Sky is the limit for Amir Khan

Published on July 31, 2011  in The News (a leading Pakistani English language national daily)

By Ijaz Chaudhry

British Pakistani boxer Amir Khan successfully defended his light welter-weight title in style against American boxer Zab Judah last week. Amir dominated the entire five rounds. Judah, a former undisputed world welter-weight champion and the IBF world light welter-weight champions, had no answer to his opponent’s speed, agility and power. Amir Khan is presently the most popular British Asian sports person and the highest profiled boxer in Britain.

And while his story is inspiring, it has a fictional flavour to it.

Born in Bolton to parents of Pakistani origin hailing from Rawalpindi, Amir was a precocious talent and started competitive boxing at the age of 11; winning three ABA (Amateur Boxing Association of England) titles.

In 2003, he stepped into the international circuit and won gold at the Junior Olympics and the very next year he crowned as the world junior light-weight champion.

The 2004 Olympics made him a national hero as he was the only British boxer to qualify. He defied all odds to reach the final where he lost to the Cuban Mario Kindelan. Still, at 17, he became the youngest ever British athlete to win an Olympic medal.

England wanted Amir to remain an amateur as they were eyeing gold for him at the 2008 Olympics. But the professional promoters could not let go of such a talent. The biggest British boxing promoter Frank Warren signed him for a contract worth one million pounds and Amir entered the professional ring.

After his first professional fight in July 2005, Amir continued winning and with that,  the quality of the opponents improved.

Having won all of his first 12 bouts in the first two years of his pro career, Amir had his first shot at a meaningful title in July 2007: for the Commonwealth light-weight crown against reigning champion Willie Limond of Scotland.

Although he was knocked down early in the fight, he easily won the title bout in the eighth round and has since successfully defended his Commonwealth title four times.

Meanwhile, Amir had also won the lightly regarded WBO intercontinental title by defeating Danish Martin Kristjansen.

But in his first defence of WBO intercontinental title in September 2009, he suffered the biggest setback of the career. Against Colombian Breidis Prescott in Manchester, Amir was knocked out in the first round for his first loss in 19 pro fights.

That had serious repercussions.

With the fight being his Sky Box Office debut, it was his maiden bout with the new trainer Jorge Rubio and detractors came out with claims that “Amir’s weak chin fully exposed” and that “he has been mostly contesting weak opponents”.

His promoter, Frank Warren immediately sacked Jorge Rubio replacing him with Freddie Roach, widely regarded as world’s finest boxing coach having trained 27 world champions.

And that change paid dividends.

Amir easily defeated Oisin Fagan in the second round to win the vacant WBA international light-weight title before successfully defending it against Mexican Marco Barrera.

That win made everyone believe that Amir was now ready for a shot at the world title.

And it came in July 2009.

Moving up to the light welter-weight division to fight Andreas Kotelnek, Amir won by a unanimous decision to become the WBA World light welter-weight champion at the age of 22.

He then defended it against America’s Salita, a jew, in a bout titled as the ‘battle of faiths’ in his last fight with Frank Warren as his promoter.

Then, at New York’s famous Madison Square Garden, Amir won his first overseas pro-bout against Pauli Malignaggi to keep the belt before winning a classic against Marcos Maidana in Nevada in a bout that was declared the ‘Fight of the Year’ by the boxing writers association of America.

He then beat Northern Irishman McClowsky at the MEN arena in Manchester before the fight with Judah for his fifth defence of the WBC title

The latest victory means that Amir now holds both the WBA and IBF versions of the world light-welter weight title. And now his next target would be to win the other two belts IBF and WBO to unify the weight division.

In boxing, the champion of the highest weight category steals almost all the limelight and mostly the world heavyweight champion had been regarded as the best boxer of a particular era. Sugar Ray Robinson, the world welter-weight champion from 1946-51 and the world middle-weight champion for most of the 50s, made the boxing connoisseurs and officials think otherwise.

His achievements, domination and style prompted the sports writers to coin the term “pound for pound” whereby fighters were compared regardless of weight.

Presently, all the reputed magazines give pound for pound rankings of the professional boxers. Amir is presently rated at 9 and 10 by Boxrec and Sports Illustrated respectively. The number one pound for pound boxer is the Filipino Manny Pacquiao and now the connoisseurs firmly believe that Amir has the capability to win the greatest accolade his sport has to offer: No 1 Pound for Pound.

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