IT MAY have smacked of a pitch for membership of the mutual appreciation society, but Amir Khan was sincere yesterday when discussing the merits of another burgeoning star, in the shape of Andy Murray.
Khan, whose talents mark him down as a potential world boxing champion before he turns 20 in December 2006, was fulsome in his praise of Murray after meeting the young Dunblane tennis player at a recent BBC sports awards ceremony. The pair clearly clicked, judging by Murray's comments. "Boxing is my favourite sport after tennis and Amir Khan is my favourite young sportsman," declared the 18-year-old, whose achievements to date have been nothing short of remarkable.
Khan, also just 18, is no less impressed by Murray's rapid rise through the world rankings into the top 100 and has invited his fellow-sportsman to be his VIP guest at ringside when he has his third professional fight next month in Glasgow. Murray, it transpires, had already purchased tickets for himself and some pals, but is delighted to take Khan up on his generous offer when the Olympic silver medallist takes on Steve Gethin on the undercard of Scott Harrison's world title defence against Nedal Hussein at Braehead Arena on 5 November.
The pair will no doubt also discuss plans for Murray to introduce boxing training into his fitness programme in an effort to increase his stamina. Murray has also expressed a desire to work out with Alex Arthur, the current European, British and Commonwealth super-featherweight champion from Edinburgh with whom he has also struck up a relationship. Khan said: "Having learned that Andy is into boxing in a big way I would like to invite him to my next fight. Like me, Andrew is an up and coming star and there are obvious similarities in terms of our career paths so far and the way our lives have changed.
"We are young, successful and disciplined and we have to be able to cope with a lot of pressure. We are competing against older men who are physically and mentally stronger, but the type of hard training we do is paying off.
"I watch tennis in my spare time and a lot of people are tipping Andy to be the best player this country has had and I agree. Andy has also been complimentary about me, saying that I am a role model for other young boxers and adding that I will go far and I appreciate that."
Khan has set himself a target of 15 fights before attempting to land a world title. He said: "I hope to be a world champion within the next two years. My punching power has increased by 15 to 20 per cent since I turned pro and I am feeding off the confidence I get from all the compliments people are paying me."