Boxing: Khan builds on reputation as Golden Boy

British Fighter of the Year defends titles against elusive Peterson amid sadness over friend Speed

Like everyone in sport, Amir Khan was shocked by the death of Gary Speed last weekend. He and the Wales football manager became friends during Speed's playing days at Bolton, the club that the world light-welterweight champion has supported since boyhood.

Khan heard the news in Los Angeles, where he is preparing for his title defence next Saturday in Washington against leading contender Lamont Peterson. "When a friend phoned from home I was stunned," he says. "It really upset me because I had got to know him quite well. He was a big boxing fan, and one of his sons was a promising boxer. Gary used to come to my gym to watch me train and I used to see him a lot when I went for treatment at the Reebok. He was respected so much by the other lads. He was like a mentor to them. We talked a lot and got on well. He was a lovely man.

"Obviously I've no idea why it happened but I do understand the pressures that sport can bring, which so often lead to depression."

No sport exercises more of those pressures on the psyche than boxing. Not only livelihoods but lives are at risk from the moment the first bell clangs. Evidence of this is vividly illustrated by the ITV documentary to be shown tomorrow evening on the fight and the aftermath of the brutal encounter between Nigel Benn and Gerald McClellan in 1995, which left the victor suicidal and the latter blind and crippled.

Yet often it is not the scars of combat but the vacuum in life after it that leads to despair and its tragic consequences. Khan is determined that it will not happen to him. "When your career is over you can get lonely and bored, and that's when things can start going wrong in your head. It's the emptiness, the boredom more than anything. Your life has always been about training and competing and when it's over you don't know what to do with yourself. I am sure it will never happen to me, though, because I have such a close family.

"When you are depressed or tired, that's when you need them and I know mine will be there for me. Also I'll always be in the gym training when I've finished boxing. I'll be sure to keep myself busy."

Newly named as Britain's Fighter of the Year and a shortlisted candidate for the BBC's Sports Personality Award, Khan certainly cannot be accused of idleness as he builds a reputation as the sport's Golden Boy on both sides of the Atlantic. The fight against Peterson will be the sixth defence of his WBA belt and his first as IBF champion, a title for which the American, fighting in his home town, is mandatory challenger.

Peterson is no ho-hum journeyman. Beaten only once in 31 fights – by Timothy Bradley, the WBC champion who Khan claims is avoiding him – he is an accomplished stylist who likes to crouch low to make himself a difficult target. But he lacks the one piece of equipment that would give Khan a headache in every sense: a concussive clout

It is an appetising match-up: Peterson's intelligent conservatism against Khan's fast-fisted flamboyance. Even Khan's trainer, Freddie Roach, reckons it could go all the way. "But Amir has matured mentally as well as physically in his last few fights and he simply has too much for Peterson."

Khan will be 25 on Thursday, and he acknowledges that physically he is close to his peak. After this fight he is likely to move up to welterweight, bringing him within hitting distance of Floyd Mayweather Jnr next year should the "Money" man not come to terms with Khan's esteemed stablemate Manny Pacquiao.

It's an intimidating prospect that would be the ultimate test for this impressive young man's burgeoning maturity.

Londoner Dereck Chisora failed narrowly to claim the vacant European heavyweight title, losing on a controversial 12-round split decision to Finland's  Robert Helenius in Helsinki last night. Chisora, far more aggressive than when he surrendered his British title to Tyson Fury in July, came close to ending the unbeaten record of the 6ft 7in giant, one judge making him the winner by 115-113 but the other two giving it to Helenius by the same margin.

Amir Khan v Lamont Peterson is live on Sky Sports 1 and 1HD on Saturday

Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Esteban Cambiasso makes it 3-3
premier league
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
people'I hated him during those times'
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Dame Vivienne Westwood has been raging pretty much all of her life
peopleMemoir extracts show iconic designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Life and Style
fashionAlexander Fury's London Fashion Week roundup
Arts and Entertainment
Lauryn Hill performing at the O2 Brixton Academy last night
musicSinger was more than 90 minutes late on stage in Brixton show
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
people''Women's rights is too often synonymous with man-hating'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

Nursery Nurse

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

SEN Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam