Boxing: Tough test for Khan as Evans pledges to take down the hero

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The Independent Online

First there was a silver medal in Athens, then an audience with the Queen, a meeting with the Prime Minister, an appearance on Blue Peter, several tabloid tales and finally, after a break of 96 days, Amir Khan will enter a ring for a fight.

Khan, who is still only 17, will meet America's Michael Evans at the Olympia on the outskirts of Liverpool tonight at lightweight as part of the second leg of the annual match between England and the USA. The English won Monday's event 4-3 at a hotel in London.

When Khan last fought nearly nine million watched him live on the BBC and millions more listened on Radio 5 as he tried to beat Cuba's Mario Kindelan and win the Olympic gold. He lost but, as they say in the sporting trade, he won the nation's hearts and minds. It is unlikely that nine million people will call a halt to their Friday night routine, but an audience of four or more million is anticipated when it goes live at 7pm.

After Athens he had the vagaries of instant fame to deal with and it has to be said that the he has handled the pressure and demands with ease, which is partly due to the increased involvement of his family. Thankfully, various high-profile sports agencies have not managed to poison little Khan's mind and he remains a pleasant kid, a nice teenage prodigy. He is a genuine breath of fresh air and the longer that lasts, the harder it will be for him to suddenly become subservient to somebody with a clipboard and an agenda for future sponsors.

Tonight's encounter against the smart-talking Evans will not be easy and that is another refreshing difference between amateur boxing and its ugly big brother, the professional business. Khan knows that easy fights are a liability at his age and, if he is to achieve any more success at amateur level, he will have to meet the very best at some stage.

The American was a sensational prospect in 1998 when he beat Scotland's Alex Arthur during the Goodwill Games at Madison Square Garden. Arthur turned professional and has won and lost the British title since that afternoon but Evans turned his back on the sport and only returned seriously to the gym and competition this year.

Evans, 27, has fought 9 times this year and has stopped or knocked out six of the eight men he has beaten. In October, when Khan was in the thick of the celebrity circuit, he became the American amateur champion and his complete record is 109 fights with just 13 defeats. The fight will be fast and it has to be remembered that over the short duration of four rounds of two minutes, the boxer with the better timing has an advantage.

"I'm here for my Olympic revenge. It is that simple. I'm not here to lose and a quick look at my record and my credentials prove that I'm here to win," said Evans. "The Cuban ran from Khan in the Olympic final but I'm not going to do that.

"How can I be scared of Khan? I'm here to take down the hero and I know that I can do it," added Evans.

Evans not only talks a good fight he can obviously fight a bit, which is an advantage for an opponent in the amateur game but a definite hazard in the professional business. There is no way that a fighter like Evans would be climbing through the ropes to meet Khan had the teenager's bright eyes been turned by the promises of the slick men in suits that run and rule the professional business in Britain. Audley Harrison, we should never forget, won a gold medal in Sydney and for his first professional fight he met a guy that had worked at Disneyland as Minnie Mouse's bodyguard.

If Khan had decided to turn professional then he would not be facing any type of test this evening. He would have been matched with one of the sport's most reliable losers. His performance in Athens would have saved him from anonymity, which, invariably, is what happens to most former amateur champions when they make their debuts.

Khan would have won in a round or possibly even a minute to launch his slow but predictable progress to one of the 10 or so world titles that are currently on offer; often at a discounted price from one of the tainted bodies that hand out baubles. Tonight is a different story and he will have to prove that he can fight and box in equal measure just like he did in four of his five Olympic appearances.

Tonight is sport and it should never be confused with the professional business.

Steve Bunce will be part of the BBC's commentary team for the fight