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Last Updated: Saturday, 28 August, 2004, 12:56 GMT 13:56 UK
Amir's road to Athens
By Ben Dirs

Amir Khan
Asians are thin on the ground in British teams and it's a big thing for me to get a medal
Amir Khan

Amir Khan left nothing to chance in his preparation for Athens.

Great Britain's sole boxing representative devised an intensive plan ahead of his shot at glory to ensure he was in tip-top shape when the lightweight preliminaries kicked off.

In June, the 17-year-old from Bolton won the world junior lightweight crown in South Korea after five fights in seven days.

And victory at an Olympic qualification tournament in Bulgaria in April came hot on the heels of gold at the European Championships in Lithuania.

Khan won the best boxer award at all three events and was even likened to his idol, Olympic legend Muhammad Ali.

But the teenager did not let the extravagant comparisons go to his head and cranked up the work-rate as the Olympics drew nearer.

AMIR KHAN FACTS
Born: 8 December 1986
Home town: Bolton
Weight category: 60kg
Club: Bury ABC
Coach: Mick Jelley
Honours: Three English schools titles; three junior ABA titles; Junior Olympic champion 2003 (best boxer); European champion 2004 (best boxer); World Junior champion 2004 (best boxer)

Now the hard graft appears to have paid off for the son of a scrap metal merchant whose first brush with boxing came when his father took him to the local club at the age of eight.

By the age of 11, he was fighting competitively and was then taken under the wing of trainer Mick Jelley.

Early honours included three English school titles, three junior ABA titles and gold at the 2003 Junior Olympics, where he was named best boxer.

An all-round sportsman, Khan also won Greater Manchester age-group titles at 1500m and the javelin while his cousin is Lancashire cricketer Sajid Mahmood.

But boxing was always the first choice for Khan, who has just finished the first year of a sports development course at Bolton Community College.

Now, Britain's youngest Olympic boxer since Colin Jones in 1976 is firmly in the spotlight. That Khan is his country's only fighter makes the glare even brighter.

But if he is feeling the strain, the graduate of Bury Amateur Boxing Club is keeping it well hidden.

"I don't feel any added pressure. I'm just going to box like I normally do," he said.

"All the media attention I'm getting is brilliant, it's everyone's dream at my age. All my mates are buzzing about it and everyone from school and college is proud of me.

"I'm only 17 and it's an experience for me. At the next Olympics I'll be a lot more mature, a lot stronger and I'll also have a lot more pressure on me because I'll be tipped for gold."

Mario Kindelan and Amir Khan
Khan (r) lost to defending Olympic champion Mario Kindelan in May

Refreshingly self-aware, Khan also realises the significance of his Pakistani background and what his appearance in a British vest could do for race relations.

"Asians are thin on the ground in British teams and it's a big thing for me to get a medal," he said.

"I hope it could push a lot of Asians into sport and show that, with the support of your family, as an Asian you can get anything you want."

Khan's fantastic run to the semi-finals in Athens has him on course for a showdown with defending lightweight champion, Cuba's outstanding Mario Kindelan.

In May, the Bolton College student fought Kindelan in a pre-Olympic tournament in Athens and, despite losing on points, put in an encouraging display.

The Briton is remaining philosophical about his chances in their rematch.

"If I don't manage gold, I'll be back next time. But in the meantime, I'm just trying to do my family proud, my coach proud and Britain proud."





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