The meteor that is Amir Khan moved within a left hook's distance of a world title fight with a seventh round stoppage of Dane Martin Kristjansen in an official eliminator for the World Boxing Organisation lightweight championship at his hometown venue of Bolton Arena last night.
Kristjansen, ranked No 2 by the WBO, was battered to the floor three times in the round before the referee Mickey Vann called a halt after two minutes 53 seconds of the session.
Each time Kristjansen, who had been beaten only once before and had never been stopped, was mown down by a hail of fierce, fast but measured punches. Khan angered the Dane's corner – and earned a rebuke from the referee – after he continued to belabour the stricken Kristjansen when he was on his knees after the first knock-down. In the process of his 17th successive victory the Olympic silver medallist acquired the WBO intercontinental belt to add to his Commonwealth crown. Now, he says, he is ready to step up to world level.
Kristjansen, 30, was no Danish patsy even though the bookmakers had made him as massive a long shot as any outsider in the Grand National. He stood his ground and occasionally made Khan fire uncharacteristically off the back foot. But he lost every round of a one-horse race. "This was a big win for me," said Khan, whose three previous victories in Bolton had lasted a total of less than five minutes. "I had to break him down and my shots were cleaner. I saw in his eyes in the seventh that he didn't want any more. It means I am on the right path for a world title. I'm getting closer to my dream."
However, promoter Frank Warren is probably right in suggesting that Khan needs one more fight before achieving it. There are still aspects of his defence he needs to work on, especially his susceptibility to an overhand right.
The WBO's new main men are two 36-year-olds, the Cuban Joel Casamayor and American Nate Campbell. Khan reckons he can beat both but whether a match can be made with either in the coming months is questionable.
A more exacting test for Khan would probably be the European champion Yuri Romanov, now very much a world title contender himself after he dismantled the British champion John Thaxton in London on Friday. Khan, who plans to take time out in the summer to mentor the GB Olympic boxing squad in Beijing, intends to fight again in June, possibly in America.
This was the penultimate fight in Khan's deal with ITV, and Setanta are known to be keen to poach him. The subscription channel, which promised "a major announcement" tomorrow, will be screening the second of the trilogy of mega-buck match-ups featuring Britons in the US when Clinton Woods defends his International Boxing Federation light-heavyweight title against the former champion Antonio Tarver in Tampa, Florida early next Sunday.Reuse content