Boxing: Khan halfway to greatness says Roach

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The Independent Online

Freddie Roach insists Amir Khan is only "about halfway" towards reaching his full potential after admitting the Englishman excites him in the same way Manny Pacquiao did as a youngster.

Khan, 22, made a successful first defence of his WBA light-welterweight crown with a stunning 76-second stoppage of previously unbeaten Dmitriy Salita in Newcastle on Saturday.

After achieving so much at a young age, Roach believes Khan has the world at his feet.

Asked to compare Khan with a young Pacquiao, the renowned trainer said: "It's hard to say because it took me eight years to get Pacquiao to where we are now.

"I've been with Amir for a year now and we have a lot of time.

"I think he's about halfway there. He's a world champion which is a great feat in itself but I think he has a bright future and can be a multi-champion in a lot of different weight divisions.

"That's long-term though, a lot of things can happen between now and then. I think he has the potential to be a superstar and win multi-weight titles, for sure."

Khan turned his career around by relocating to America to train under Roach in Los Angeles and, despite his popularity in Britain - the Bolton fighter received a stunning reception at the Metro Radio Arena last night - both he and promoter Frank Warren believe his Stateside debut is imminent.

Warren said: "He will go and fight in the States, of course he will. What fighter doesn't want to fight at Madison Square Garden or in Las Vegas?

"He's got the ambition to do that and prove himself over there. He will do that."

Khan plans to "shock the world" by making a statement when he eventually makes his US debut.

"It's everyone's dream to go over to Vegas," he said.

"After that reception, you don't want to leave England. I'd like to fight in England and keep fighting here.

"But, definitely, in the next year sometime, I think it would be a good move to go to the States (to fight). I train over there and I love it there.

"In the gym you get so many people asking, 'when are you fighting here?' And I always say, 'soon, soon' but I think they are bored of asking so they don't ask me now.

"But, yes, next year sometime is what we're looking at and we're going to hopefully shock the world when we go to America."

Making his first defence against unbeaten Ukraine-born New Yorker Salita, Khan floored his man barely 10 seconds into the contest, landing a hard left and crushing right to send Salita spiralling to the canvas.

The challenger managed to get to his feet unsteadily before Khan followed up with a lightning-quick flurry, which bludgeoned the New Yorker to one knee.

Salita was up again but the end was in sight and, when Khan set up another assault with the right hand and had Salita unsteadily slumping against the ropes, Puerto Rican referee Luis Pavon stepped in and ended it only one minute 16 seconds into the fight.