Amir Khan — man with a mission

"Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao did not want to fight me. We were all in the same weight category. They were afraid. Everybody in the world knows they refused to be in the ring with me," says former World champion and Olympic medal winner Amir Khan.

Amir Khan... always keen on fighting the best boxers in the world.   -  Getty Images

Amir Khan (right) and Canelo Alvarez are set to clash for the WBC world middleweight title in Las Vegas on May 7.   -  Getty Images

Fast and dynamic are the two words that sum up former World champion and Olympic medal winner Amir Khan’s style of fighting. Former champion John ‘Ricky’ Hatton was so impressed with the boxer that he once said, “Amir has that in-out style that could give (Floyd) Mayweather problems.”

Ahead of his much anticipated maiden middleweight WBC title bout (May 7) against Mexico’s Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez, considered World No. 1 in pound-to-pound ranking, Amir spoke to Sportstar on his decision to change categories to fight Canelo and his plans to set up academies in the sub-continent.

Excerpts from the interview:

Question: What was the motive behind changing your category from lightweight to middleweight?

Answer: FloydMayweather and Manny Pacquiao did not want to fight me. We were all in the same weight category. They were afraid. Everybody in the world knows they refused to be in the ring with me. So, I had to jump two categories to get the next challenger, who was Canelo. A very big, strong guy. But I believe I belong in this position, fighting the best people in the world.

Muhammad Ali once said, “The fight is won or lost far away from witnesses — behind the lines, in the gym, and out there on the road, long before I dance under those lights.” How has your training been so far?

I’m very focused. I never really let people get to me. I’m really prepared for this fight. Muhammad Ali was a great fighter and I really look up to him. He made boxing one of the biggest sport in the world. I work really hard, I train and I take a lot of risks and that is the reason I am here today.

A lot of people have been asking me, “Why are you fighting Canelo? He is a big guy.” But that is the type of fighter I am. I want to prove the world wrong. So this will be like a very big fight.

A lot has changed in Indian boxing in the last 10-12 years with the likes of Vijender Singh and Mary Kom impressing in big tournaments. What do you attribute this rise in popularity to?

I am a big fan of Vijender and Mary Kom. They are what they are because they had the opportunities. The same is the case with most of us, and that’s why I want to create academies so that the facilities reach all corners of India.

Recently, I was in India and was happy to find that people recognised me and wanted to take pictures with me. It shows there is a rise in popularity of the sport. This is a good sign.

I’ve opened a very big academy in England with more than 500 students. I want to do the same in India and Pakistan because in our blood we are true fighters. The academy in Islamabad will open a week after my fight against Canelo. We people are hard working and talented. With academies, we can soon win Olympic medals.

I hope to develop world-class boxers and Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters in the next 2-3 years in India.

Do you think sports such as boxing can help reduce the tension between Pakistan and India?

Imagine a big fight between myself and Vijender. He is strong and fast, and equally talented. I’m from England but have a Pakistani background. Vijender is from India. This will be a great way to promote boxing in the region.

Boxing is one of the biggest sport in the world. It’s very powerful and hopefully I can team up with Vijender or Mary Kom and open gyms together in the sub-continent. It’s great that Mary Kom has offered support to the Pakistani woman boxers. We need to encourage the sport more and more in the region.

In the near future, I hope to set up bouts between the two countries, once our academies are established. But there is a lot of talent in these countries and there is a possibility to grow together.