Boxing: Keep Khan & carry on
Still fresh-faced and hardly marked, as a professional Amir Khan has been through four trainers and two promoters, nearly lost when he was decked by Scotland’s Willie Limond, did lose in a shocking one-round defeat to Breidis Prescott, went up a weight division as a result and won a recognised world title – the WBA light-welterweight championship – before defending it six times and adding Zab Judah’s IBF title to his own.
He lost both his belts to Lamont Peterson in Washington in December on what was a hotly disputed split decision that featured a dubious two-point deduction by a referee who hasn’t been in the ring since. A rematch in May was cancelled after Peterson was unmasked as a drugs cheat so now to get back his world title, Khan must face unbeaten Danny Garcia in Las Vegas in the early hours of next Sunday morning.
At 25, it’s not quite a make or break fight for Khan, but it’s the sort of possibly life-altering occasion that caused him to look back to those heady days in 2004.
“Basically, the Olympics kind of totally changed my life around and made me a household name overnight,” said Khan.
“There’s been a lot of other Olympians who have won medals but never had the recognition I got. I was quite lucky maybe, because I was so young and no-one expected me to win a medal and I went there as a single hope for British boxing.
“The Olympics is what made me and brought me where I am, and gave me that platform before I went into the professional game.
“When you turn professional it gives you confidence and an extra edge in front of other professionals, and that’s what it did for me. Instead of taking three years and six months to win the world title, if I hadn’t gone to the Olympic Games it might have taken me five years so it speeded up my career.”
Still talking in Lancastrian tones despite his many months in LA, Khan picked out Anthony Ogogo and Andrew Selby as potential stars and added some advice for Team GB’s boxers: “It’s all about just being really calm and collected really because the Olympics is such a huge tournament on top of having the Olympics in Britain – you can’t let the occasion get to you. You have to stay calm and you have to stay cool.”
Khan revealed that, as an Olympic ambassador, he will fly directly from Las Vegas for London, and attend the opening and closing ceremonies as well as assisting the ten-strong British boxing team. But first he must get the very dangerous Garcia out of the way. Khan will be going for the WBC and WBA belts, after a long, long training camp with legendary coach Freddie Roach in Los Angeles.
He knows Garcia, above left, who beat Erik Morales to win the WBC title, will be a tough opponent but unusually, Khan wanted to speak about a future contest – a rematch against Peterson who is banned pending an appeal.
“If he lost the ban I’d love to get revenge back,” said Khan. “I was in great shape last time when the rematch was on, but I want to make sure that he is 100 per cent clean if I do fight him again, and make sure he’s 100 per cent tested randomly numerous times because nowadays you can get a lot of the agencies that can hide substances in your body.
“We need to make sure that it’s done properly, and once you’ve cheated... I mean once a cheat always a cheat, and in October maybe we’ll twist him again.
“Knowing I fought someone who’s on something and still did so well against him is only going to help me and give me more confidence.”
Khan’s confidence is at Olympian levels, but 24-year-old Garcia from Philadelphia will have the American spectators behind him. It’s definitely no gimme for Khan, who will have to be at his best to prevail.
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