Khan adds precious mettle to golden reputation

Something shone out beyond the spotlit ring of the Peristeri Olympic Boxing Hall here yesterday, piercing the semi-darkness of the arena. It was a brilliant talent. And it belonged to a 17-year-old taking his first big step towards what might, what could, what should be a career that will establish him as one of this sport's celebrated protagonists.

Amir Khan is too young to contest the Amateur Boxing Association Championships, but he is old enough to be Britain's only boxer at these Games and good enough to have persuaded many experienced observers of the game that he has "got it".

How far "it" will take him depends upon many things, but all the evidence so far is that this level-headed, personable young man from a warm and supportive family in Bolton can aspire realistically to ambitions which include Olympic gold medals and world championship titles.

To achieve the first of those targets at these Games is a mighty task, particularly as Khan's first-round win over local boxer Marios Kaperonis yesterday has earned him a meeting with Bulgaria's European champion Dimitar Stilianov in a 60kg lightweight category that also includes the man many regard as the best amateur boxer in the world, Cuba's defending champion Mario Cesar Kindelan.

But neither Khan, nor the man who has coached him at the Bury Club since he was an 11-year-old, Mick Jelley, were ruling it out after an Olympic debut that was witnessed approvingly by, among others, the Minister for Culture and Sport, Tessa Jowell, the man charged with guiding London's bid for the 2012 Olympics, Seb Coe, and Princess Anne.

Asked afterwards if it seemed harsh for Khan to be already facing the European No-1 for a place in the quarter-finals, Jelley responded: "That's why you are here. But I think he's capable of winning it."

Jelley, a lean figure with a grey moustache and - especially for the occasion, one assumes - a natty Union Jack waistcoat, has had to give over his usual task to the team coach Terry Edwards for the Games, which meant finding himself as a frustrated front-row observer while his young charge began diffidently.

Khan, who arrived here with the title of world junior champion, may be precociously gifted, but by his own admission yesterday he was nervous. He is only a teenager. And these are the Olympics.

As Jelly strove vainly to attract his attention from the sidelines - "His timing were out and he were missing a few times. 'Try to get in distance. Punch a bit lower,' I wanted to say to him" - the young man in blue swiftly got the measure of his latest challenge.

Despite the excitable exhortations of the home crowd, Khan - cheered on by a band of Union Jack-waving supporters which included his father, Shajaad, a mechanic who also runs a scrapyard and a mini-cab business - soon got the measure of his rash opponent.

After narrowly shading the first round, the boxer who chose to compete for Britain rather than the country of his father's origin, Pakistan, began to demonstrate why he has caused such a stir in the sport.

With his rangy style and long arms and legs, he looks more like a basketball player than a boxer. Until he moves, that is. Then he shows a fluency and accuracy that has already, somewhat ludicrously, drawn comparisons with Muhammad Ali from some within the sport.

"After my first round I felt a lot more relaxed and comfortable," he said to a thicket of dictaphones afterwards. "I was catching him with some good shots and I kept catching him. I knew he'd tire a bit because he's a local man in front of his home crowd.

"Once I got into my stride I got my punch going. I just kept biding my time and picking my shots. The first fight is always the hardest because I haven't been in the ring for a while. After this I'll go into the next fight a bit more relaxed and confident."

There were exhalations of relief all round as Khan came through his inaugural Olympic test.

While his father looked on from ringside, Khan's mother, Falak, and his 13-year-old younger brother, Haroon, were watching a live television transmission at the family home in Bolton along with a group of friends and relatives which included his cousin, the Lancashire and England cricketer Sajid Mahmood.

It was a measure of Khan's swiftly growing reputation that the family celebrations were also witnessed by the cameras of Granada TV. People watching people watching people.

"They were straight on the phone to me after he won," Shahaad said. "It was as noisy there as it was here."

Jelley's reaction was considerably more measured. "It's like you plant a seed, and it starts to grow," he said. "It blossoms, and it might stay nice for three weeks and then it dies. That's the same as a young boxer. Every contest Amir has, he gets a little bit better.

"I've run my club for 40 years, and all the lads there get treated the same, and shouted at the same. Amir's the only lad that I've ever told that he can be world champion. When he's 27 years old he'll be world champion. I might be wrong. But when I say something it generally comes to pass."

Arts & Entertainment
William Shakespeare's influence on English culture is still strongly felt today, from his plays on stage to words we use everyday
arts
Voices
voices Furore is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion, says Nigel Farage
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
peopleJay Z and Beyoncé to buy £5.5m London townhouse
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
News
peopleMan repeatedly tried to enter her homes in Los Angeles and London
Arts & Entertainment
With Jo Joyner in 'Trying Again'
tvHe talks to Alice Jones on swapping politics for pillow talk
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Student
student
News
<b>Rebecca Adlington</b>
<br />This, the first British swimmer to win two
Olympic gold medals in 100 years, is the eversmiling
face of the athletes who will, we're
confident, make us all proud at London 2012
peopleRebecca Adlington on 'nose surgery'
Arts & Entertainment
tvJudge for yourself
Life & Style
tech
News
Tough call: is the psychological distress Trott is suffering an illness? (Getty)
healthJonathan Trott and the problems of describing mental illness
Life & Style
23 April 2014: Google marks St George's Day with a drawing depicting England's patron saint slaying a fire-breathing dragon
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

Sam Wallace

Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents