The boxer from Bolton – Amir Khan 

At the age of 23, when most young men are finishing up their studies and thinking about what to do with their lives, Amir Khan has already made a name for himself in the world of boxing.

This WBA world light-welter weight champion started boxing at the age of eight, when his father took him to a local boxing club near their home in Bolton, UK. “Amir was a very hyper active child, to burn off his extra energy and to calm him down I enrolled him in a boxing club, never thinking that one day he would become a champion,” says Amir’s proud father, Shujaat Khan.

The initiative taken by Amir’s father was also supported by his mother: “I was very happy when my husband took him to the gym because then he would be tired when he came back and would not get up to mischief and just go straight to sleep,” says Falak Khan.

Meanwhile, the young boy himself had never been happier. “Boxing really calmed me down and gave me positive energy. I still remember the sound of the punching bag and the sweat at the gym. I loved it and it made me go to the gym again and again,” says Amir in an exclusive interview with Dawn.

A natural athlete, Amir was passionate about several sports in addition to boxing while growing up. He enjoyed football, rugby and long-distance running. In fact, Amir was at one point the 1,500 metres champion of greater Manchester. But on one fateful night, he chose to become a boxer. “On the night of my running competition, I had a boxing match,” recalls Amir. “I had to pick one and I picked boxing; this is my sport and I have given everything to it.” And that’s when the running stopped and the sparring started.

Amir’s hard work and dedication to the sport was soon to pay dividends. In 2003, he became the European student champion and went on to win gold medals in almost all the competitions on both sides of the Atlantic. These wins qualified him for the 2004 Athens Olympics, where he won a silver medal after loosing out to an opponent older and more experienced than him.

After winning the silver medal, Amir had become a household name in Britain, but he wanted more. The very next year, he turned pro and bid farewell to his amateur career in which he had won 100 matches and lost just two. As a pro, Amir fought in the lightweight category and soon went up a category to fight in the light- welterweight category, a decision which he reversed after he lost to French boxer Rachid Drilzane.

Amir fought his way back in 2006 and went on to win back-to-back matches all the way up to 2008. Then, once again, his career hit turbulence when he split with his coach Oliver Harison and soon after lost to Bredis Prescott under Jorge Rubio’s guardianship. Amir’s promoter Frank Warren was not happy with how things were turning out for his boxer, and Rubio was soon sacked. This time, however, Team Khan roped in one of the best coaches in the business, Freddie Roach. “Getting Freddie Roach was the best move,” admits Amir. “My style has changed and now I have a world title. Freddie has changed my life.”

With Freddie at the ring side, Amir went on to beat Andreas Kotlenick to win the WBA world light-welterweight championship belt. Subsequently, he defended his title, crushing Dmitry Salita in just 76 seconds. The stunning title defence against the American silenced critics and brought much admiration for the boxer.

Now with a world title tied around his waist, Amir knows he is a hot commodity. “I am an exciting fighter, that’s what I bring to the crowds. Wherever I fight I have sell-out arenas. Hundreds of thousands of people are buying my fights on TV and I get more love than any other fighter in Britain.”

Although he is cognisant of his fame and appeal, Amir manages not to seem vain in person. Signing autographs, posing for photographs, referring to his fans as ‘bro,’ Amir also makes every effort to mention how much he has learnt from senior boxers and how grateful he is for his trainers, coaches, fans, followers and, most importantly, his parents along with uncle ‘Taz’.

Despite achieving so much so early in life Amir stays true to his roots. Living with his family in their home in Bolton, Amir looks forward to returning to his mother’s cooking after a long day of training. Even in the matter of matrimony, Amir says he will stick to tradition and never defy the will of his parents.

Amir’s father Shujaat explains that, “we, as parents, have tried our best to keep our son close to us, our religion and our culture. I remember as kid Amir would go to school, then go for a run, take a shower, and then go to the mosque from where I would pick him and take him to the gym. This was his daily routine.”

Given his familial ties to the country, Amir is planning on fighting in Pakistan and working towards the development of boxing here. “My dream is to fight in Pakistan one day,” he confesses.

Until then, Amir plans to work hard and continue excelling in the ring. “I have had lots of ups and downs, but I have always been a fighter and I am strong willed,” he says. “It’s the extreme hard work I have put in this sport and that’s helped me reach so far.” With the support of his parents, the dedicated members of Team Khan, and millions of fans across the globe, especially in Britain and Pakistan, this young lad from Bolton is surely destined for world boxing domination.