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Last Updated: Friday, 27 August, 2004, 18:20 GMT 19:20 UK
Community cheers Bolton boxer's success
By Cindi John
BBC News Online community affairs reporter

Amir Khan's semi-final fight takes place on Friday
Members of Bolton's Pakistani community have hailed the success of local boxer Amir Khan and say his Olympic achievements have brought the town's various communities closer together.

Khan, aged 17 and from the Heaton area of the Greater Manchester town, has already fought his way to at least a silver medal.

The town has more than 260,000 residents, and people of Asian origin make up just over 9% of the total population.

Two-thirds of those are of Indian origin, with Amir Khan among the 2.5% whose family's roots are in Pakistan.

They make up a large part of the 7% of Muslims in the town, Bolton's second largest faith-grouping after Christians.

Civic send-off

Amir Khan was first introduced to boxing at the age of eight when he joined a local club.

From there the talented youngster progressed to Bury Amateur Boxing Club.

His feat in qualifying for the Olympics at such a tender age has already been honoured with a special civic send-off hosted by the mayor of Bolton and attended by other former Olympic participants from the town.

It's not always in the headlines when there's good publicity about the Asian community, whereas unfortunately bad publicity is
Sajid Malik, Bolton resident
But the fact that Khan is a member of the Pakistani community is especially significant, says local councillor Akhtar Zaman.

"It's the first time to my knowledge that somebody from the Pakistani community has done so well in Bolton.

"I think it gives a big boost to the Pakistani community that if they've done well in any field they will get the recognition."

Solicitor Sajid Malik agrees it is a boost for the town's Pakistani residents for one of their members to be getting such a good press.

"It's not always in the headlines when there's good publicity about the Asian community, whereas unfortunately bad publicity is.

"So it's a very positive thing and it shows young Asians have made great strides, in sport, education and the professions as well," he says.


Sabir Khan of Bolton's Council of Mosques doesn't think young men of Pakistani origin always fulfil their potential and hopes Khan's exploits will change that.

"Our lads seem to be under-achieving as a whole - I think having somebody like Amir Khan is going to give a huge boost to the youth of the Pakistani community.

Akhtar Zaman: "Big boost to Pakistani community"

"I think it's also very good for community relations because the Pakistani community seems to be lagging behind all the other communities as far as integration goes, in my opinion, both in Bolton and nationally."

But that is not an opinion supported by councillor Akhtar Zaman.

He says the sight of Khan's father, Shajaad, in a Union Jack waistcoat and other friends and relatives waving the British flag at Khan's fights in Athens is an effective answer to critics who say Muslims aren't prepared to integrate.

"I think those people, now they are seeing his relatives and friends flying the flag of Britain, can realise what integration means.

"And they can maybe appreciate more easily that somebody from that community is representing the UK on the international scene."

The young boxer faces the biggest fight of his career as he goes up against the defending champion, Mario Kindelan from Cuba, in the gold medal final on Sunday.

On Friday, he easily beat the Kazakhstan's Serik Yeleuov in the lightweight semi-final after four rounds.

If he wins Sunday's match Amir Khan will become the youngest Olympic boxing champion for 52 years.

Khan goes for gold
26 Aug 04  |  Boxing
Amir's road to Athens
25 Aug 04  |  Boxing



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