Khan's feet remain firmly on the canvas after 17 days that shook his world

Britain's Olympic silver medallist boxer is taking a professional approach to remaining amateur. Steve Bunce talks to the Bolton prodigy who may yet enter the paid ranks in 2006

Wednesday 20 October 2004 00:00

The special plate at the standing-room only Kebabish Chippie in Bolton is called The Khan.

The special plate at the standing-room only Kebabish Chippie in Bolton is called The Khan.

Each week the young Olympic boxer, Amir Khan, waits patiently in line with the chip shop's lunchtime crowd to order his very own plate of bizarre fast food. Since his success in Athens the menu at the chippery has altered slightly and now everything has the name Khan in it.

"It's not the only thing that has changed in my life," Khan jokes.

Before Athens, before eight million viewers sat down to watch him in the lightweight final, very little was known about the teenage fighter from Bolton. There was, in fact, a lot of misinformation and a lot of wayward comparisons that, thankfully, have been jettisoned since his dazzling performance in the long summer.

Khan, who will not be 18 until 8 December, is unlikely to make any firm decisions on his future before that date and there is not much chance that he will make any major decisions in the months ahead. Khan is a wanted boy and he knows he will remain a wanted man as he matures.

"It has been non-stop since I arrived back from Athens but I've tried to take it all in my stride. It has not been easy and at times it has been very hard," Khan admits.

"There are a lot of things for me to consider about my future, but I have good friends and family taking care of the details. I've said it before, and I'm not joking, I'm just a normal kid," Khan insists.

"I've not changed and I never will change. It makes no difference if it is a million pounds or the gold medal. I will always be me and everybody that is close to me knows that.

"My feet are on the ground, my family is right by my side and I listen to everything that I'm told and take in everything that I hear."

At the moment Khan is back in Mick Jelley's Bury gym preparing three nights each week for his first full international on British soil. On 3 December Khan will carry the flag of St George when England meet the United States in Liverpool. So far this year he has fought in Germany, Croatia, Bulgaria, South Korea and Greece. His homecoming promises to be quite an event and the BBC will screen the Friday night fight.

"There have been some offers from various professional promoters and there is the deal available from the amateurs, and these are all things that I've taken a look at," Khan insists.

More importantly, the money men from the professional ranks and the Amateur Boxing Association have all presented their bids for Khan's future services. The contracts and the letters of intent have been scrutinised by Khan's agent and relation, Asif Vali, and the boxer's father, Shah.

So far Khan has struggled slightly to lead the normal life that he promised himself during the Olympic circus. After each fight he would meet the British press and then sit for hours with his growing band of travelling friends and family. Each and every time, as the gold medal loomed ever closer, he repeatedly said that the success and the publicity would not alter his lifestyle. He was wrong and he knows it.

"It was 17 days and it changed my life for ever but, as I said, it will not change me," Khan says.

During the last three weeks he has exchanged mock hooks with John Prescott, strolled through the streets of London and received the highest accolade from the ancient society of the British Boxing Writers' Club, becoming the first amateur to win the Young Boxer of the Year award. He has been on a steep learning curve from a lifestyle that, six months ago, was ticking along nicely and it is obvious that Khan and everybody around him are enjoying the ride immensely.

"One minute I get a phone call about Amir doing something on TV, the next somebody wants to put him in a movie and the next somebody wants to make a record with him and I take down all the names, all the numbers and I'm very polite," Vali says. "When I've got everything neat and orderly I pop out for some lunch, and when I get back I start taking the phone calls again. It has been absolutely crazy."

There was one night a few weeks ago when Khan accepted an invitation from the promoter Frank Warren to watch from ringside as Ricky Hatton entertained about 10,000 people at the MEN Arena in Manchester. Khan clearly enjoyed the night and seemed in awe of the reception he received when he was introduced just minutes before Hatton took to the ring. There was much idle speculation at the time regarding Warren's intention, but it appears that it was simply stage one in what will no doubt be a long game that Warren aims to play before securing Khan's signature.

"Being ringside at Ricky's fight was a fantastic experience and Frank never mentioned anything about going pro. It was a night out for me and that was all it was," Khan says. However, it is known that Warren has had secret meetings with the amateur boxing authorities and it is rumoured that a substantial deal is in place that would, strangely, encourage Khan to remain amateur for a bit longer.

There appears to be an ideal date for Khan to desert the amateur code and it falls just after the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in March 2006. Khan will be 19, his appearance in Melbourne will be eagerly watched on TV and the Olympics in Beijing will still be 30 months away.

"Right now, I'm honestly not thinking that far ahead," Khan claims. "I'm just Amir Khan from Bolton. I have the silver medal from the Olympics but my story is not finished yet." It was not the first and it will surely not be the final soundbite from the young boxer.

On Monday, he waved at over 200,000 people on the streets of London, took tea with the Queen and Buckingham Palace, dined at The Savoy and slept in a suite at the London Hilton in Park Lane. Yesterday it was in Bolton and his mother cooked.

Proposed funding: Khan Support Group

Elite funding £25,000

Amateur Boxing Association £25,000

Liverpool City Council (for coaching services) £10,000

Education (through the ABA to be spent on Khan's education) £10,000

Total (per year) £70,000

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