Why supporting Britain’s most talented fighter can be a chore…
By Martin ‘the Brain’ Potter of the One More Round podcast
Many British boxers in recent history have polarised the opinion of the public. Chris Eubank’s English gent act – complete with cane and monocle – delighted some but was derided by others, whilst David Haye’s potent combination of trash talking and bravado brought him love and hate in almost equal measure. The often extreme behaviour of both men ensured big box office and a firm direction for supporters to take – you either loved what they were about or you didn’t, yet the behaviour of the current marquee name in British boxing – Amir ‘King’ Khan – leaves me, and many others, with a strange dilemma; do I get behind him or not?
Amir Khan is without doubt an extremely talented (although still highly flawed) fighter. As a young Olympic medal winner Khan’s talent aligned to his seemingly humble and likeable nature shone through. Aside from the case of a few mindless racist idiots, Amir was the British Muslim fighter who could unite communities and was loved by Brits of every conceivable denomination (over 6 million viewers tuned into to watch his final amateur fight following the 2004 Olympics). Although Amir was confident – you have to be to be successful in the fight game – he didn’t display the arrogance of his hero Prince Naseem Hamed. At the outset of his professional career I was behind Khan all the way. But then things changed…
As Amir has risen through the boxing ranks he has retained only some of the charm that initially endeared him to the public, usually coming across as amiable in pre-planned interviews. But on a number of occasions – certainly within the past two years – he has also shown a hot-headed immaturity (in and out of the ring) alongside a burgeoning arrogance and strangely contradictory moral compass that has led many British fight fans to turn against him.
The most recent example of Amir Khan’s rash behaviour centres around potential British rival Kell Brook – the talented Sheffield welterweight who is on the verge of cracking the world scene. Kell realises that at this stage Amir is a level above him in terms of fame and achievement and, as talented ambitious boxers do, he has made it clear that he wants to fight Khan – nothing wrong with that. Khan though seems to be strangely affronted by the challenge from Brook and rather than answering him in the ring or even engaging in a bit of standard trash talk, such as ‘I’d knock him out’ etc, he has taken to trashing Kell Brook’s character.
On Twitter recently Amir Khan stated that he would not fight Kell Brook because he alleged that Kell had taken illegal substances recreationally (not of the performance enhancing type) and had been involved in out of ring altercations. Amir stated that this behaviour was undisciplined and unprofessional and as such he would not fight him. If Amir’s claims were true – I note he has now removed these comments from his Twitter feed and there does not appear to be a shred of evidence to support them anyway – then perhaps you could applaud Amir for making such a noble moral stand. However, in the next message Khan was naming Floyd Mayweather – the man who is shortly to begin a jail term for domestic violence – as a potential future opponent. I’m confused Amir, is discipline and professionalism outside of the ring a prerequisite to fight you or not? (It should also be noted that Amir stated that Brook fights at 147, whereas he was still at 140, meaning they couldn’t fight anyway. Last time I checked Floyd was due to fight Cotto at 154!)
In addition to Amir’s Brook bashing, the manner in which he took defeat to the humble, hard-working Lamont Peterson was hardly sporting. Although there was some debate about the outcome (it was a close back and forth fight with a couple of questionable decisions), the fact is that Amir Khan fought an extremely poor tactical contest in which he allowed his heart to rule his head. Although Freddie Roach has acknowledged this, Khan himself has laid the blame for his defeat on men in hats and conspiracy theories. He should have taken defeat like a man, let others draw their own conclusions and then proved himself again in the ring.
The truth is that Amir Khan should be one of the most loved sportsmen in Britain at the present time. He has undoubted boxing ability, charisma and an audience who he held in the palm of his hand following Olympic success. It’s a huge shame that boxing fans in Britain are turning against him. Perhaps Amir has been badly advised following his split from Frank Warren, perhaps Amir will mature (he is still only young), but more than anything hopefully Amir Khan will learn that sometimes it’s better to keep your mouth shut and let your fists do the talking!
To hear more of my ill-informed views on a wide range of subjects from sport to Stallone you can tune into my new show, the One More Round podcast on iTunes (search ‘One More Round podcast’) or at www.onemoreroundpod.com You can also contact me on Twitter @theboxingbrain or @onemoreroundpod or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.