Boxing: Echoes of Stracey as Khan faces fists of steel

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There is an afternoon in British boxing history that the teenager Amir Khan will try to duplicate this evening when he meets arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Mario Kindelan, at the Reebok Stadium in his home town of Bolton.

There is an afternoon in British boxing history that the teenager Amir Khan will try to duplicate this evening when he meets arguably the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, Mario Kindelan, at the Reebok Stadium in his home town of Bolton.

On a cold day in December 1975, John H Stracey entered the ring in Mexico City to fight the great Cuban Jose Napoles for the world welterweight title. Napoles had been the champion for nine years and in round one Stracey was knocked down but odd things happen in boxing rings and by round six Napoles was finished, Stracey was world champion and the most remarkable victory in British boxing history had taken place.

Tonight Khan has an even tougher task because Kindelan has already beaten him easily twice and Khan's preparation has been far from perfect. But, as I said, strange things happen in boxing rings.

Kindelan, 33, is revered like Napoles but unlike Napoles he is relatively unknown and has few of the riches associated with the glory that boxers can enjoy in the ring. Kindelan has lost just 19 of 291 fights and is unbeaten in his last 44, making him, in my opinion the best active fighter in the world. He has also won two Olympic gold medals and won three world amateur boxing championships.

Last year the pair first met in a pre-Olympic tournament in Athens when the veteran coasted to an easy 33-13 win over Khan but it was slightly different when they met in August in the Olympic lightweight final.

Nearly nine million people watched the fight live on television and Khan, who had matured and fought some of the world's finest since last meeting the Cuban, chased the elusive ring genius from the opening bell. There were many - those unfamiliar with the intricacies of amateur boxing scoring - that truly believed Khan deserved victory and the gold but that is a distortion, a case of one's heart ruling one's head. Kindelan boxed with a controlled power that he seldom displays and moved much more than usual but was still a clear winner with a score of 30-22.

Khan was still only 17 and during the next two months was fêted as a celebrity, exchanged hooks with the Prime Minister and took a gentle bow in front of the Queen. He was a kid having fun but in his near future there was the growing spectre of the professionals and a confusion surrounding his continuance as an amateur. The kid with the twinkling eyes and the bright smile was about to fall headfirst into a series of fairly ugly skirmishes with the press over a variety of easily avoidable incidents.

Earlier this year Khan entered the Amateur Boxing Association of England championships but after three incredibly unimpressive fights he withdrew over a ticket dispute. An ugly impasse was reached which has never quite been breached since the acrimonious early days of March.

Tonight's fight has been on and off several times and it was a great shock when promoter Frank Warren, working closely but clearly uncomfortably with Khan's advisers, announced that it would be shown live on ITV. Any audience above seven million will be considered a stunning success and could lead to a drastic change in the way the British people get to watch boxing.

Back in 1975 Stracey really had no chance but he found something during that fight to overcome sickening odds. Tonight Khan will need to find something similar to beat Kindelan and pull off what I believe will be the biggest shock in British boxing history.

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