Boxing: Khan fights to prove the boy has turned into a man

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The Independent Online

It took Amir Khan 13 fights and three years to find out just how difficult the world of professional boxing can be. Tomorrow night, Khan returns to the ring for the first time since he was knocked down by Willie Limond in his last fight and the young kid from Bolton, the teenage star of the Athens Olympics, insists that it was the best thing that ever happened to him.

In Nottingham tonight, he fights Stoke veteran, Scott Lawton, in the first defence of his Commonwealth lightweight title and he is equally convinced that his journey to a proper world title is solidly on track and now looks even more certain than it did before Limond dropped him.

Lawton is the type of fighter that will make Khan look good if the occasion is too much for him. But, if the horse trainer from the Potteries can stay relaxed, the fight could be interesting. Khan, still only 20, has seldom put a foot wrong since losing in the Olympic final and, if his performances have been exceptional, then his away-from-the-ring activities have been both commendable and inspired.

Khan has positioned himself perfectly for a long reign as a champion but there are still obstacles to overcome. In his last fight, when he was sent tumbling by the light-punching Limond, some old concerns resurfaced and it will take more than a victory against Lawton to end speculation over Khan's vulnerability and resistance to a punch.

We still need to find out if he has what it takes to become a real fighter. Tonight, hopefully, he will stay calm if and when he is put under pressure because that ability was, in reality, what was so brutally exposed last time out.