Steve Bunce: How the Hatman ended up ringside for Khan fight


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The Independent Online

The man in the hat at ringside last month when Amir Khan lost his two world titles to Lamont Peterson in Washington DC is no longer a mystery but he remains a disturbing, enigmatic figure, whose presence has still not been fully explained.

It has emerged that his name is Mustafa Ameen and that he is one of a growing and alarming group of people who "work"' with fighters and fight people, and have an association with a sanctioning body. Ameen has a role within the International Boxing Federation but it is not clear exactly what he does. It has been confirmed that he was not working for the IBF at Khan's fight last month.

The IBF, which is based in New Jersey, had initially refused to comment on the "Hatman", as Ameen was dubbed, but they have now made it clear that they know him and that they had asked the local commission to issue him with credentials for the fight.

On the night, Paul Artisst was the IBF supervisor, but for some reason Ameen arrived at ringside before the first bell and decided to sit in the empty seat reserved for the World Boxing Association's supervisor, Michael Walsh. He was later asked to move, which he did. He sat nearby and slowly, round after round, he moved into a gap at Walsh's elbow.

The mystery has persuaded the WBA to promise an immediate rematch, according to Khan's promoter, Richard Schaefer. The governing body will decide later this month whether to strip Peterson of the titles, declare the fight a no contest and therefore hand its belts back to Khan (right). Ameen is one of a group of men in America, and often in Britain, who wander the gyms and fight venues and attach themselves to fighters with a succession of sweet promises and bold claims. I wrote about them in The Fixer, my 2010 novel set in the boxing world. Ameen "works" with American amateur heavyweight Michael Hunter, who has dreams of fighting in London at the Olympics this summer but will first have to qualify at a tournament in Brazil in May.

Freddie Roach, who trains Khan and has a deal to work with the American amateur boxing squad, has said that he threw Ameen out of a coaching session last year because he was talking to the fighters.

There is clearly friction within the American amateur system, especially surrounding Hunter, because people such as Ameen claim to be managers of fighters and attempt to dictate terms. It now seems that last month Ameen was given accreditation by the Washington DC commission, a body of relative novices when it comes to big fights, and that, having gained access to the arena, he decided to take up a position at ringside. The actual ringside area is a place that should never be invaded and it remains equally odd that nobody in Khan's entourage asked Ameen to move.

In Las Vegas or London, the men in charge of the local commissions would have spotted the man in the hat and, having made an inquiry, would have made sure he was ejected in style.

In Washington DC, a city starved of world title action for nearly 20 years, it seems that Ameen fitted right in. It needs to be said again and again that Ameen could not have possibly interfered with the scores, but his annoying presence is enough to raise suspicions – and possibly get Khan his two belts back.