Haroon Khan: Baby Khan ready to rumble but his mum can't bear to watch
Amir's younger brother is about to make his professional debut on the same card despite family opposition
Sunday 21 April 2013
Boxing has never been short on bands of brothers, from the Coopers to the Klitschkos. Amir Khan's younger sibling Haroon is the latest to forge a family link with the fight game, though not everyone in the Khan clan is happy about it.
The 21-year-old recalls how his mother, Falak, was so distressed at the ringside after witnessing Amir being shockingly KO'd in 54 seconds by the Colombian Breidis Prescott in his 19th professional fight that she collapsed and had to be given oxygen.
The next day she asked Haroon to hand her his own amateur boxing kit. "I said, 'Thanks mum', thinking she was going to wash it. But she binned it and told me, 'You're not boxing any more'."
It was only after Amir and their father, Shah, pleaded with her that she reluctantly relented. "She said I could carry on – but only if I promised to stay amateur."
It is a promise that he has been unable to keep, and he will make his professional debut on the undercard of big brother's 12-round bout against the Mexican Julio Diaz at the Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield on Saturday.
Their mother is far from happy at the prospect, especially following the death earlier this month of the boxer Michael Norgrove, the sport's first fatality in Britain in 18 years. "Obviously she is worried, just as I was when I knew I had to break the news about turning pro. She was abroad when I made my mind up and I kept putting off telling her. But in the end my dad insisted I had to make the call.
"When I told her she pleaded with me and said, 'You don't need to be a boxer. We've already got one in the family'." Haroon had recently done a photo-shoot for Selfridges, so she begged him: "Stick to modelling."
"I admit I was in two minds but boxing won," he says. "Now, after this boxing death, she keeps asking me, 'Are you sure you've made the right choice?' I can understand why she doesn't like seeing her sons get hit. This is a dangerous business but, like Amir, I know the risks.
"I told her, 'Look what Amir's achieved; if he can do it, so can I. Don't worry, one day you will be as proud of me as you are of him'."
One of the questions I asked Shah Khan after Amir won the 2004 Olympic lightweight boxing silver medal in Athens was: "Are there any more at home like him?" "Actually yes," he said. "And he might even be better than Amir one day."
It is a prediction with which Amir himself concurs. "As kids we used to scrap with each other in our front room and he was quite a handful. There will be a lot of pressure on him as my kid brother but he is his own man and I really believe he will go all the way. I made mistakes by not being totally focused and I've told him, 'No messing'. This is the hurt business and it's for real."
Once tagged "Baby Khan", Haroon is Amir's little brother in every sense, fighting at super-flyweight (8st 3lb), some two stones lighter, three inches shorter and five years younger than the former world light-welter champion.
He decided to make the switch to the pro ranks – where he will be promoted by his brother – after the frustrations of an impressive amateur career in which he boxed for England but, when he was overlooked for the Olympic squad, won a Commonwealth Games bronze medal representing Pakistan, his father's birthplace.
He was trained as an amateur by Amir's old Bury club coach, Mick Jelley, who says: "Whether he makes it is up to him. He has everything going for him but sometimes he has wanted to play the good life, and the good life doesn't work. If he applies himself he'll smash his way through, there'll be no stopping him. The thing is, he's become a man now."
Style-wise Haroon, or Harry as he is known, is different to Amir, more of a box-fighter in the Ricky Hatton mould. "An exciting little bugger," says Jelley.
Surprisingly, Haroon is now being schooled in Salford by Oliver Harrison, the first of three trainers fired by Amir. The split was acrimonious but Haroon says: "They still speak, and it was Amir who suggested him because he is a great coach to young fighters."
Falak Khan will not be in Sheffield to see Haroon's pro debut against the 20-year-old Bulgarian Stefan Slavchev. She has not watched either of her sons fight since that fateful night in Manchester four years ago. Instead she stays at home, literally praying for their safe return.
"Amir has taught me a lot, not only about boxing but about life," says Haroon. "But I won't be so gung-ho as he was. One thing I've learned is that if you go down, don't get up and start trading punches. Stay on the back foot. Amir learned from that bad experience and went on to become a world champion. I'm going to be one too, whatever it takes."
Just don't tell mum.
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