Amir ‘King’ Khan won a silver medal for boxing in the 2004 Athens Olympics, at just 17 years old, setting a record for youngest British Olympic boxing medalist ever. At 22 he became the WBA light-welterweight champion. Now 29, he is a two-time former world champion and has fought professionally at three weight classes.
He fights Canelo Alvarez in Las Vegas on May 7, 2016 at a catchweight of 155. And this week, Khan revealed he is thinking outside the box about his future. A few days after the fight, he will fly to Pakistan,his family’s spiritual home, to begin the process of becoming an MMA promoter.
Khan will open an enormous gym in Pakistan, which will be the headquarters for the Super Fight League, which puts on shows in Pakistan, India, Dubai, and the USA. Khan revealed in August of last year that he had purchased a stake in the league, but this is his first detailed announcement of his intentions.
“I’ve always been a fan [of MMA],” he told the UK’s Daily Mail. “Especially of Conor McGregor just lately.”
“He’s exciting. He does the unusual. Like me daring to take on a bigger, stronger man in Canelo believing my speed and skill can beat him.”
“He’s the No 1 pound-for-pound boxer now Floyd and Manny have gone. Upset all the odds, beat him, shock everyone – and I become the pay-per-view superstar in America.
“Then – you know me – I’ll fight anyone and there will be big fights to come. But I don’t want to keep boxing late into my 30s. My mother worries and keeps asking me to stop. I always say next year but I’m still only 29 so realistically I’ll carry on for about three more years.”
“Win this I can be the leader of the new generation of boxers. Not only on the world stage. This is boom time for British boxing, with so many world champions. Coming up behind me there are terrific younger fighters at home.”
“My gym in Peshawar is massive and will be ready to open next month. I hope it will become the Pakistan national gymnasium. It will give thousands of kids there the chance to fight their way out of poverty. The population is over one billion. A lot more than Bolton! But at my community gym back home we are helping more than 500 youngsters get off the streets.
“The numbers in Pakistan will be enormous and as well as boxing there will be the chance to graduate to our Super Fight League. There is a strong fighting spirit there and in India and those youngsters deserve that opportunity.”
Khan was then asked if he would fight in MMA himself. He waited before answering.
“If I feel I have to do it at some point I would knock out any cage fighter at my weight,” he replied. “Look, I know that’s a tough game but it was a classic boxer’s punch which beat [McGregor] in his biggest fight.
“We punch much harder than they do. Me in there – I wouldn’t let them get close to grips. Although, just in case, I have practiced some grappling moves in the gym.”
“Imagine the damage Mike Tyson would do if he’d been allowed to batter opponents half a dozen times after he knocked them down. The MMA referees must become spot on with their stoppages.
“In boxing they already are because we’ve always known that while other combat sports are tough, ours is the most brutal.”
Khan offered further detail in an interview with The Guardian.
“Can I kick hard?” he grinned. “I’ll try it out on you later and you can tell me.
“I have a stake in a company called Super Fight League, an MMA company in India and we have a lot of shows in Dubai, too. We are now moving over into America and putting on shows there.
“Bellator and UFC are the two main MMA companies, we’re probably third after those two. I’ve always been a UFC fan and I like McGregor and the way he promotes it. If I was to fight the champion around 147lb I would fancy my chances. You never know what will happen in the future – I would never say ‘no’ to getting into MMA. I could do it under my own banner and what a way to do it. My speed would be perfect, it’s hit and move.
“Just look at when McGregor beat José Aldo. The guy leant forward, over extended and fell short, McGregor stepped back and threw the straight right. It was a proper boxing move. I would not let anyone get close to me, I would take a step back and keep it long. I also believe that us boxers punch harder than MMA fighters anyway.
“I was at the last SFL show in Dubai, watching closely at the guys in my weight. Even though I have no experience of MMA, I could have stepped in and done the business. I’ve already done MMA training too. It’s good for preparing to fight a guy like Canelo who likes to put the pressure on. It’s all about the feet, the feet have to be in the right position.”
“Look, a lot of top names in boxing have retired. I think we are currently standing on the verge of a new generation for boxing. I would like to be seen as the leader of that and by beating Canelo, I will be the leader of that movement for some time.”