Boxing: Amir set to take the pro road in June

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The Independent Online

It has been a bittersweet week for British boxing. Howard Eastman returned from Los Angeles empty-handed, Andy Smith, one of the most respected managers in the business (he masterminded the careers of Joe Bugner and Dave "Boy" Green) died at 78, and Matt Skelton, at 37, acquired a world heavyweight title - of sorts - by pummelling a lump of lard from Argentina.

It has been a bittersweet week for British boxing. Howard Eastman returned from Los Angeles empty-handed, Andy Smith, one of the most respected managers in the business (he masterminded the careers of Joe Bugner and Dave "Boy" Green) died at 78, and Matt Skelton, at 37, acquired a world heavyweight title - of sorts - by pummelling a lump of lard from Argentina.

But the focus was not one of Britain's oldest champions, who is now set to fight Danny Williams in July, but on the youngest hope, the 18-year-old Amir Khan, who almost certainly will be a professional by then. His spat with the ABA has accelerated a move that was inevitable from the moment he acquired his Olympic silver medal.

It may have had less to do with reported anger over ticket allocations for last night's ABA quarter-finals in Lowestoft than fears among his advisers that he may lack the experience to beat the London champion, Michael Grant, in this month's finals, where defeat would devalue his pro cash potential. So much has been going on in Amir's young head he may well have felt he had been hit by one of the crude haymakers Skelton hurled at Fabio Moli at Wembley to acquire the WBU belt.

When it clears, I anticipate he will sign with Frank Warren, whose offer is not the biggest but, the promoter believes, will prove the best for Amir's long-term interests. Other bids of up to £2m are under consideration, including one from the American promoter Bob Arum. However, I expect Amir to have only one more amateur bout, which will not be during the April international against the Cubans, who are in any case unlikely to include his Olympic conqueror, Mario Kindelan. It will be at Bolton's indoor Reebok Arena on 16 April to raise money as a farewell thank you gesture to his Bury club. Bolton FC have booked 10 tables, so the date may change if they are in the FA Cup semi-finals that day.

Warren admits he and Amir had several conversations last week. So will he sign? "There's no pressure, but if I was him I would." Expect his pro debut in June, though not on the sold-out Hatton-Tszyu bill.

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