Amir Khan interview: ‘I know it hurts my wife and children, but I’m not ready to quit boxing’

The former world champion says he cannot bow out of the sport after the controversial end to his fight with Terence Crawford

Declan Taylor
New York
Tuesday 23 April 2019 07:02
Amir Khan v Terence Crawford

Amir Khan opens the door to his room on the 37th floor of a hotel just round the corner from Madison Square Garden with a smile. The Premier League fixture between Liverpool and Cardiff is in full swing on the flat screen television that hangs on the wall and the Empire State Building looms large outside one of the suite's high windows.

“The rooms aren't as big as they are in Vegas here in New York,” he says, pulling up a chair. “But look at that view, man. This is a good spot for a selfie.”

His controversial and physically painful encounter with Terence Crawford, which took place only a few blocks from where Khan is sat, is barely 12 hours old but the 32-year-old is already plotting his next move and it does not involve hanging up his gloves.

“I've still got it in me to carry on,” he says, marking Easter Sunday by unwrapping a Cadbury's Creme Egg and biting the top off.

“This is just another bump on the road and it's not one of the bumps against someone who is low calibre. This was against the best of the best, a pound for pound guy.”

That guy Crawford is arguably the world's No.1 fighter right now but it was the contentious ending and not the six rounds of preceding punishment which has hurt Khan the most.

After a low blow from the WBO champion, Khan wheeled away in pain and a combination of him and his trainer Virgil Hunter decided to end the fight there and then, handing the champion a sixth-round TKO victory which drew boos from many of the 14,000 plus in attendance.

“I am upset,” Khan says, and he means it. “The backlash on social media makes you feel upset too.

“The fight was the highest point of my career and I have to give credit to Terence Crawford because he's a lot better than I thought he would be.

"I do feel more upset than I did after my other four defeats. I try to fight at the highest level and obviously it didn't come off. That's the way I look at it. I just have to go back to the drawing board. My heart is hurting more than my balls but I am in one piece.”

But his decision to plough on will not go down well with his wife Faryal Makhdoom, who assumed the role of camp manager but then refused to watch her husband in action on Saturday night.

“I haven't spoken to my wife yet,” he says. “I know she's going to be upset. She hates me fighting. She's always said it, she hates me boxing and has never been a fan of me being in the ring.

Amir Khan suffered a sixth-round TKO defeat against Terence Crawford

“She's always afraid, she says the worst time is when I fight. She just says 'I turn my phone off and I'm always praying and I don't know what's happening.' She was at the hotel during my fight.”

Also kept far from the madding MSG crowd were his young daughters Lamaisah, 4, and Alayna, who turns one this week. His eldest, he says, will be shocked to see the marking across his face, inflicted by Crawford during a fight in which Khan was dropped heavily in the first round.

“Lamaisah gets upset when she sees the marks because she understands now and it's not nice,” Khan says.

“She is proud of me and she does love it and I explain to her that this is what hard work is and this is what you have to go through in life. This is hard work.

“Everything I do is for them and I get hit in the face for them.

The bout is waved off in the sixth round

“We had Alayna in camp with us but Lamaisah stayed in England because she had to go to school.

“But I am going to live with my wife and daughters for a few days here in New York and then we go back to Manchester on Wednesday. We've been apart for three months but now they will be sleeping next to me and cuddled up with daddy for the next few nights.”

It was put to Khan that with millions in the bank, a pair of light-welterweight world title belts on his mantelpiece and an unforgettable mark made on British boxing, now might be a good time to retreat to life as a full-time family man.

“When you get older everything changes," he replies. "The whole ball game changes and everything you do is for your family,”

“But boxing is one of those sports where once I leave the sport I don't want to come back. I know I give my family a heart attack every time I fight and they hate me fighting but it's just going to be for this one time in my life.

"Then after that I can spend the rest of my life with my family. I know it hurts them and upsets them but it's what I'm good at doing.

“I have to be ready to finish. I don't want to finish thinking 'could I have fought again?' You have to do it at the right time, it has to be a solid decision. Retiring at the wrong time would haunt me forever, it would haunt anyone.”

It has been suggested that Khan might now never shake off the 'quitter' label with which he was branded in the aftermath of Saturday's encounter. That, in turn, may affect his chances of securing more big fights in the future. So what next?

“These next couple of weeks will be quite interesting,” Khan adds. “I have to sit down with my close friends and also my wife. I'm at the age of 32 now but I feel like I've got a lot left in me. Retirement is not something I'm looking at and I definitely wouldn't want to leave the sport in this way.

“I think retirement will be nice, one day when I do retire. I think I will enjoy it because it would take a lot of pressure off me. You are then a free man.

“I've been in the game for a very long time, from the age of eight I've been boxing. It got really busy for me at the age of 12, that was when I really started committing to the sport and I was running every day. Now I'm 32, that's 20 years – it's crazy.

“I am going to leave it to God. I've had a crazy up-and-down career and opportunities have always come. No matter who I have fought I have always given it my all.

“I just know another call will come again saying: 'Amir, there is another big fight do you want to top the bill again?' My dream was to win a world title and top big bills and I have done that.

“Everything else is a bonus now.”

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