KARACHI: British boxing prodigy of Pakistani descent Amir Khan says as he considers himself a world champion from Pakistan and that his visit should also serve as an assurance that the country is safe for holding sporting activities.
The 23-year-old believes the world community should stop portraying Pakistan negatively because of some incidents of violence. He feels that although there has been some violence in the country, things should not be blown out of proportion.
‘Pakistan is a beautiful country. It is a great sporting nation. The world must support it by coming here for sporting activities. If Pakistan is isolated then the talent here will not be groomed,’ Khan told a press conference on Thursday.
Khan, also known as ‘King Khan’ for his sensational feat at the 2004 Athens Olympics where he grabbed the silver at the age of 17 after losing to Cuban hero Mario Kindelan in the final, said he will also try to convince English cricketers to visit Pakistan.
Pakistan has seen a slump in international sporting activities since the attacks on the visiting Sri Lanka cricket team in Lahore. Cricket being a high-profile sport was hit badly when International Cricket Council shifted the Champions Trophy to South Africa last years after several countries including England refused to play in Pakistan because of security concerns, while hockey is also suffering owing to violence in the country.
Khan, who turned professional after the Athens Games and became a sensation in the UK and his country of origin Pakistan after winning the WBA light-welterweight title last year, defeating Ukrainian Andreas Kotelnik, is on a visit to Pakistan on an invitation of Pakistan Boxing Federation.
The world champion will watch the Benazir Bhutto international boxing tournament finals on Friday, the first international sports tournament after the attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers.
Raja Iqbal Amir Khan, commonly known as Amir Khan, also a cousin of England cricketer Sajid Mahmood, says he is proud of his Pakistani roots and even considers himself a Pakistani world champion.
‘When I was in London to support the Pakistani cricket team at Twenty20 World Cup final, there were two champions from Pakistan – the Pakistan cricket team and the second one was me,’ said Khan who says he never faced any discrimination or racism in England because of his Pakistani descent.
‘I have never faced any problem, discrimination or racism. People in UK love me and see me as a fellow Briton just like the way Pakistanis see me as their countryman,’ said Khan who is also known as the ‘Golden Boy of UK’ since he became the youngest British boxing Olympic medallist.
Khan promised he will at least fight once in Pakistan in his career but it will not be before 2011 or 2012 because of his professional commitments.
‘I want to promote boxing in Pakistan and I will definitely have at least one fight here in my career but that cannot be expected before 2011 or 2012. But one fight in Pakistan is something I will surely like to happen,’ said Khan in an exclusive interview with Dawn.com.
The Briton, whose boxing idol is legendry former world heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, said although professional boxing was exciting, he missed the amateur version of the game as he cannot participate in Olympics being a professional.
‘I must say amateur boxers should come into professional boxing only after some experience, not before that,’ said Khan.
Khan’s Dec 5 fight last year against Dmitriy Salita of the United States was seen in the Western media with much interest as he was a British Muslim while the American was Jewish. The Briton, however, says he never saw the fight as a clash between civilisations or religions.
‘It was all made up in the media. He (Salita) belongs to another religion but I took it professionally rather than making it a religious issue,’ said the world champion who successfully defended his title by thrashing mandatory challenger Salita in just 76 seconds in Newcastle, England, to break the unbeaten record of the American.
Having an impressive record of 22 victories and a loss against Colombian Breidis Prescott, Khan he said would love to have Pakistani boxers train with him at his Bolton academy, adding that he expected enormous improvement in Pakistani boxing within a year.
‘With a younger president of Pakistan Boxing Federation and promotion of the game, I can see huge changes and vast improvement in Pakistani boxing. Boxing is a sport for the brave. You need a brave heart for boxing. Boxing is not poor man’s game in the UK. It is a rich sport. So my advice for Pakistani boxers is to work harder and aim high, and I am sure they will achieve success’ said Khan.
Khan, however, did not agree that Britain can ever become the next Cuba in amateur boxing, saying it was not likely to happen as most of the British boxers turned professional.
‘No, I don’t think Britain can be what Cubans are in the amateur boxing because the British boxers usually turn professional, while Cubans don’t as they have restriction on joining professional ranks,’ said Khan attired in a white coat, jeans and boxing-style white leather shoes.
Khan’s father Shajaad Khan said his son’s achievements came because of his hard work and his parents’ support.
‘We (Khan’s parents) are behind him. If he wants to box, we will never stop him. Whenever he says it’s over, we will never force him to box. But since he is into boxing, he has our support,’ says Shajaad Khan.
‘Amir has always been a down-to-earth kid. He replies each and everyone’s e-mails. Once he sent an e-mail to British champion Prince Naseem Hamed when he was just 11. Naseem never replied. When Amir had a chance to meet Naseem, he asked why he never replied to his e-mail. Now he (Amir) still remembers this and never forgets to reply to e-mails from his fans,’ Khan’s uncle Tahir Mahmood told Dawn.com.
Khan will leave Karachi on Saturday for his ancestral town Rawalpindi where he will spend some time before leaving for UK.