Amir Khan interview: British boxer on his last fights before retirement, why he's not like Floyd Mayweather, and his new charity project with City firm ThinkMarkets

 
Frank Dalleres
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Boxer Amir Khan poses in front of the Tower of London, December 2018
Khan, 32 on Saturday, wants two or three more fights before retiring (Source: ThinkMarkets)

On the eve of his 32nd birthday and now in the autumn of his career, Amir Khan is in reflective mood.


On this visit to the Square Mile, Khan is mulling how long he has left in boxing, how he wants to be remembered as a fighter, the state of the sport and what he will do when he hangs up his gloves.

The former light-welterweight world champion speaks much like he fights: energetically, impulsively, pulling no punches – even if his unguardedness sometimes leaves him exposed.

So when he discusses future opponents, his burgeoning business interests, and the contrast between Floyd Mayweather’s flashiness and his own socially conscious mindset, Khan is never less than honest and illuminating.

Never far from the agenda is talk of his next move. Khan says a new diet has left him feeling fitter than ever but recognises that boxing’s inherent dangers rise sharply with age.


The sport which has been his life for 20 years made him Britain’s youngest Olympic boxing medallist at 17 and has earned him an estimated fortune of £18m. Now, though, he has an exit strategy.

“I’m 32 next week. Before I’m 33 I’m going to be calling it a day,” he tells City A.M. “I’ve had a great career, I’m happy with it and I don’t want to be in the game too long. This is where a fighter starts to get injuries.”

Brook and Pacquiao – then retirement

Khan wants two more fights, maybe three, before walking away from the ring.

Negotiations over a long-anticipated clash with fellow Briton and former welterweight world champion Kell Brook which could, he says, be held at Wembley Stadium and generate £20m, had appeared close to a resolution.

Khan admits, however, that his head has been turned by a rival proposition from an American fighter, reported to be a world title bout against Terence Crawford.

He also hasn’t given up on a future date with Manny Pacquiao, the ageing great whom he had seemed set to fight last year.

“I’d like to get this Kell Brook fight out of the way, beat him, then fight Manny Pacquiao – and then call it a day,” he says.

“Or it could be Kell Brook and then a fight in the middle – against a Crawford or a [Errol] Spence – then a Manny Pacquiao fight. The boxing division, there’s still some big fights in it.”

Preparing for life after boxing

Khan has been preparing for retirement in recent years by establishing two combat series, Super Boxing League and Super Fight League, the latter of which features mixed martial arts, in Asia.

“By the time that matures, hopefully the boxing career will be the right time [to quit],” he says.

He sounds unlikely to add to his nest egg by following Mayweather’s lead and fighting combatants from other disciplines.

The unbeaten American banked more than £200m for facing MMA star Conor McGregor last year and has agreed to a lucrative “boxing exhibition” with Japanese kickboxer Tenshin Nasukawa.

Khan derides those contests as “joke fights” which are “hurting boxing”. He adds: “Those who bought the fight will hate on it. Then when there’s a good fight, they won’t buy it because they’ll think boxing is a joke.”

Charity work

Mayweather also comes up when Khan explains why he is so involved in numerous charitable works, including his eponymous foundation which helps projects in Asia and Africa, and a boxing academy in his native Bolton.

His latest commitment is a partnership with online trading platform ThinkMarkets which aims to steer disadvantaged youngsters away from crime and towards a career in the City using sport and financial education.

It began in earnest this week when he auctioned prizes such as one-to-one training sessions and VIP tickets for his next fight, helping to raise £10,000 for charity Street League. In the coming months Khan will take a more hands-on role, giving talks at amateur boxing clubs.

“Charity work, helping the community, it gives me the same adrenaline buzz [as fighting]. I’ve gone to places where kids have nothing – no food, no water – and you can make them laugh. It’s the best feeling ever,” he says.

“Instead of buying a supercar, I stopped all that because I’ve seen how people out there live. People like Mayweather, who is a very different character to me, they like to show it off. Instead of showing how much money we’ve got, what car, what watch, we need to show some help.”

Legacy

There is a likeable and uncomplicated earnestness to Khan that resists cynicism. For all his hunger for further titles, he seems genuinely concerned with his impact on the sport and his roots – in Lancashire, Britain, Pakistan, Asia and beyond.

“My hero, Muhammad Ali, did a lot of community work, helped the people – and I want to be doing things the same way,” he continues.

“The community in the UK definitely needs that help. I see a lot of kids on the streets with nothing to do. I have a boxing academy in Bolton. It’s not only about going there an punching. Yes, you’re letting that aggression out, but you’re educating them as well.”

Occasionally Khan’s honesty gets the better of him. Asked whether he his tie-up with ThinkMarkets had awoken a hitherto untapped interest in financial trading, he doesn’t lie.

“I’ve not really got into it, no,” he says. “At the moment my day job is just boxing. I do a lot of charity work but not the trading side. I don’t really understand it. I like to do things that I understand.”

For now, that remains fighting. Sometime soon, maybe next year, that glittering boxing career will be over, but he knows what he wants his legacy to be.

Khan concludes: “I want to be remembered as a guy who fought everyone who was put in front of him – fought for the fans, fought for himself and his career, and helped promote boxing in Britain.”



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