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Last Updated: Sunday, 29 August, 2004, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Amicable Amir targets Beijing
By Andrew Fraser
BBC Sport in Athens


Amir Khan
There cannot have been a single fight fan in the Peristeri Boxing Hall who went home doubting that Amir Khan would be crowned Olympic boxing champion in 2008.

Even the brilliant Cuban Mario Kindelan told the 17-year-old he would be the one to inherit his title after snatching lightweight gold.

Khan insisted after a pulsating contest that he still intended to shun the riches on offer to him in the professional ranks in order to chase more Olympic glory in Beijing.

And the Bolton teenager revealed: "Kindelan said to me: 'It was a brilliant fight - you are a great amateur. You will be the next gold medallist and the next world champion'."

After a glorious Saturday night on the track, any British fan with cash left in the wallet went to see Khan go for one last Team GB gold.

Even sprint relay gold medallist Darren Campbell was there to cheer him on, along with just about every British journalist in Athens - on or off duty.

The way Khan came out punching had those in red, white and blue believing they could be about to see one of the biggest shocks in Olympic boxing history.

Defending champion Kindelan, believed by many to be one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, had not lost to anyone since 1999.

Amir Khan (left) and Mario Kindelan
Kindelan said to me: 'It was a brilliant fight - you will be the next gold medallist'
Amir Khan

But the 33-year-old found himself on the back foot as Khan came out positively, taking a 4-3 lead after the first round.

Had the judges been using crowd noise to determine the scoring, the 17-year-old would have been 40 points ahead.

Kindelan's class showed in the second and third rounds, however, as he eased into a 22- 14 lead.

Fans thought a comeback could be on the cards as Khan went for broke in the fourth, but their boos at the end as the Cuban was declared the champion lacked conviction.

As he had been throughout the Games, Khan was unfazed.

Peering out on to a media scrum in the press conference room, he said he was just looking forward to getting back home to Bolton.

"The reception will be brilliant. So many people have been supporting me, I couldn't have asked for more," he said.

"I was just happy to get to the finals. I am only 17 and have got many years in front of me in amateur boxing.

I'm just going to stay as I am - normal, down to earth and with feet on the ground
Amir Khan

"I've boxed Kindelan before and this fight was a lot closer than the last one. I've learned a lot and it's been brilliant experience for me.

"I had about 10 of my family supporting me for the first couple of fights but I think there were about another 50 for the final.

"I don't know where they all came from but it was good to see them. I don't even know who half of them were."

Team GB's youngest Olympian in Athens can expect a hero's welcome when he walks out at the Reebok Stadium before Bolton's game against Manchester United on Saturday.

After that, he will have his studies in sports development at Bolton Technical College to look forward to.

"I've got quite a few things to catch up on when I get back," said Khan.

"I'm well behind on my assignments and I've got to look into getting my driving licence too.

"I'm just going to stay as I am - normal, down to earth and with my feet on the ground."

Not an easy thing to do when you have spent the last two weeks reaching for the stars.





Links to more Boxing stories


 

SEE ALSO
On the march with 'Amir's army'
29 Aug 04  |  Manchester


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