Boxing: Amir rockets into a world of opportunity
First-round stoppage in spectacular professional debut provides a rare talent with the perfect launchpad
Sunday 17 July 2005
The Amir Khan show saw him in the starring role at his hometown Bolton Arena last night with a one-round whirlwind defeat of the London lightweight David Bailey, a victory he dedicated to the victims of the London bombing. Somewhat ironic because the packed arena later had to be cleared in response to a bomb alert.
"This was all for London," the Olympic silver medallist had said, holding a Union Jack aloft. "Hopefully, we can all move on and forget about the past."
It was as much a statement as his choice of theme music for his ringwalk Land of Hope and Glory. Symbolic, too, for here is unquestionably boxing's brightest hope and, as his promoter Frank Warren concurred, professional glory awaits.
"I was a bit nervous because it was my first fight," Amir admitted. "I'm going to go home and watch the video and see how it was. I want to be one of the youngest British word champions ever and hopefully it will happen." He added: "This was the first one it's getting closer and closer now."
Amir ended up heading the bill on his four rounds pro debut because of the late withdrawal of Danny Williams from his British heavyweight title challenge to Matt Skelton, who disposed of substitute Mark Krence in seven rounds for his 17th successive victory.
But this was Amir's night. No headguard, no vest and as usual no inhibitions in a blistering performance.
Southpaw Bailey, beaten three times in seven fights but never before stopped, was floored twice, the first time in 20 seconds, and suffered such a sustained blitz from the dancing, jabbing Amir that his corner tossed in the towel. This was ignored by referee Bill Edwards, who finally stepped in after 1min 49sec when Bailey was stunned by another sharp right hand.
ITV's new pundit Barry McGuigan, who has transferred from Sky the BBC's John Rawling will be joining as ringside commentator when Amir boxes again in September described it as the perfect professional debut.
Amir is a good Muslim in every sense, committed to his religion but proud of his British roots. He says he was appalled by the London bombings, and that for a time his concentration for last night's fight was disturbed. But he hoped that by stepping into the ring he could demonstrate to other youngsters of his faith, indeed "all the kids in Britain that there are better things to do with your life than getting into trouble and mixing with bad people".
His father Shah's Union Jack waistcoat became one of the familiar sights of Athens and Amir's family background has already laid impressively solid foundations for his future outside the ring. Now his next few performances must do the same inside it.
Like Amir, Williams is a Muslim he converted from his Christian faith some five years ago but there has been no suggestion that he suffered any distraction because of recent events.
A likeable though complex character, he is known in the trade as someone who has never really got his head round the sport, although he did get his act together for the demolition of Mike Tyson.
But subsequently he suffered a systematic pounding by Vitali Klitschko and promised that if he did not beat Skelton he would retire. Now he may have no option because Warren, his promoter and manager, says he will not use him again.
"I am disgusted with him." he said. It was a totally unacceptable situation. I was told he had been in bed all week with flu but he said nothing about it at the weigh-in on Friday. I believe the real reason is that his bottle went. We had a conversation but he said he didn't feel mentally right."
Even Williams' trainer, Jim McDonnell, admitted he had no idea anything was wrong until his fighter informed him he was withdrawing. "Danny prepared properly and he was in great shape but he took a couple of days out of the gym last week which I wasn't aware of. Apparently he took some medication and had two days in bed, then he went for a run and felt really bad."
There was clearly something wrong when Williams tipped the scales at 20st 3lb. Something was weighing heavily, maybe on his mind. It could be that, as Warren suggested, he did not relish being bullied and bustled by the ex-kick boxer from Bedford.
Instead that dubious privilege fell to the 28-year-old,6ft 5in Krence, a Chesterfield butcher stopped in his last fight (one of three defeats in 24 bouts) but who put up a credible performance in giving Audley Harrison plenty of trouble over six rounds three years ago.
Considering he took the bout at less than 12 hours notice Krence did well to survive seven one-sided rounds before his corner pulled him out, citing damaged ribs. He had come to compete and not just collect the biggest pay-day of his career.
With Skelton what you see is what you get, and it certainly isn't pretty. He is a roughhouse clubber, whose punches are cumulative rather than selective one even managed to land inadvertently on referee Terry O'Connor, himself a former heavyweight.
Skelton said: "I know it was untidy but I got the job done. All credit to Mark for putting up such a good show."
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