A defeat full of silver linings as Khan sets his sights on Beijing

In the end we didn't get the golden fairytale. We got something much better, something you could hold up in the hard light of a boxing ring and say this is real, this is a real fighter with a real heart.

In the end we didn't get the golden fairytale. We got something much better, something you could hold up in the hard light of a boxing ring and say this is real, this is a real fighter with a real heart.

This was Amir Khan, the 17-year-old man-child from Bolton, reluctantly ceding gold to world amateur boxing's best pound-for-pound fighter, the reigning Olympic lightweight champion from Cuba, Mario Kindelan.

When it was over, the 33-year-old favourite of President Fidel Castro who has announced that he will now retire to the spoils reserved for heroes by his poor but intensely proud land, embraced the boy who had fought him so well and so courageously, and said: "You're a brilliant fighter and if you stay amateur you will be Olympic champion." Khan confirmed that he indeed planned to go on to the next Olympics in Beijing. It is a decision made easier by offers of major sponsorship from a group of admirers in the City of London.

There, in the Square Mile, the verdict is the same as the one reached by the fight crowd here and across the world: Amir Khan, without a scintilla of doubt, has hit the gold standard of seriously talented sportsmen. Single-handedly, he has established here the thrilling potential to redeem British boxing, to give it - after the retirement of Lennox Lewis and the abdication of the former fighter known to himself as the Prince, Naseem Hamed - some genuine weight and quality.

If any more confirmation were needed, it came from still another admiring spectator. Evander Holyfield, the "Real Deal", stepped forward to add to Kindelan's signal of approval. "You fought like a man," said the great former heavyweight champion. "Keep doing what you are doing, and you have a gold medal and a fine career before you."

As a matter of record, Khan had to settle for silver after being outpointed 30-22 but in those bare statistics, produced by a scoring system that at its very best can only be described as erratic, is a story to warm any fight aficionado's heart. In May, in the pre-Olympic tournament here, Kindelan beat Khan by a margin of 20 points, an edge which in amateur demands a referee stops the fight. Yesterday there was never a chance the fine champion would be able to build such an advantage. What we saw was the clear outline of a new champion in the making.

Khan led after the first round. It was the most slender of leads, 4-3, but it came from more than the fact than the Cuban is a notoriously slow starter. On this occasion there was an obvious incentive to intimidate the boy who had swept with increasing assurance through the four bouts which brought him to the final. Khan was not for cowering, however, and though Kindelan surged in front in the second round, outscoring his young challenger by six points, and then by another three in the third, the fourth round saw a thrilling parity.

In that fourth round Khan refused to subside beneath the skill and experience of his opponent and shared the 16 points. He did in a way which spoke of both hugely growing confidence and the finest of nerve, at one point landing a hard right which brought an expression of deep reflection on the retiring champion.

Said the British trainer Terry Edwards: "If you want to know how brilliant this boy is, remember this was only his 14th senior fight - and he was going against a superb champion, the best amateur boxer in the world. I just cannot say how much I admire what Amir has done here. Today, against a great fighter he pleased me more than ever. He faced the challenge like a man ... he is just amazing."

Khan said: "One day I know I'll fight as a pro, but before that I have some good years in the amateurs, where I can get so much experience against fighters of great quality. It's a very exciting prospect. Most of all I want to become a pro as a gold medal winner. A medal is something you have forever whatever happens along the road." Before that, there will be the pleasure of being reunited with "my mates in Bolton". Less uplifting, he suggested, is the prospect of catching up with assignments set by his technical college.

Not in question, however, is the extent of his education here at the 28th Olympics. He came in with a hint of nerves against a scrappy, inspired Greek, but smoothed them away in a flow of impeccable technique and biting aggression. He overwhelmed the Bulgarian European champion. He stopped a classically tough Korean as though he had, irritatingly, met a minor obstruction, and in the fight that guaranteed silver he pulled himself up against a bothersome brawler from Kazakhstan. That was a body of work which might have troubled anyone in the ranks of amateur boxing. Except, perhaps, the masterful Kindelan. The champion was determined not to have his moment of glory, and a subsequent brandy and cigar with the ageing sports fanatic Castro, whisked away by the boy who had come from nowhere.

To avoid that fate Kindelan was required to show, one last time, the workings of an authentic champion. He did it with a beautiful economy of effort and strategy but in that last round, when Khan announced that he was aware there was no learning experience quite so intense as defeat at the hands of a master, he was more than happy to seek out the safest corners of the ring.

Kindelan won, no question, but when he took the beaten boy in his arms there was no doubt about what he was saying. It was that there is no greater certainty in all of boxing than that Amir Khan will grow still stronger at this briefly broken place.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
sport
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sport
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Sport
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform