Promoters dangle rewards of Olympic glory before Khan

Amir Khan, the 17-year-old boxer, says his Olympic heroics will change little in his life. Promoters think otherwise.
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When a fresh-faced Amir Khan strode out of the Peristeri stadium in Athens yesterday, an Olympic silver medal draped round his neck, he insisted that little in his life was going to change.

When a fresh-faced Amir Khan strode out of the Peristeri stadium in Athens yesterday, an Olympic silver medal draped round his neck, he insisted that little in his life was going to change.

The 17-year-old from Bolton was going to take a few weeks' rest and then resume his sports development course at college and try to pass his driving test, while at all times "keeping his feet on the ground".

However, as he spoke those words yesterday afternoon, the voicemail on his mobile phone had reached capacity, full of messages from well-wishers, but also with offers from boxing promoters and sponsors who see him, in earnings potential, as a real heavyweight.

Last night, an investment bank was believed to be putting the finishing touches to a proposed sponsorship deal which would see their name emblazoned on the fighter's kit.

He will not be eligible to turn professional until his 18th birthday in December and repeated, after his defeat by Cuban Mario Kindelan, his desire to retain that status until the next Games in Beijing in 2008, but that will not deter the suitors.

Britain's leading promoter, Frank Warren, is due to sit down with Khan and his father Sajaad next week to discuss a deal to tie him in with a broadcaster. The sums on offer would dwarf an earlier £10,000 bid by a Pakistani promoter.

But the smart money remains on him not turning professional until after the World Championships, also in Beijing, next year. "Khan is one of the best young fighters in the world and looks favourite for the world championships, after which he could command a £250,000 pricetag," said a source close to the Khan camp. "There would be little point of fighting on for another two years when you have that potential. He could also be a sound investment for sponsors as he is an exciting fighter who is also level-headed and educated."

Warren, considered the only promoter likely to land Khan's signature, would direct the latest addition to his stable of fighters towards a deal with Sky television. The satellite broadcaster would expect better value for money than the BBC received after spending £1m on a 10-fight deal with Audley Harrison after he won super heavyweight gold in Sydney four years ago but who has since failed to take on the best.

Assuming Khan does not turn professional immediately, he will hold talks next Monday with Sport England, distributors of lottery funds, to discuss a hike in his training purse. Khan can expect to see his funding rise from £13,000 to £18,000, a 10th of what a silver medal would be worth as a professional.

Others have warned Khan of the perils of turning professional in his teens. Nicky Piper, a former amateur turned super middleweight who is now director of the British Boxing Board of Control, said: "A promoter would put £5,000 in his pocket and give him a £50,000 basic salary, which would be a huge temptation.

"But if he gets a decent agent the money would tide him over to stay in the amateur ranks. The danger is his career could go backwards if he becomes a pro at such a young age."

Yesterday, Khan said he has a "lot to catch up on", including his studies and driving lessons, which have both been neglected after two months dedicated to the Olympics.

Before that, a civic reception is planned for him in Bolton and next Saturday he will take to the pitch as his beloved Bolton Wanderers take on Manchester United at the Reebok Stadium.

"I'm six assignments behind in college and I don't want to be in trouble with the teachers. I'm sure they will think it is worth it when I get back. I've also got to pass my driving test, so there is a lot to catch up on. I just want to stay as I am and keep my feet on the ground" Khan said.

"I am going to stay an amateur until I am 22 because when I turn professional I will be more mature and stronger and have more behind me."

Khan's silver medal performance was watched yesterday by Olympic champion sprinters Darren Campbell, Marlon Devonish and the British badminton squad, as well as a large group of friends and family.

"There were about 10 family and friends for the early rounds but today there were about 50 and and I don't know where they all came from. It was great support but I don't know who half of them were" Khan said.

His father Sajaad Khan said: "I'm so proud of him. He is a boy who fought like a man. He's relaxed, he's not hurt and he's not upset. He'll be back in training soon but first Bolton is going to throw one big party for him."

Asked about the reception he expects in Bolton, Amir said: "I am ready for the support and I can't wait to get home. It's been a long two weeks and I have been training very hard."