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Last Updated: Saturday, 14 May, 2005, 22:46 GMT 23:46 UK
Khan takes professional plunge
By Ben Dirs

To those who have been keeping tabs on Amir Khan since his Olympic heroics last August, the news he has decided to turn professional is hardly earth-shattering.

Every promoter worth his salt has been courting the 18-year-old since his silver-medal showing in Athens and it is no surprise that Frank Warren, British boxing's major player, has got his man.

Khan and his team had been looking for a way out of the unpaid ranks for some time.

And revenge over Athens conqueror Mario Kindelan coupled with what seemed a rather childish row over ticket allocation for the Amateur Boxing Association Championships in February paved the way.

Many, including Warren, had advised Khan to cash in on his status immediately after the Olympics, but the Bolton lightweight said he wanted gold at the Beijing Games in 2008.

Put that down to youthful exuberance. It has since been made very clear to Khan that he can be a professional world champion and possibly a millionaire before then.

AMIR KHAN FACTS
Born: 8 December 1986
Home town: Bolton
Hero: Muhammad Ali
Stance: Orthodox
Amateur honours:
Three English schools titles
Three junior ABA titles
2003 Junior Olympic champion (best boxer)
2004 European champion (best boxer)
2004 World Junior champion (best boxer)
2004 Olympic runner-up
2004 British Young Boxer of the Year
2005 Avenges loss to Kindelan before turning professional

Others pointed out that amateur and pro boxing have become very different sports and that the longer Khan stayed in a vest, the more difficult he would have found the leap.

And while some believe he would have learnt more fighting tough European and Cuban amateurs than skittling journeymen on Warren cards, it is easy to see how the latter might be more attractive.

Khan's decision will be a bitter blow to the Amateur Boxing Association, which reportedly offered a very generous financial package to keep their young star until Beijing.

But the amateur game's loss is professional boxing's gain and, judging by the reaction to his Olympic showing and by the passion at his Bolton send-off, Khan could be the man to drag the pro game back into the mainstream.

Warren's style of management will ensure Khan is steered towards a world title with few risks taken along the way.

Like other Warren fighters, such as Ricky Hatton and Joe Calzaghe, Khan's career will be meticulously managed and opponents carefully selected.

Amir handles pressure like a seasoned pro - the future couldn't be brighter for this young man
Ricky Hatton
Also part of the Warren stable

But Warren will not allow Khan's career to meander like that of Audley Harrison.

An Olympic champion in 2000, Harrison chose to manage himself, picked weak opponents and has faded from view.

Khan has youth over the 33-year-old heavyweight and is a more talented fighter to boot.

It remains to be seen what his natural weight will be but he could conceivably be a British champion inside two years, by which time he will be 20.

Like British boxing's last young superstar Prince Naseem Hamed, Khan is a stylist who packs a hefty whack - a headline-grabbing combination.

And like the Prince in his pomp, Khan clearly revels in celebrity, exuding a charm which appeals to hardcore boxing fans and grandmas alike.

The professional game - and British sport in general - needs him.



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