. And we did.
After a reported fall out with the English Amateur Boxing Association – hang on to your hats it happens again later – he turned pro. The last high profile Olympic boxer to tantalize us with such promise was a Super Heavyweight by the name of Audley Harrison.
You can imagine how cautious we all were!
Khan lit the ring up quickly and effectively. His first eighteen fights were wins. We felt we had someone who was going to rub out the memories of promises broken. Then came Breidis Prescott.
Khan was a huge favorite. Nobody saw what was coming and Khan’s first and only professional defeat was greeted with shock.
Khan was on course for a World title fight and the casualty of such folly was trainer Jorge Rubio who was sacked. Rubio had picked Prescott as the next opponent on Khan’s upward curve!
With Rubio gone Khan moved to train with Freddie Roach. Khan returned to the ring against Oisin Fagan and Fagan was withdrawn in the second round. Next up was a massive fight – Marco Antonio Barrerra.
Many thought this was the most dangerous fight that could have been picked for Amir. Many were nervous as they squared up against each other and the possibility that Amir Khan had a glass chin were put about to prove it was just plain stupid, stupid!
Towards the end of the 5th it was stopped with Amir Khan declared the winner by a technical decision. It brought him admiring glances and dispelled the view that we were witnessing yet another false dawn.
Moving up to light welterweight meant a shot at the world title against Andriy Kotelnik, in Manchester, England. A unanimous decision brought him the World Title his ability had promised from the Olympics onwards. His first defence against mandatory challenger Dmitriy Salita, again was in England and Khan won in 76 seconds.
Khan’s next challenge was bringing his brand of boxing to the good old US of A. splitting from his UK promoter Frank Warren, Khan signed on with Golden Boy and fought for the first time in the States at Madison Square Garden against Paulie Malignaggi. Khan won in the 11th.
Now with a foothold in the States the next opponent would mark him as a serous fighter or yet another UK fraud. Marcos Maidana, 29-2 27KOs, was an inspired choice. The fight, for many was the fight of the year if not of the decade. Khan won by unanimous decision but the 10th round when he came through against a man many believed was the ultimate test of his chin still sits in the memory like the ultimate roller coaster ride. Khan had done enough in the earlier rounds and had Maidana down in the first. Of the 10th Maidana himself silenced any doubters that Amir Khan had the chin to be World Champ. “I simply can’t believe that Amir got through that round. None of the opponents I’ve hit like that before have stayed on their feet.”
Amir Khan, outside of boxing has become another example of how his life is lived as an example to others. A devout Muslim, Amir Khan practices what is preached. He is modest, gives a great deal to charity and has been involved in working with young men who have issues with aggression in a high profile television program. Amir Khan is the type of model Muslim that could fight against terror daily whilst others talk about it and wonder why they are losing.
He, and his family, are always behind Khan and his brother Haroon. When Haroon was overlooked for the Commonwealth Games by the English Amateur Boxing Association – remember them – he boxed at the Commonwealth games in Delhi and won their first medal of the Games – a bronze!
What next for Khan?
He feels he needs another year before Floyd Mayweather, JR., so needs a fight, at least before then.
Names in the frame include Zab Judah, or the winner of Devon Alexander vs. Timothy Bradley. One piece of excitement in the jigsaw is the news that his next fight may be included in the David Haye vs. Wladimir Klitschko fight in May 2011. Which fight would be top of the bill though? Some people need to remember who IS King before the negotiations!