Khan's world title dream moves within reach

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The Independent Online

Amir Khan's vow to be a world champion while he is still only 21 is about to be fast-forwarded. Recent shock results have turned the lightweight division upside down and put at least one of the titles well within the immediate reach of the boy from Bolton.

The defeat of Juan Diaz, the hitherto unbeaten Tex-Mex triple belt holder (WBA, WBO and IBF) by the American Nate Campbell, and that of Australia's Michael Katsidis, who held an interim version of the WBO title, by the Cuban veteran Joel Casamayor have opened up some intriguing opportunities for Khan.

If he beats the Dane Martin Kristjansen in front of his home crowd at the Bolton Arena on Saturday, a young man's dream could soon become reality, with either Campbell or Casamayor in line to meet him this autumn.

Having won all 12 rounds in his last fight against the former world champion Gairy St Clair, Khan is heading towards a title shot. The most likely scenario would see him pitted against Casamayor, 36, one of the Cubans who escaped Castro's regime. It would be a fascinating match-up as it was another Cuban, Mario Kindelan, whom Khan fought as a 17-year-old in the Olympic final in Athens in 2004, losing on points before beating him in a bout in Bolton before turning pro. "That would be a brilliant fight for me. Casamayor is a slick southpaw who is very accurate, but I'd have the power to beat him," said Khan

First Khan must dispose of Kristjansen. The Dane is ranked No 2 by the WBO but has stopped only five of his 23 opponents. A defeat in Italy against Stefano Zoff in his only previous excursion outside Denmark suggests he may not travel well.

He seems the perfect foil for Khan. "He has a good defence and reminds me of myself in my amateur days. He may not have a lot of power, but there is so much riding on this fight I can't afford to slip up at this stage."

Twenty-four hours earlier, Khan will watch the British champion Jon Thaxton's quest for the European lightweight title against Yuri Romanov of Belarus. He could have fought either instead of Kristjansen but believes the Dane offers a swifter passage to his world ambitions. However, he says: "I'm happy to fight the winner, because I want as many titles as I can this year."

His plans incorporate one more fight before going to Beijing to mentor Britain's Olympic boxers. "I am delighted so many have qualified. There are things I can pass on from my Olympic experience, like how to chill out in the village. It was lonely for me, and at least they can encourage each other and push for medals. We'll get two or three."

Khan is promising Bolton fans a more scintillating show than the football team he supports. "I need to get them in the gym and sort them out," he laughs. "We're a bit lacking in firepower and need someone up front."

One suspects Kristjansen is about to discover that Bolton does have quite a decent striker.

Watch Amir Khan fight Martin Kristjansen next Saturday on ITV, from 9.15pm.

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