Boxing: Amir takes his bow in what is a whole new brawl game
Sunday 10 July 2005
Moreover, he might have been defending an Olympic gold medal in London seven years hence had he elected to go on to Beijing 2008 instead of converting his Athens silver into a professional contract.
Amir's highly paid odyssey begins in his home-town Bolton Arena on Saturday, when he makes his pro debut against a London garage mechanic, David Bailey. Amir takes into the ring the good wishes of fight fan Sebastian Coe, who showed he too knows how to deliver the perfect KO. London's success has delighted Amir, even though the nearest he is likely to get to the 2012 Games is perhaps being in the corner of his brother Haroon, 13, who has the potential and present inclination to continue the Khan Olympic dynasty.
By then Amir himself could have succeeded his new stablemate Ricky Hatton as a world light-welterweight champion, a dream he says he hopes to realise by the time he is 25. Which, by coincidence, will be in 2012.
First he must prove himself as a pro and overcome one or two doubters, such as the former three-weights world champion champion Duke McKenzie, who advises we should not got overboard yet. "He is good, but not that good. His achievements have been blown out of all proportion, and I don't think you can look at him yet and say he is another Naseem Hamed."
There will be those who demur, not least the promoter Frank Warren, who has £1 million invested in his prog-ress over the next two years, and on the strength of it has negotiated a deal which sees ITV regularly screening live boxing. Amir's bout will be the first to be be shown under the contract, which covers 20 Sports Network shows a year and should ensure the sport again becomes a mainstream terrestrial TV attractionafter the BBC's ill-starred glove affair with Audley Harrison.
Unlike the former Olympic super-heavyweight champion, Amir will feature only on the undercard during his apprenticeship. The engagement with the 24-year-old Bailey, whose own professional experience has been limited to seven fights, of which he has won three but has never been stopped, is over four rounds. Clearly Warren is not going to get his new protégé "knocked off" at this stage, and who can blame him? But he promises Amir will have a better opposition than Harrison did as his career progresses.
While not top of the bill, because of the novelty value of his debut, Amir's appearance will be the main focus for the television broadcast, even though the main event is the British heavyweight title fight between the defending champion, Matt Skelton, and the former champion Danny Williams.
The outcome is as hard to forecast as was the 2012 Olympic vote in Singapore. Skelton is all heart, hustle and muscle, while Williams has the skill, the punch and the experience to win if he can put it all together on the night.
However, his victory over Mike Tyson was put into perspective when the giant journeyman Kevin McBride then inflicted similar humiliation on the washed-up ex-world champion.
Subsequently Williams was dismantled by the Ukrainian Vitali Klitschko, and so brutal was the beating that you wondered about the wisdom of thelikeable Londoner continuing his career. But the scars have healed and Williams insists he still harbours ambitions to win one of the fistful of world titles, though he does say he will retire if he now loses to an opponent who, for all the breathless assaults of his 16 unbeaten contests, remains a 38-year-old novice.
It is a fight that could be a thriller or a stinker, depending on how effectively Williams counters Skelton's unskilled labours. The Bedford brawler is not someone with whom you stand toe to toe trading punches. Williams has to box clever, be as brave as he was against Tyson and more resilient than he was against Klitschko. That way he can at least regain the title on points over 12 rounds.
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