The racists have finally driven Amir Khan to leave Frank Warren and join Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions
Amir Khan has been targeted by bigots in Britain due to his race and his Muslim faith. Photograph: John Gichigi/Getty Images
So, Amir Khan is leaving Frank Warren and going to America to join Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, possibly making his American debut against the flash New Yorker Paulie Malignaggi at Madison Square Garden in April. Well blow me down with one of pit-a-pat Paulie’s feather-juiced jabs – and take a bow, the boo-boys.
The move, confirmed yesterday, has much to do with the fact GBP’s Richard Schaefer and Top Rank boss Bob Arum have been hanging around Hollywood like a pair of thumb-sucking talent scouts the past year, getting in the ear of Khan and his boxing guru, Freddie Roach, at the trainer’s Wild Card gym.
Khan has gone with Schaefer because the smart guys at Golden Boy and their rich friends at HBO also promote David Haye in America, and have worked with Ricky Hatton. Both of the Brits are good friends of the world light-welterweight champion. One of them might yet fight him – and how neat a deal would that be for Golden Boy and HBO: Khan v Hatton in Las Vegas, with both fighters part of the promotion.
There is no escaping the fact, though, that Schaefer’s job has been made easy by the small crew of British bigots who have taken against Khan, for no apparent reason other than their lack of anything resembling a brain – and I mean that collectively, because they might just be able to build one between them.
Khan has been telling us for a long time he has grown disenchanted with these people. It is why he has fallen in love with America. Over there, living quietly and comfortably in the Californian sunshine, he is accepted without question by the fans – black and white Americans, Filipinos, Mexicans, all of them. And, whatever anyone, including his father and Warren, say to the contrary, the racists here who cat-call him from the cheap seats and spill out their bile anonymously across the internet have a lot to answer for.
If these comedians hadn’t waged such a disgusting campaign against a fine young man of considerable boxing skill, a shy boy who was a national hero at 17 when he came home from the Olympics with a silver medal and almost single-handedly revived amateur boxing in this country, he might have stayed. He at least might not have been so easily tempted to leave.
People who have never met him said he was full of himself, that he’d forgotten his roots. They were the ones who cheered when he was knocked on his backside by Breidis Prescott, which pretty much sums up their mindset. Those of us lucky enough to spend time with him know all this to be a nonsense. Amir Khan is probably the nicest sportsman in Britain. Except now he is leaving.
Warren will say – and, indeed, has said – that the anti-Muslim thing was blown up out of all proportion. Maybe. But Frank wasn’t on the end of it.
When Khan spoke to us before the Dmitriy Salita fight about his frustrations with the punters who attacked his faith and colour, he probably did go one quote too far. For him to say he would have been a world superstar if he were white only gave ammunition to the baiters, who claimed he was arrogant. But it was a shot from the heart. There was no spin on it. Khan is that kind of man, honest and straight.
Now he really is going into the lion’s den. It is a long time since a British fighter invaded America by actually going to live and fight there. Terry Downes did it. To a lesser extent, Nigel Benn and Lennox Lewis did it. Audley Harrison tried it, and bombed out. Naseem Hamed said he was going to do it, and didn’t. A long time ago, the likes of Ted “Kid” Lewis and Jack “Kid” Berg did it. Now a young Anglo-Asian kid from Bolton is doing it. Wish him luck.
He will miss Warren’s guidance, but he has Roach to talk to. The trainer is a pretty wise owl and he will look after Khan’s chin as much as his ring career better than anyone over there I can think of.
All of this looks tough on Frank. Save your tears. He’s made plenty with Khan. Besides, maybe one day Warren will get Khan back over here to fight Kell Brook. Now what a homecoming that would be.
Leaving Las Vegas
If you want to know what losing the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight meant to the money movers of Las Vegas (who don’t take kindly to losing), consider this: Pacman’s fight against Miguel Cotto attracted a large percentage of the high-rollers who boosted gambling revenue in the town by a staggering $873.2m in November – in the middle of a recession.
According to one expert on the subject, $94.2m of that came from the baccarat tables, whose takings were up 138%, year on year.
Those numbers might sound dry and boring, but they are the stuff of big-time boxing in the sport’s capital city. Baccarat players are the heavyweights of gambling, the guys with the free suites, comps for the fights and friends in the right places.
How ironic that one of Vegas’s most prominent gamblers is Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr. Lucky for him the Mob left town years ago, or he’d be one nervous fighter right now.
Valero waits in the wings
Edwin Valero, 26-0 with 26 knockouts, hovers on the edge of the big time, unable to crack Vegas because the only state the Venezuelan terror is licensed to box in is Texas. Valero’s promoter is Bob Arum.Where did Arum take the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight? Texas.
Valero is scheduled to defend his WBC lightweight title against Antonio DeMarco in Mexico on 6 February, just 35 days before the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight, so it is unrealistic to expect him to win that and then fight on the Texas undercard.
Or is it? In the old days, such a short gap between fights was commonplace. Henry Armstrong did it all the time. And Valero is no ordinary fighter. He has boxed just 58 rounds (or portions of 58 rounds) in 26 fights. The furthest he’s been is 10, when he was knocked down on the way to beating Vicente Mosquera to win the WBA super-featherweight title in 2006. That was the Panamanian’s final fight and only stoppage loss.
If Valero did what he did to El Loco and stopped the previously unstopped DeMarco in Monterrey next month without breaking sweat, what price he lights up Texas in March?
He has other problems – such as no American visa, because of a driving conviction. But such a quibbling detail ought to be no problem for a man of Arum’s legal expertise.
Valero’s presence on the bill would ensure a full house. He is a Latino legend, especially in Texas. It would almost be worth getting on a plane to Dallas to see it.