Three wins after Malignaggi, and with two world titles under his belt, Khan is a boxer on the brink of stardom in the U.S. But despite his success, it’s always the loss to Prescott that keeps him focused on the current tasks at hand, no matter how tempting it may be to look ahead.
Even with talk whirling of a mega bout with Floyd Mayweather in 2012, Khan says Lamont Peterson is the only boxer that matters at the moment. “I’m really focused on this fight. I know how hard this fight could be. We’ve tasted defeat before and we don’t want to taste that again. I want to win in style and look good against Peterson before I start looking at bigger fights.”
Way before his move to the U.S. in search of better training and better competition, Khan looked across the pond for inspiration. It wasn’t Lennox Lewis or Naseem Hamed that Khan grew up wanting to be but rather an American boxing legend whose career ended nearly six years before Khan was even born.
“Muhammad Ali was who l looked up to growing up. I always wanted to be like him and follow in his foot steps,” says the Pride of Bolton. “[In America] you’ve got more sparring partners, more fights, and better competition. If you become a star in America, you also become a global star.”
The thing about me, man, is that I’ve been open about my religion from day one. I’ve never been afraid or shy to talk about it. That’s just the way I am. People can like it or hate it.
Distractions outside of the ring were also a factor in the decision to move. “I can’t walk the streets in the U.K. because everyone knows who Amir Khan is and all the fans want to call you to go out and party, so I had to kind get away from all that. I thought coming to America where no one knows me would be the best thing for me.”
But just because he now lives in a posh apartment complex in Hollywood don’t think that Khan has forgotten about his roots. The young champ is often back home when not training and makes trips to Pakistan to support the country after natural disasters such as earthquakes and flooding. “I do a lot for both countries. My mum and dad were born in Pakistan, I do a lot of charity work, and my fights are broadcast live there so I get a lot of support over there, too.”
The thing that Amir credits most with keeping him grounded is his Muslim faith. His religion isn’t as in your face as Tim Tebow but Khan isn’t afraid to share his views with anyone who asks. Trips to the Mosque are as much a part of his regular routine as training, if not more. “I’ve been open about my religion from day one. I’ve never been afraid or shy to talk about it. That’s just the way I am. People can like it or hate it,” he says, growing more serious. “At the end of the day, I’m Muslim and I’m happy to be Muslim. There’s always good and bad in all religions. I’m like a role model to people out there who are good Muslims and I want them to be like me. When I go into the ring, I know God’s on my side.”
Although Khan is very public about his faith, the Bolton brawler says he hasn’t experienced much backlash in England, where tensions have sometimes flared between the Anglo and Muslim communities. Khan cites his success in the ring as a reason why all of Britain accepts him as one of their own. "[After winning silver at the Olympics] everything I did had so much support from the British people. Even being British-Pakistani, they saw me as a British fighter. I represented the country. I could’ve chosen to go tot Pakistan and represent Pakistan but I chose not to.”
Another reason why Khan has been so widely accepted in the U.K. is that, although he’s a devout Muslim, he seems to have found a balance that allows his public image to remain true to his beliefs but also be contemporary and appeal to British fans. For example, a sponsorship deal with Reebok keeps him fitted in the U.K. brand; he also loves fashion. Khan is quick to point out how British style may be a bit ahead of the curve when compared to fashion in America.
“[Prior to a few years ago] everyone here would wear baggy, loose stuff. With us in England, we’ve been wearing fitted stuff for a while now. A lot of Italian wears, Dolce Gabbana shirts and the right cut jeans. Three piece custom suits. Prada shoes. I’m big into clothing. I’ve being in fashion magazines, more recently I did a shoot with GQ during fashion week in the U.K.”