Khan showed patience and maturity to wear Kristjansen down
Amir Khan produced a powerful display to stop Martin Kristjansen in the seventh round at Bolton Arena and move a step closer to a world title fight.
After making a fast start to the bout, Khan, 21, quickly established his dominance with his superior hand speed.
But it took until round seven before he had the Dane in trouble, putting him on the canvas with a rapier combination.
Khan was warned for hitting Kristjansen when he was down, but knocked him over twice more to finish the job.
The victory earned Khan the lightly-regarded WBO intercontinental lightweight championship, improving his record to 17-0, while inflicting only a second defeat on Kristjansen, who had never before been stopped in 24 fights.
Khan, who was desperate to impress and earn a crack at American WBO title-holder Nate Campbell or interim belt holder Joel Casamayor, said the fight was just what he needed.
"I am on the right path. This guy was a good lad, he has only been beaten once and has fought some great fighters out there," he said.
"I'm sure people want to see me knocking people out in the first round but my opponents are getting better and better and this was a big fight for me.
"I am getting closer and closer to my dream."
The Bolton fighter's fast hands and greater reach paid dividends from the opening round as he landed the cleaner shots.
But a couple of flicked right-hands from Kristjansen served as warning that it was not going to be a walkover.
A straight left from Khan welcomed the Dane into round two, and was an indication of what was to follow.
Closing down the ring with quick footwork, Khan kept up the pace and Kristjansen's face was reddening with the blows as he found it difficult to keep out of range.
But the 30-year-old Dane was showing his durability and managed to land a few decent straight lefts in the third, although he was once again on the back foot.
A little bit of eagerness crept into Khan's work in the next round, and there was a danger he could leave himself open to a counter.
He was very awkward, more awkward then I thought he would be and I had to break him down
And he was made to pay as Kristjansen got through with some solid shots and enjoyed his best spell of the bout.
Khan emerged for the fifth, mouth hanging a little open and with a small swelling under the right eye - and he was noticeably a little slower throughout the round.
No longer forcing the fight, Khan was beginning to back-pedal and briefly switched to southpaw in the sixth as he looked to reassert himself.
But a terrific right hand followed by a swift combination put Khan well on top in the next and it appeared his more mature, patient display was bearing fruit.
And when he caught Kristjansen with a lightning flurry of shots, the Dane went over and Khan moved in to finish off the job, landing some blows while his opponent's knees were sagging.
Kristjansen took a standing count before the referee warned Khan for his conduct, but as soon as the bout resumed, Khan swarmed all over Kristjansen and sent him tumbling once more.
Khan celebrates his 17th professional victory
It was clear there was going to be no stopping Khan and after more punishment, Kristjansen hit the deck for the third time in the round and the referee called a halt to the contest.
Afterwards, Khan admitted: "He was very awkward, more awkward then I thought he would be and I had to break him down.
"I was comfortable, picking my shots, and I think I was winning every round. I caught him with a few shots and he was still up but I saw it in his eyes he did not fancy it any more."
Promoter Frank Warren insisted he will not rush Khan into a world title bout just yet and feels his fighter needs another contest before he goes for the big time.
"I'd be a liar if I said I wanted a world title fight now," he said. "I'd like to see him have one more fight because the more fights he has the more experience he is going to get.
"It is up to the WBO to decide what they want to do. Amir will have another fight in June but they won't have it sorted out by then. But whatever happens Amir will be next in line."