Boxing: Cool Khan can thrive on star billing in Washington

 

It is thought that more than 9,000 people have paid to watch Amir Khan fight in Washington DC tonight, proving that the teenager from the Athens Olympics is finally, against the odds and reason, a global star of the ring.

Khan has been in the American capital before, when he walked the famous corridors and met, through official invite, Hillary Clinton. It is doubtful if that brief encounter helped shift tickets for his double world title defence against former street-child Lamont Peterson, at the Walter E Washington Convention Centre tonight. Khan is now a genuine main attraction on HBO, who dominate and control boxing in the United States, which remains the sport's most lucrative market. There is also a cheap ticket at $25, which would simply not be possible in Britain, to bring in any casual fans struggling to balance the books at Christmas.

Peterson lived rough, survived a torrid life on the capital's streets but now lives in Memphis and is virtually unknown in his hometown. However, it is Khan's presence on HBO and his desperate struggle and toe-to-toe fight last December against Marcos Maidana that has transformed him from quality British fighter to international boxer of acclaim.

Khan, now 25, has not changed from the tiny boy who boldly slugged his way to the Olympic final when he was just 17. His body has taken shape and been reshaped under a variety of conditioning experts since turning professional, but the boy has essentially remained hidden under the hardened muscles and increased facial hair. He was an innocent soul back then; now he is wiser but still as kind.

His passage from contender to television attraction and then sickening knockout victim has been told and re-told, as has his anonymous flit under the cover of night to Los Angeles and the retreat offered inside the filthy walls of Freddie Roach's gym. The boy from Bolton has most certainly done it his way and deservedly takes his place with the other big boys in the BBC's shortlist for this year's Sports Personality award.

Tonight he has to overcome a slick fighter whose only defeat in 31 fights was against Khan's rival Tim Bradley in a forgettable 12-rounder for the World Boxing Organisation's bauble. Bradley remains unbeaten but delusional about his financial worth in a showdown, which has now probably vanished for good, against Khan.

The bookies have for some reason taken the view that Khan is a massive favourite against Peterson, who is not struggling with the weight, has not been knocked out and is just two years older than Khan. It is one of the oddest pieces of bookmaking that I have seen regarding a British boxer in a world title fight in America. I can only assume that Khan's partnership with Roach and Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy company has altered his status in the eyes of the odds-makers and the American fans. He is most certainly not viewed as "the plucky Brit".

The reality is that both boxers can be caught, hurt and dropped in serious fights. There is a decent bet of about 10-1 that Khan ends up at some point on the canvas, gets up and wins. Peterson will also have the added motivation of knowing that he can jump above Khan in the disorderly line of fighters who have a chance of meeting either of the sport's cash cows: Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather Jnr.

There has been only refreshingly mild trash-talking from both camps and the overall tone has been respectful, which seems at odds with what will be a heaving crowd once the first bell sounds. It seems nice guys do sell and Peterson, who is attached to many homeless causes, has thankfully not bothered with the usual list of anti-British insults. I imagine it is quite daunting facing Khan across a table when on one elbow rests Roach, neatly balanced by De La Hoya's perfect smile on the other. It is not always this pleasant with Khan and when he met Bradley at a fight in May there was a word or two exchanged; it was only Khan talking: "I told him he needed to grow some balls. He never said a word, but some of his team started to get brave." Thankfully, in boxing there still exists a need for a crafted and valid comment and Khan seems to know when to open his mouth.

"I have looked at Amir's fights and the minute with [Breidis] Prescott is the one that matters," claimed Peterson. "When that fight was over, matchmaking was used as an excuse but it had nothing to do with that. That's the fight I've worked on." Prescott knocked Khan senseless in just over 60 seconds in September 2008; Khan flew to Roach's safe haven a few hours later.

"It seems that everybody I fight looks at the loss to Prescott and thinks that they can repeat what he did," said Khan. "I was different in so many ways then: no Freddie, different weight and a different approach to boxing. Let Lamont try like all the others have tried since that fight." Peterson will try and will fall short. Khan, however, will need to perform with more of his brain than his power before winning wide or stopping the American late. It will still be a hard, hard fight.

Tale Of The Tape

Lamont Peterson / Amir Khan

27 / Age / 25

Washington / Born / Bolton

Havoc / Nickname / King Khan

5ft 9 / Height / 5ft 10

188cm / Reach / 180cm

Orthodox / Stance / Orthodox

Title / IBF/WBA /World Super-Lightweight Champion (Amir Khan)

31 / Fights / 27

29 / Won / 26

15 / KOs / 18

1 / Lost / 1

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Ashdown Group: Lead Web Developer (ASP.NET, C#) - City of London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + Excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Lead Web Develo...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee