Boxing: Khan finds his Olympic rhythm in ring return

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The Independent Online

It took Amir Khan less than 60 seconds to find his rhythm last night at the Olympia on the outskirts of Liverpool.

Khan was having his first fight in 96 days since the glorious end to his Olympics back in August. He won the silver medal then and last night he looked an even better prospect for gold in Beijing than he did in Athens.

In the opposite corner was the American National champion Michael Evans, who appeared to have no idea what to do with Khan once the first bell had sounded. There was a suggestion that Khan's absence from the ring would affect his timing but that was nonsense and he looked brilliant.

With less than one minute gone in the opening round, a perfectly-timed short-right cross connected cleanly with the point of Evans' chin and the American was down. It is very unusual for clean knockdowns to take place in amateur boxing but Khan can clearly punch a lot harder than his opponents think.

Evans survived the knockdown but was hurt again in the second third and fourth rounds as Khan did as he pleased and looked good doing it. When it was finally over Khan, much to the delight of 2,000 fans packed inside the venue, won with a score of 35-13.

There are probably some people who will mistakenly believe that Evans was not up to much and that Khan had been fed an easy touch for his first bout since the Olympics but they are wrong.

Evans is a quality operator, a winner of three National American titles, but last night he was made to look like an ordinary fighter by Khan.

When it was over, Khan was characteristically cool and calm and thanked the fans for coming and promised more entertainment in his next fight. He is truly a PR dynamo and next year it will be interesting to see just how big he can become because the public clearly adores him.

"I wasn't worried about having the time off because I knew that I would be too sharp for him,'' said Khan. But he did admit that he had not trained as long as he would have liked to.

Last night's fight was his 19th of the year and he will need to have as many next year before travelling to China in November for the World Championships, which is the one tournament that no British boxer has ever won.

"I knew that Evans would come to fight and he certainly did and I applaud him but when I found my range there was nothing that he could do,'' Khan continued.

Now Khan and his trainer Mick Jelley will take a short break but they will not be away from the gym for long because it is likely that Khan's next outing will be in Germany next month when he aims to retain his Adidas Box Cup title.

After the tournament in Germany there are dozens of other offers on the table from various organisations around the world, all of whom are desperate for the teenage sensation to take part in their events.

"It is most important to me that I stay active and in the ring, because that truly is the only way to stay match-fit and sharp,'' Khan said.

"I know that the Cubans do it that way and that is why I want to do it that way. It is no good just boxing three or four times a year and not taking any risks,'' Khan added.

What happened last night in Liverpool was the perfect homecoming for a fighter who emerged from nowhere at the Olympics and is now, whether he likes to admit it or not, the hottest property in British boxing.

After last night's fight and live screening on the BBC, the pressure from the professionals is likely to increase.

"I've seen here that there is a great future for amateur boxing and if the fans keep coming out like this then I will keep fighting for them because I love this sport,'' Khan said. There was not an empty seat or an empty aisle in the old Olympia venue.

Khan, who will not be 18 until next week, appears to have made the often tricky transition from sudden Olympic hero to established sporting star without any problems. He remains quiet and unassuming and is not fazed by either the media attention or the public's affection.

"I will take a short break now, just a little rest and then get back in that ring and hopefully fight in front of a few more fans because I really believe that amateur boxing is on a high and I want to be part of it,'' Khan said.

Not only is he part of it, but he is leading the revolution from the front and that is what makes him so exciting and enjoyable to watch. In addition, he is genuinely a nice kid.