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Page last updated at 11:36 GMT, Sunday, 6 December 2009

Roach holds key to Khan future

Freddie Roach (left) with Amir Khan
Roach (left) has been working with Khan for the past year

By Nabil Hassan
BBC Sport in Newcastle

In the world of boxing, what Freddie Roach says has a funny way of going on to happen.

Roach is a man who, in the space of eight years, has turned Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao into the best pound-for-pound-boxer in the world.

He is also a man who does not mince his words. Roach is the most revered trainer in the world, meticulous in his preparation and one of the sport's true experts.

So when he declared Amir Khan a superstar in the making after his 76-second demolition of Dmitriy Salita in Newcastle on Saturday, you knew it was more than just the usual post-victory outbursts of a happy trainer.

"I think he has the potential to be a superstar and become a multi-weight world champion," Roach told BBC Sport with seemingly absolute certainty.

His judgement is not just based on what the WBA light-welterweight champion did to Salita on Saturday; it is based on what the pair have been through together over the past 15 months.

Amir Khan
Khan made short work of Dmitriy Salita in Newcastle

Khan has gone from a vulnerable 21-year-old, confidence shattered after a humbling defeat at the hands of Breidis Prescott, to a man ready to take on the world.

He is a boxer who has dedicated himself to the sport, and who now spends hours going toe-to-toe with the world's best boxers under Roach's watchful eye at their Los Angeles Wild Card gym.

Roach is aware Khan still has a long way to go yet and Saturday's performance, despite its spectacular finish will not have the trainer getting too excited just yet.

For all his billing as a dangerous unbeaten fighter, the names on Salita's CV offered little to suggest he could trouble Khan - and so it proved.

Nonetheless Khan did the job. Roach is pleased with his progress and is quick to draw comparisons with the journey Pacquiao embarked on to reach the pinnacle of the sport.

"It took me eight years to get Manny to where we are now," said Roach.

"I've been with Amir for one year and we have a long time left together but he's about halfway there.

"He's a world champion which itself is a great feat, as not a lot of boxers get that opportunity. He has a bright future."

That future, Roach believes, could see him emulate Pacquiao in gaining world titles at several different weights.

"He has the body to go up to 147lb [welterweight], even 160lb [middleweight] in the long term," said Roach.

Roach believes Pacquiao has brought out the best in Khan who, since losing to Prescott in September 2008, has moved to America to train in Roach's gym alongside the Filipino star.

Khan has spent that time remodelling his style. Endless sparring sessions with Pacquiao have helped turn him into a fighter who could go on and realise Roach's predictions.

Manny Pacquiao
Pacquiao is 'world's best pound-for-pound fighter' - Khan

"The work ethic between the two is the same," revealed Roach.

"They come into the gym and they train like machines. Amir is the only one that can keep up with Pacquiao when they run and he is the only one that can keep up with him in training."

It is ironic that, had Khan not lost to Prescott, his link-up with Roach may never have happened.

Despite just four fights together, it already seems unthinkable to imagine the Bolton fighter being trained by anyone else.

Roach has an almost paternal protectiveness over Khan and understands how to get the best out him.

Khan will now take the rest of the year off before returning to the United States to help Pacquiao prepare for the "super-fight" with the unbeaten superstar Floyd Mayweather Jr.

It is something Khan is already relishing and he is visibly excited when explaining how he cannot wait to be part of one of the biggest fights in modern-day boxing history. It is also a sign of just how far Khan has come in 15 months.

"It's brilliant to know that you are helping the world's best pound-for-pound-fighter prepare to meet another of the world's best boxers," Khan told BBC Sport.

"It's great that Freddie has that much faith in me that he wants me to spar with Manny. That gives me so much confidence."

Promoter Frank Warren, like Roach, is someone who has seen great boxers come and go over the years, and he believes Khan could go on to become the best he has worked with.

That honour is currently reserved for former featherweight king 'Prince' Naseem Hamed, a hero of Khan's.


Hamed was ringside on Saturday to witness Khan's dismantling of the New York-based Salita, and his presence served as a timely reminder of how talent can go to waste.

"I think Amir can outdo Naz's achievements," Warren told BBC Sport.

"I've always said that Naz at his peak was the best fighter I got involved in. But things happened and he didn't fulfil his potential and didn't show the dedication he could have done.

"But I think the difference is Amir has that dedication and I think he can go on to do what Naz was going to do."

With Roach in his corner, Khan could have no better tutor to help him on his path to glory.

see also
Confident Khan targets US success
06 Dec 09 |  Boxing
Ruthless Khan demolishes Salita
05 Dec 09 |  Boxing
Khan v Salita photos
06 Dec 09 |  Boxing
Classy Mitchell sees off Prescott
05 Dec 09 |  Boxing
Gavin forced to work hard for win
05 Dec 09 |  Boxing
Khan father rejects bigotry claim
05 Dec 09 |  Boxing
Khan is vulnerable, says Salita
24 Nov 09 |  Boxing
Khan rules out Pacquiao meeting
19 Nov 09 |  Boxing
Khan would fight 'friend' Hatton
19 Jul 09 |  Boxing
Emphatic Khan claims world title
18 Jul 09 |  Boxing

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