Boxing: Amir gains revenge and goes pro

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The Independent Online

Amir Khan finally got his man last night. The kid from Bolton out-fired amateur boxing's hottest shot, the grizzled gunslinger from Cuba, Mario Kindelan, gaining the sweetest revenge for his defeat in the Olympic final.

Amir Khan finally got his man last night. The kid from Bolton out-fired amateur boxing's hottest shot, the grizzled gunslinger from Cuba, Mario Kindelan, gaining the sweetest revenge for his defeat in the Olympic final.

It was also the perfect platform for him to launch his professional career, for immediately after the victory celebrations it was confirmed that he had signed a three-year deal with Frank Warren, as this newspaper was the first to predict. His debut will be on the undercard of the Matt Skelton-Danny Williams British heavyweight title fight at London's Excel Centre in July.

Amir, 18, paid tribute to his former amateur colleagues and said: "I managed it. I knew his style and I knew I'd beat him one day. It's fantastic because he's the best in the world.'' Or rather was. Kindelan did not look the champion who had won two Olympic and three world titles at lightweight.

In a match made at 3kg over the lightweight limit he was comprehensively out-pointed amid some frenetic exchanges. Amir led all the way through the four-round bout, eventually emerging the winner 19-13, the six-point margin reversing the scores of their two previous meetings, 33-13 before the Olympics and 30-22 in the Athens final. Said Warren, watching on ITV in London, at a family birthday celebration: "Amir was brilliant, just brilliant.'' The promoter predicts that Amir will be a world professional champion by the time he is 21, surpassing the record set by another of his former protégés, Naseem Hamed.

The evening was billed as the "Amir Khan fight night'' and that was exactly what it was. It was not the tidiest of contests but Amir boxed with zest and brio to overcome an uncharacteristically languid fistic phenomenon. The bout had the sort of build-up you expect in a world title fight and, of course, in a way this was exactly what it was. The world and Olympic champion pitting his skills against the world junior champion and Olympic silver medallist.

It was almost like a friendly to begin with - hugs and kisses and the mutual exchange of signed portraits before they came to serious blows. It was Amir who forced the pace, going into the second round with a 2-1 points advantage, 7-5 into the third and 12-8 into the fourth. Kindelan became frustrated, although he did occasionally manage to unsettle an opponent 15 years his junior.

The event also marked something of a watershed not just for Amir but for boxing with ITV's cameras switched on again after a 10-year moratorium. If Warren's current contract renewal negotiations with Sky founder, as looks possible, boxing could again be getting its big commercial break on terrestrial TV.

It was ITV's comeback cash which enabled Amir's challenge materialise in a match he was determined to have, a hefty sum going into the Cuban coffers which will enable them to kindle future Kindelans. A full house ensured a financial boost for Amir's own club, Bury, and the charities of his choice.

It was all enacted before a star-studded audience, from Nigel Benn to big Sam Allardyce, for a tournament which also featured schoolboys, club boxers and other England-Cuba international bouts. "Amir has the style to make it in the pro game," says Warren, and Kindelan's own parting shot was to advise Amir simply "to train hard, be disciplined, be humble".

Amir will now have a new trainer, Oliver Harrison, a former Thai world kickboxing champion, but he leaves the amateurs after 110 bouts, of which he lost nine, with a warning from the man who has tutored him since he was a tot, Mick Jelley: "Everything I said Amir would do he's done. I said he would be a world champion at 27 and I still think that, though it could be earlier. But while everyone thinks he's God's gift, he's not, not yet. There's a long way to go."

Indeed there is. The one certainty is that Amir will not follow the Audley Harrison route. The evening which saw his last amateur fight will be the last for some time as a main eventer. His deal with Warren is likely to be near £1m, but he will still be down the bill until the time is right.

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