'I still very much want to box': Amir Khan interview
Photo: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
It feels like only yesterday that we were first introduced to the prodigious talents of Amir Khan. Fresh from his thrilling silver medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, he had the world at his feet.
Britain's youngest ever Olympic boxing medalist graduated to the Commonwealth lightweight belt, and tthe WBA and IBF world titles at super lightweight. Here he speaks exclusively to Sonia Randev about those recent retirement rumours, Kell Brook, social media abuse and much more...
BM: How do you feel about the current Covid-19 situation and do you think that boxing will recover from this?
AK: It’s a difficult time for all. The time should be used for reflection. Spending time with loved ones and if you cannot be with your family and friends, then staying in touch with them. Remaining positive is hard in any tough situation but we will get through this. It’s tough for athletes. We as boxers live and breathe training, so not being able to go to the gym and interact with people, spar and train alongside other fighters is really tough. I have a fitness gym at home where I have been training but it’s not the same as being in the gym surrounded by like minded people.
Boxing will survive but I feel that it won’t go back to normal until at least early next year. The ones that are at the top of their careers will settle back into the sport easier than those that say have just started or are on the domestic scene. These particular fighters need the fights, at least 3-4 fights per year, to move up in the ranks and put themselves in contention for the really big fights. The whole situation has put people’s careers on hold and once things resume it will take time to find their rhythm. If you don’t sell tickets or enhance your profile, financial rewards will be very little. Sponsors want athletes that have a good following, create good content and are role models. It’s the nature of the business across most industries.
Some of the more elite boxers who are at the top of their game will be retiring soon. The current situation will create a gap as we wait for things to go back to normal. Grassroots boxing and small hall shows are the future of boxing. We need to do what we can to ensure they get all the help they need to survive and get back on their feet. We don’t want boxing to die out, which it won’t, there is just going to be a lot of setbacks and we need to be prepared for that.
BM: You have kindly donated your wedding venue to the NHS. Do you feel athletes should be doing more if they have the resources?
AK: I didn’t even have to think twice about doing this. I wasn’t asked for help or donations. This is something I wanted to do. I grew up in Bolton. I know everyone. If I can help my community, then I will do what I can to that. If athletes have the resources and money to support, then I feel we should.
I have seen other athletes and well known people do similar. To me it’s just a normal thing to do. I didn’t do it to enhance my profile or make myself look good. I genuinely have a good heart. There is a lot of pressure put on us to help in times like these. No one should feel like they have to but the way I look at it is that the public helped get to where I am [by] buying tickets to my fights, tuning in on TV, businesses sponsoring me. It’s also my way of saying thank you to those that did support me or watch me fight. Whether that was to see me lose, they still tuned in!
We can’t control the situation we are in. But if we pull together we can ease some of that anxiety and pressure on the NHS, police and others that are working around the clock to keep us safe. It’s important we listen to the government and stay at home.
I do a lot of charity work through my foundation in the UK and Pakistani like to give back. I may not have always got things right in the past but I still remember who I am and where I came from even if some people don’t believe that. Even when I came back from winning the silver at the Olympics I was offered a very lucrative deal to turn pro [immediately], I turned it down as I wanted to do what I could to help Team GB and make sure that funding would be made available to them. I don’t tell many that I was offered a contract that would have made me very rich at such a young age but again I do have a heart and care about boxing and the community. My charity work makes happy.
BM: It’s been an up and down career in and out the ring. Does it bother you when you are on the receiving end of social media abuse?
AK: When I first started out there was only ever really Facebook. I didn’t really get that much grief then. As more social platforms were created and my profile got bigger, that was it. People were on my back, calling me names, my family names etc.I just learned to not let it get to me. I am mentally strong. I was the youngest ever Olympian and knew from then I had to be strong. I do read the comments and just laugh them off. Even boxers that call me out or say something on my posts. I just ignore it because I look at my achievements in the ring and in all honestly some of these boxers that have called me out haven’t even achieved half of what I have.
I still want to see people do good and boxers win titles. I just don’t let it affect me. It’s not easy sometimes but you have to take the good with the bad, especially when you are in the public eye. Social media has its pros and cons. Just stay true to yourself. I made mistakes. I am fully aware of how I have conducted myself on social platforms. We live and learn. I'm not here to judge others but like I said the abuse has almost become a part of normal life for me.
BM: There’s been mention of Devin Haney wanting to fight you. Is this something you are looking to take?
AK: I will never turn down a fight. I live boxing and have proved that I am not afraid to get in the ring with the best. So if Devin wants it, he can have it.
BM: You have spoken about whether you fight again. What is the reason behind this?
AK: I think what I said may have been taken out of context or perhaps I didn’t make myself clear. I still very much want to box. I still feel I have a lot left to give to the sport and if that means two more fights or three then so be it. But I want to leave the sport on a high. Of course I think about life after boxing. Once you get to a certain point in your career, you have to face reality and ask yourself how long can I go on for.
BM: Would you now want to fight Kell Brook as one final farewell to the sport?
AK: Kell keeps telling people I don’t want the fight. I do want this fight and have always wanted this fight. It couldn’t be made a few years ago as I was in America and he obviously was here. I am not ducking him. Maybe it could be both our farewell fight to the sport. Who knows but if the deal is right for both us, I still believe this fight will sell out regardless of fans thinking it’s too late.
BM: Do you think you will ever win the respect of the British public as they seem to still give you a hard time, even after all your achievements?
AK: No matter what some think of me, I try not to let it get me down. I went to America and fought over there, lived and trained there. I have no regrets. It was one of the best parts of my career. I learned so much. I sparred with Andre Ward and Manny [Pacquiao]. The love for the sport just kept growing. I also feel it has kept me in the game longer. The fight fans in the UK and America are the same. They light the arenas up and create such a great atmosphere. Yes I do feel like I don’t often get the respect I deserve but I guess that’s just something I have to learn to live with. I’m proud of what I have achieved and still have more left in me.