Boxing: Khan learns vital lessons in carving out seventh victory

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The Independent Online

It barely mattered that a defending world champion was absent from last night's scheduled bill-topper in Belfast, for the occasion was amply filled by a young man with his own world at his fists. As it happened, Amir Khan was given the toughest examination of his professional career by the former Hungarian champion Laszlo Komjathi, needing the full six rounds for a hard-fought points victory.

It was a contest in which Amir learned a lot and took a few shots, one in the fourth round catching him flush on the jaw. But he smiled back at an opponent who was no hand-picked patsy. Known as "The Rock", Komjathi, 30, is a battle-hardened campaigner of 36 fights who has mixed with the best in Europe and America, and Khan had to produce a more measured performance to beat him by 60-55, the referee, Mickey Vann, marking the fourth, the Hungarian's best round, scored even.

It is clear that more work is required on his Khan's defence. He also needs to curb his impetuosity. "He was good and strong and kept coming forward," Khan said. "I needed a fight like this. The fans don't want to see me knocking them out all the time." The trouble is, they do. But the capacity crowd of 6,000 at the atmospheric King's Hall took the Bolton youngster to their hearts.

Now weighing a tad under the 10 stone light-welter limit, Khan was so comfortably under weight last week that he was encouraged to tuck into plates of pizza. He is a growing lad, both in physique and stature, as the latest victory, the seventh of his unblemished professional career, indicated.

Like its football, Hungarian boxing is built on past glories. They have not had a decent scrapper since Laszlo Papp won three Olympic golds and reigned as the European champion. This latter-day Laszlo has fought over 12 rounds against Stefabo Zoff, the former WBA champion, for that same Euro title. "Khan's just a kid," he said beforehand. He is right, and there's a lot of growing up to do before he is the finished article.

His hand speed, as always, was blinding, but Komjathi had seen this sort of thing before and was not as dazzled by it as some previous opponents.

Khan's promoter, Frank Warren, promises he will be fighting for "some sort ot title" by the end of the year. It is unlikely to be the British crown, but an Intercontinental bauble to add to his trophy cabinet.

Doubtless there will be bigger things to come in 2007 and Khan is even talking of going down the Ricky Hatton route and fighting in America. "I'd like to go there to gain experience and show them what I can do," he said. "With every fight I'm getting stronger and more confident."

Earlier the crowd had seen their very own warrior, the hard-as-nails Eamonn Magee, lose his WBU welterweight belt to the Iranian-born Londoner Takaloo on a majority decision two years after his leg was smashed in a Belfast street attack.

Danny Williams, the Commonwealth heavyweight champion, then stepped into the big-name spotlight vacated by Scott Harrison to defeat an inconsequential German-based Turk, Adnan Serin, who retired with a cut eyebrow after three rounds, in a prelude to his 8 July return with Matt Skelton in Cardiff, a bill which will also feature Amir Khan's next appearance.

But the night belonged to Khan, upon whose frame so much of the future of British boxing rests. A lot has happened to rock the game back on its heels but you feel Khan is not going to let anybody down. Most importantly, he has to keep his guard up.