We are currently trialling our new-look independent.co.uk website - please send any feedback to beta@independent.co.uk

More Sports

Boxing: Khan adapts to life in Bolton's fast lane

It is a little unnerving when one of your neighbours achieves the sort of feats that Amir Khan did in the Olympics.

It is a little unnerving when one of your neighbours achieves the sort of feats that Amir Khan did in the Olympics.

Two punches into his first fight, it was obvious that the man in the pub who had been telling me for three years that this kid was going to be a champion was a rather better judge of form than my son, who went to school with him and described him memorably as "just some guy in the year below who thinks he's going to be a boxer". I'm just grateful he never got into a fight with him in the playground.

It wasn't quite the triumphal homecoming yesterday. You had to be at the street-party outside the family home in Tudor Avenue on Wednesday night for that, or on the open-top bus ride to Bolton Town Hall today.

But it was at the press- conference at the Bolton Arena that you saw the future of Britain's silver-medallist taking shape.

Now that he is flanked not just by his dad, Shajaad, and his telegenic coach, Mike Jelley, but also by representatives of a PR agency, a firm of sports lawyers and a specially-formed sports management company, you could see the different directions in which Amir could be dragged.

Take the B-word, for instance. The prepared statement from Davies Arnold Cooper Solicitors, when it had finished explaining that they had organised this conference to try to soak up the media interest and leave him to get back to normality, said only that Amir hoped "to remain an amateur boxer and gain further experience before deciding whether to go professional."

No mention of Beijing 2008 there, but Amir and his original entourage were not so coy. The 17-year-old himself said that falling short of the gold medal "will keep me working harder by giving me something to look forward to at the next Olympics. I'll be training harder than this time."

His father admitted that a couple of interested parties had been in touch. "But 17 is too young to turn professional. The right time would be 21."

Jelley, still bristling at not being allowed in Athens to be in the corner of the fighter he has groomed for the past six years, agrees with that approach, provided the Amateur Boxing Association look after the boxer and his coach.

The ABA will also have to ratify any commercial deals sorted on Amir's behalf by Elite Sports Management, whose Asif Vali said that the interest in him has been "phenomenal".

Amir's own concerns are more prosaic, focusing on catching up with family and friends, not to mention his coursework at Bolton Community College.

"I phoned my teacher the other day and he understood that I've had a lot on recently, so he's extended the deadline."

Everything Amir said to a crowd of 50 or 60 journalists confirmed the impression he gave in Athens of a young man splendidly unaffected by the success that he has achieved so far. "I've got good family support and a good personal coach who'll give me a clip round the ear if I get big-headed."

Asked to reveal any secret gimmick behind his meteoric rise, he was similarly down-to-earth. "When I go down to the gym, I'm just treated the same as everyone else."

That is the way he seems to like it, although Jelley says that his Athens performances have sent interest in amateur boxing through the roof.

"Amateur boxing was withering, but the interest has quadrupled, not just at our club in Bury, but at every club."

Little wonder that the amateurs want to keep him, although there will be plenty of advice to the contrary.

Perhaps the deciding word on the subject came after the gold medal fight in Athens.

"Mario Kindelan asked me 'Are you going to turn professional?' I told him I didn't know and he said 'Don't, because you will dominate at 60 kilos'."